After two years of documenting my experiences, thought, and opinions in this blog, I believe that this will be my last journal. I noticed that journals were becoming harder and harder to write as my adventures became less novel to me and then after losing Kate, well…it was just hard to find inspiration like I once did. However, I know that months back, after telling my mom a story about how I held and mothered a pair of preemie-twins who in turn spit up on me, she requested that I write a story on taxi rides and the inevitable escapades that occur when traveling by bush taxi in Benin. However, as I wrote, I realized that riding in a taxi is less of a voyage than it is more of a game—if that makes any sense; therefore, I have broken this journal down Milton Bradley style in hopes that I will be able to better illustrate my point.
Objective: Travel from point A to point B alive and with your dignity and sanity in tact.
Materials: (all you need to make it a true adventure)
- 4 bald snow tires never meant to experience the sun-soaked African cement
- Wavering patience - 8 hours to spare
- 1984 Peugeot station wagon
Setup: (things to keep in mind before hitting the road)
- Price: Know your price beforehand; there’s nothing worse than finding out you got played by a taximan.
- Time: Never be in a hurry to get anywhere. Taxi rides take time and rushing the experience will only bring about bad karma.
- Lack of door handles: No door handles, no problem! This allows more room for hip space which equals more clients which equals more profit which buys more cola nuts!
- Passengers: When in doubt, add another. Profits are made by overstuffing taxis, so when possible, four in front, four/five in the middle, and three/four in the back. Still room on top, you say?! The more the merrier!
- Luggage: Think vertically. No room for luggage in the trunk? No problem! Taxis can be stacked in equal ratio to their height.
- Animals: Animals are welcome. Any of God’s majestic creatures from cows to goats to pigs to roosters can easily fit in the trunk or be tied on top.
- Starting the Engine: Starting the care can be difficult and not always require a key. Helpful hint: get the car moving to jump start it—either get out and push or start rolling down a hill (backwards and forwards are acceptable)
Guidelines: (as there are no rules, these are only mere guidelines to keep in mind during travel)
- Peuhl: If you see a Peuhl man, pick him up. He has no luggage, never complains, and is stick thin so he can be strategically placed anywhere.
- Marche Mamas: If you see a Marche Mama, beware. Unlike the Peuhl, she will likely delay you at least half an hour to load and unload baggage. She is rarely traveling to a big city and often takes up two spaces though you’ll receive the blame for not “moving over.”
- Car Problems:
-Flat tire? No problem! Most taxi drivers are so accustomed to break downs that they can fix a flat in under 10 minutes.
-No Speedometer? No problem! There are no speed limits and who cares anyway?!
-No Gas? No problem! Any liquid will suffice until you reach the next bootleg gasoline stand.
-No f*ing idea? No problem! Tomato cans, water, and gris-gris items (e.g. skulls, beads, feathers) are all acceptable under the hood if it keeps the car moving.
- Documentation: Paperwork, schmaperwork. You never have to travel with your documents as long as you can pay the bribe.
- Babies: Feel free to hold any baby you want, just make sure to give the baby back when the mom leaves.
- Companionship: Like referees at a sporting event, making fun of other drivers is an easy way to bond with fellow passengers. Helpful phrases include: “He’s crazy!” “He doesn’t have a head!” and “Did you see that!? Really?”
- 2 players: Protect your sanity by sitting together and go for the best seat in the house (front passenger’s side)—you’ve earned it!
- 5 or more players: Well played. Now you can rent out the taxi just for you! The chauffeur will stop when you say stop and go when you say go—sanity remains in tact! Good job!