Tag Archives: Karen

Smart? Definitely NOT.

I gotta admit it  – Dormans “The Coffee Experts” make some pretty damn good coffee this side of East Africa.  They have also smartened up some of their spaces in Nairobi. Take their big, bright, brand-new joint in Nakumatt just off the Karen roundabout.  The two-level cafe has a mix of tables à deux, easy armchairs, slouchy couches, barstool and countertop corners, and a couple of purposedly-distressed hardwood, seats-eight behemoths of a table.

Their internet service is fast – there are times when downloads speeds can reach almost 1 MB (I know, quite pathetic, because that is already considered “blazing” fast here in Kenya) but the Karen “Welcome to Dormans Fast Internet” speed norm is  between 125 to 350 kbps with very occasional dips to 90, 35, to 0 kbps. (I know…). Their internet speed graph looks like a surfer’s dream of spikey huge waves…

And what’s this??  The ladies room looks smart. Wow. But there are no hooks to hang bags, shopping, or jackets inside the toilet cubicles. Where do they expect the women to put their bags while they do their thing? On the toilet roll dispenser?? On the floor?? Round their necks?? Hmmm.

The servers are unsmiling and they give an impression of efficiency. But… they invariably get something wrong in my order. I always ask for artificial sweetener and they always hand me a sugar bowl even if they earlier said they have Canderel or such.

One time my house coffee arrived looking and smelling suspiciously dreggy. Ugh. Sigh.

But that’s not really my beef with Dormans “The Coffee Experts” – Karen. Their joint is so new they haven’t managed to make the prices on their menu match with what’s on their point-of-sale registers. In fact, they haven’t even managed to have their menus match.

In one menu, a small cup of house coffee is listed at Ksh140, the medium cup at Ksh170, while the large cup is attractively priced at Ksh180.  So imagine my consternation when I am handed a bill for Ksh220 for my large cup of house coffee.

“Excuse me, miss, but it says in your menu, house coffee large should be Ksh180.”

“Our program has a problem. It should be Ksh180. That’s what you’ll pay for.”

So why didn’t you say that?? I hand her Ksh200.

Another day, my significant other and I each order the house coffee small. It is listed at Ksh140 in the menu handed to us, which is the way it should be priced. Sometime later, feeling peckish and wanting another small cup of coffee, I ask a passing waiter for the menu. Hmmm, house coffee small is at Ksh170, medium at Ksh200, and large at Ksh240?? Hmmm, I think to myself, does Dormans “The Coffee Experts” have different prices in the afternoon?? A check with the waiter reveals that, oh no, there is a problem with their menus. I was evidently handed a menu with the “wrong” prices. There are two (maybe even three??) sets of menus with different pricing schemes. A misprint, I am assured by the waiter.

Well, for crying out loud, why can’t you tell me you handed me a misprinted menu?? In fact, why hand out misprinted menus to customers at all?? It’s not like the place is crawling with customers that you’re running out of the damn menus.

That’s the second time they’ve omitted telling me there’s a problem with their prices. One more time and it will be a “strike three, you’re out” for them.

You know, Kenyans pride themselves on looking smart. The highest  compliment one can give a Kenyan is to tell them: “You look smart.” They will puff out their chests and preen like pea-brained peacocks. But looking smart and being smart are two very different things.

Dormans “The Coffee Experts” – Karen looks smart. But do they work smart?? Nah.

I’m about to ask for my bill. Let’s see if they strike themselves out.

Watch this space! 😉


Route 111 Bus 436

If you ever decide to take a Ngong Road bus for Karen town, steer clear of Citi Hoppa Bus 436.

Last 4th of June, I boarded the Route 111 Citi Hoppa bus at the corner of  KenCom building in downtown Nairobi at 3 pm. I was elated when the bus quickly filled and began a journey that normally would take an hour max to reach the Karen roundabout some 18 kilometers away. But it was mid-afternoon and so I was prepared for more traffic than usual as the bus meandered its way through clogged downtown and past Uhuru Highway. I sat in my usual favored spot just in front of the exit. The conductor started collecting fare.

