Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lacy Loses It

     Lacy and her friends had just celebrated their 600th day overseas vacationing in Cape Verde, and had returned to Senegal on their 602nd day.  They arrived in Dakar, Senegal a little after noon, and were ready to make their way back to The Gambia.  It was February 20th, 2013 when Lacy lost it.

     She exited the airport reciting the little French she knew in her head.  Senegal and The Gambia are negotiating societies, so she would have to bargain for a taxi ride to the car park.  She knew that as soon as the Senegalese cab drivers saw the color of her skin they would try to get as much money as they could.  Armed with what the price of a ride should be, she was ready to battle.

     She walked briskly past the taxis waiting just outside the airport’s doors.  She knew they had to pay a tax to park at the airport and would hike their prices for that reason.  She headed to the street and was quickly greeted by a driver.

     “Ou allez-vous?” the driver asked.

     “Nous allons Garage Pompier,” she responded while trying to imitate a French accent.  “Combien ca coute?”

     “Cinq mille.”

     “Non.”  She knew the price should be 1,500 cfa or une mille cinq cent.  He offered a price 3 times that.  She continued to walk as he slowly trailed her in his taxi.  Holding up four fingers he offered quatre mille.

     “Non, c’est trop cher.  Une mille cinq cent,” she countered.

     He held up 3 fingers, “Trois mille.”

     “Non, c’est trop cher,” she repeated.  “Une mille cinq cent.”

     She quickened her pace while searching the streets for another taxi.  He continued to trail her and finally said, “D’accord.”  He motioned to her to cross the street to an area he was allowed to park.  When reaching the car, the driver got out to put her luggage in the car.  Before putting her bags in the trunk of his car she made sure of the price.  “Une mille cinq cent?” she asked.  With the response of, “Oui,” she triumphantly put her backpack in the back and entered the car.

     Her friends, Eduardo and Cat, had been following her.  They were also making the journey to The Gambia.  She proudly told them that it would be 500 cfa each.  They pooled their money together and settled in for the ride.

     Reaching the car park, they informed the driver they were going to Banjul so he would take them to the cars traveling in that direction.  When he stopped, they adjusted themselves and set down the money they had agreed upon.

An image of a Senegalese car park found on

     The driver picked up the money and slammed it back down.  “Non!” he shouted.  “Cinq mille.”
Lacy is not a person who generally cusses.  Hearing this man exclaim cinq mille and slam the money back down made all sorts of inappropriate words fill her head.  A mix of English and French started to spill from her mouth.  “You said une mille cinq cent!” she raised her voice.

     The man was not accepting their 1,500 cfa.  He had their bags locked in the trunk.  Lacy began to feel helpless.  She was trying to grab her bags out of the trunk from the inside of the car, but they wouldn’t fit through the space.  She was trapped.  She didn’t want to exit the car for fear the driver would flee with their luggage.  She had no idea what to do.  Anger washed over her.

     Eduardo and Cat re-entered the car as the driver harshly informed him he was taking them to the police.   “Please do,” Lacy arrogantly thought, as if the police would help her upon hearing her side.
He slowly drove the three through the car park bringing in as many bystanders into the situation as possible.  By the time they reached where the police were supposed to be they had 20 to 30 Senegalese men surrounding them.  The driver got out of the car with an expression that showed he was a pro at this scam. 

     While Lacy would realize explaining her case would prove to be pointless later, she got out of the car with much more haste and anger than the others.  She began screaming how the negotiation had taken place.  The Senegalese men delighted in the entertainment she provided.  She asked Eduardo to figure out a way to get their bags out of the car, but it seemed to be the only way to get the bags was with the key.   The driver had removed the keys from the car as they were looking for a lever of some sort to pop the trunk.  They must have forgotten they were no longer in America.

     Feeling trapped and helpless, Lacy’s legs began to shake.  She looked that driver in his stone cold eyes and shouted, “You’re a very bad man!”  “A very bad man!” she exclaimed again shaking her finger at him. 

     The scene continued and at one point Lacy even brought Allah into the matter.  She would laugh at this later.  She yelled at the driver that Allah was watching him, and that he would judge him.  Oooh, Lacy.

     It seemed there was no way out of the situation without paying the driver more.  Cat calmly continued the negotiation in Wolof and decided they would pay the driver 3,000 cfa, twice as much as they had agreed upon.  Lacy wanted out of there.  She collected the extra money from her purse, but said she wasn’t giving him anything until he got the bags out of the trunk. 

