It happened really fast. Had I not been paying attention, I would have missed it entirely. He grabbed the phone right from her hands and within seconds, he was out of sight. She sat in the matatu, stunned, not quite believing what had just happened. The other people in the matatu looked at her pitifully and began to lament on the prevalent menace of theft in the city. Not sparing her a bit, they proceeded to lecture her on the wisdom of using her phone while seated at the window seat. It is, after all, common knowledge that this runs the risk of theft. To say the least, it was a long journey to the poor girl’s destination.

‘Nairobbery’ is nothing new to most of us. It’s just one of those things that you have to find your way around; another part the city’s charm. I remember hearing stories of chokoras who would approach vehicles stuck in traffic with a steaming pile of fresh excrement and demand cash. Having grown up in the relatively peaceful Mombasa town, such tales were as far removed from me as Kenyan politicians from the matatu strike. But once I moved to the Capital, theft became something I had to worry about every single day.

While walking on the streets, you have to learn to always be aware of your personal space. The slightest bump from the stranger, which would seem innocent, could be your wallet being stolen. The worst part about being pickpocketed is that you may not realize when and where it even occurred. Yes, they are that good.

There is a revolution in the world of Nairobbery. Crooks are no longer just the people with a menacing glare or with worn tattered clothes and shifty eyes. The new face of Nairobbery looks just like you and me; seemingly honest, hard-working citizens who are just minding their own business. They wear suits and even with the new constitutional dispensation, there is gender equality. Anyone can be a thief. The person sitting right next to you in a matatu can be a thief. You wouldn’t look across the seat and think, “This person looks like such a pickpocket.”

These guys use the most innocent of cons such as asking you to close the window, or asking you to pick up coins which they ‘accidentally’ dropped. I have even heard of situations where they enter the matatu or the bus with a newspaper which they hold across their laps and yours, concealing the business of their adventurous fingers. All it takes is seconds.

This evolved breed of criminals do not wave a gun or a knife in your face. Instead they just tell you that they are armed and for your own sake, just hand over your valuables peaceably. They are ‘good’ enough to even allow you a chance to extract your SIM card and memory card from your phone so as not to cause too much inconvenience. Well, at least they have good ‘customer-care’.

Thankfully, there are some individuals who take it upon themselves to let other people know of some of the innovative ways that crooks dupe the public. They may post their stories on Facebook, which soon become viral, they send chain emails and SMSs, warning people about some suspicious behavior and in this way, keep us safe by keeping us informed.

What is your experience with Nairobbery?

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