“Karen,” I told him when he tapped on my shoulder. “Fifty bob only,” he replied. I waited to be given a ticket in return for my Ksh 50 but he moved on. I rolled my eyes as the woman beside me chuckled. I have always been told, get a ticket. Even signs inside the buses say that.

“Excuse me but where’s my ticket?” I called out to the conductor when he passed me again.

“No more tickets, I have no more tickets.”
“How can you have no more tickets?!” I asked. He just shrugged. The woman beside me also shrugged.
“He didn’t give me a ticket too,” she whispered to me.
“Oh well, this is Africa. Why stew over it.” I thought to myself.

We had already turned left on Ngong Road with the driver shifting gears for the uphill climb when the bus lurched to a standstill, prompting a blare of horns from all around. A couple of hundred meters behind, an ambulance ululated.

“Oh no…” I sighed. This was my first time ever to take the Route 111 bus or any bus for that matter from downtown to Karen. This is probably the same bus my friend took one night a couple of weeks ago. His bus had stalled three times in blinding rain, the last time on a vehicle-choked stretch of Ngong Road in front of Nakumatt Junction. Each time, the conductor and the bus driver had gone down, thumped and clunked under the hood, got the bus going again till the next breakdown a couple of kilometers or so. Finally, the conductor was forced to hand back the fares of very irate and drenched passengers, my friend included.

So I looked for my conductor but he was nowhere to be seen. My fellow passengers started leaving the bus. I stood and walked over to the driver who shrugged when I asked him where his conductor was. Great, a nation of shruggers.

I joined the restless masses outside. The driver, who was by then being browbeaten by a cacophony of car horns, attempted to maneuver his crippled bus onto a side road as a glowering blue-suited traffic policeman huffed up to him. I decided to get back into the bus – I figured the only way I could get my fifty shillings back was to stay put inside since I was not given a ticket.

One by one, the other passengers followed me back. The woman beside me said the bus had broken down because it ran out of petrol! What the?? Sure enough, I saw the conductor sauntering back with a small jerrican. Using a couple of his laminated signboards, he funneled the petrol into the gas tank just outside from where I was seated. Some of the passengers were shaking their heads, a group of sleepy-eyed young men were popping their gums while a clutch of heavy-set bewigged African mamas near me were cackling in amusement.

The bus convulsed as the driver tried to start the engine. A half dozen of the most able-bodied passengers got off and started pushing the bus from behind on that steep steep side road. No luck – the engine just kept coughing. The conductor tried to edge out of the bus, avoiding eye-contact with the other passengers who were by now demanding for their fares to be returned. I grabbed his shirtsleeve as he made his way down.

“Give me back my fifty shillings please.” The conductor motioned for me to wait. I followed him out and said, in a louder voice – “Give me back my money. It’s getting late, I have a long way to go and I am wasting my time here.”

By this time the other passengers were also crowding  him, some of them waving five 10-ksh tickets. “I asked you first,”  I tried to make myself heard above the other passengers.

After much hemming and hawing, the conductor finally handed me back fifty shillings while the other passengers pressed around me. I managed to wriggle my way out of the seething mass.

Good thing there was a near-empty Kilele Shuttle Bus at the nearby bus stop. “Hamsini, hamsini (fifty shillings)”, the woman conductor shouted to me.  We all scrambled in. Two hours after I left downtown Nairobi, I finally arrived at the Karen roundabout. What a waste of a nice sunny afternoon just because 1) driver or dispatcher or operator or whoever at Citi Hoppa forgot to check if the bus had enough petrol. Added to that, the ticket conductor did not have enough tickets for all the passengers. He even “wasted” five 10-ksh tickets for a ksh50 fare.

Get real, Kenya. ;-p