In the bustling streets of Nakuru, a peculiar group of individuals plays a vital yet unnoticed role in the urban transportation system. They are known as “setis,” the placeholders who breathe life into seemingly empty vehicles, making them appear busy and bustling with passengers.
Among these setis is Elijah Wa Tene, a young bachelor who has been part of this unusual profession for two years.
Every day, as the sun rises over Nakuru, Tene’s day begins at 6:00 am. Armed with the art of pretense, he steps into various vehicles, becoming a phantom passenger.
His job is simple yet essential: act busy, appear engrossed, and create the illusion of a full vehicle.
Tene can be found reading a magazine, chatting on the phone, or simply staring into the distance, all to make the vehicle seem occupied. At the end of the day, he pockets a modest sum of sh.20 per vehicle, making ends meet by being a placeholder for around 20 vehicles daily.
Tene’s story unveils a fascinating aspect of urban commuting, shedding light on the challenges faced by both passengers and setis. For Tene and his peers, this unconventional profession is a means to survive in a challenging economic landscape. The money he earns in a month might not seem substantial, but for a young bachelor like him, it is enough to settle his bills.
However, the setis’ job is not without its difficulties. One of their primary challenges is the irritation they cause to unsuspecting passengers. Imagine boarding what seems like a busy vehicle, only to realize that half of the occupants are mere placeholders. It’s an inconvenience that many commuters face daily, yet it remains a part of the urban commuting experience.
Tene, however, defends his profession. To him and his fellow setis, this is just a job—a necessary means to make a living. He finds it amusing when passengers demand a full vehicle but fail to bring additional people to fill the seats. It’s a paradox of urban commuting: the desire for a crowded vehicle without the effort to fill it.
To avoid confrontations with passengers, setis like Tene have devised ingenious strategies. When the need arises, they slyly exit the vehicle, pretending to seek a restroom or some other excuse, only to seamlessly blend into the next one. It’s a game of cat and mouse, where setis must be quick-witted and agile to avoid the wrath of passengers who discover the ruse.
The story of setis like Elijah Wa Tene offers a glimpse into the intricate dynamics of urban transportation in many places worldwide. While their methods might be deceptive, their underlying struggle for survival and economic stability is real.
They are the unsung actors of urban commuting, playing their part in the complex script of city life.