     The driver opened the trunk with a smug look on his face.  Eduardo and Lacy collected their bags and began to walk off.  Money in hand, Lacy thought about taking off without paying the man.  Cat yelled after her that they had to pay.  She turned around and with Cat, Eduardo, and now 50 Senegalese men watching she threw the money on the ground.  Placing the money in that man’s hand was not an option.

     It probably took Lacy 20 steps before she began feeling like an idiot.  She normally was a cool, calm, and collected person.  She had obviously reached a breaking point.  After 20 months of being hassled and judged she finally exploded.  Lacy is a reflective person by nature, so she immediately began brainstorming ways she could have handled the situation better.

Here is her list of shoulda, coulda, woulda’s:

1.  Shoulda kept her bags inside the car and not put them in the trunk.
2.  Shoulda walked off from the taxi driver completely when he started her at such an outrageous price.
3.  Coulda realized that 1,500 cfa is around 3 dollars, and definitely not worth losing your cool over.
4.  Woulda sat in the car and remained silent keeping the driver from other business, had they not been  
     in a hurry.
5.  Shoulda kept Allah out of the matter.
6.  Coulda been a big girl, kept her cool, and handed the money over.

     However, if those actions had taken place, then there would be no story to tell.  Next time, Lacy.  Next time...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thank You, Universe.

     “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”  Paulo Coelho’s quote came to mind as I watched skydivers land before me on my last day of being 29. 

     I was watching the sunset, because we all know that’s what I do, when I saw everyone around me start looking up at the sky.  I heard a plane and thought, “Come on now, I know we don’t see these very often, but it’s just a plane.”  However, soon I realized the bystanders were watching people JUMP from the plane, something completely worth watching.

     I’ve always wanted to skydive and had even had the idea that I’d get married skydiving.  The thought behind that was that I’d knock out the two scariest things you can do with one stone.  Yet, I saw the opportunity to do something I’ve always dreamed of doing present itself right before my eyes, so it seemed that I might need two stones.

     Interested, I walked over to the team as they were packing up their parachutes to inquire about the jump.  It turned out they were doing one more jump the following day, which just happened to be my 30th birthday.  It would be the last jump of the season, and they only had one spot left.  The universe was conspiring…

      I took the man’s card while expressing my interest, but didn’t commit.  I’m a planner and a person that seeks advice so I had some work to do.   My biggest concern was the cost of the jump.  It was 300 U.S. dollars, which may not sound like much to you, but when you only make 220 dollars a month you don’t really budget in jumping out of planes.  On top of that, the only money I had brought down to Kombo was the money I planned on taking to Cape Verde.  If I jumped I would be cutting my budget for the trip in half. 
     I first consulted my travel/30th birthday buddy, Joanna.  She gave me the green light without any hesitation and said we would make things work in Cape Verde.  Next, I went to the fam.  My brother was online and reminded me of the role money should play in one’s life.  I had 2 yes’s.  Now, for the parents… My dad was once an airborne ranger in the U.S. Army so after questioning me on where I’d be landing his advice was simply, “Be loose,” meaning if you land in the water instead of the beach don’t freak out.  Check.  3 yes’s. 

     My mom had talked me out of skydiving once already, so I was worried what her reaction would be.  When I informed her of my plans, her initial response was to appeal to my money conscious side.  When she saw that wasn’t working, she seemed to give in with an, “I’m nervous,” and offered me over to God.  I left her with the comfort that I’d sleep on it, but unfortunately for her nerves my desire only grew through the night.

     I woke up and called the man running the show to see if the spot was still open.  The universe was still conspiring.  The spot was waiting for me. 

     The story continues.  I nearly missed my opportunity to skydive because of a hair appointment gone wrong.  My friend, Laura, showed up like an angel sent from heaven right as I realized my hair had been bleached white and was falling out.  She then sat with me, missing her appointment, while the hairdresser turned my locks grey in an attempt to fix them.  Time was becoming a problem and I was becoming frustrated.   Laura, obviously given to me by the universe, helped me remember it’s just hair.  I decided to forgo the cut I had paid for until I returned from my vacation, and made my way to the locker room to put on my pajamas to go skydiving.  Since the universe had set this up, I was slightly unprepared. 

     I’d love to go on to tell you about the jump, but it’s really something you’ve got to experience for yourself.  My words won’t do it justice.  May the universe be with you.

Signing my life insurance over to my mother

John, my jumping buddy

Laura, my angel