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?”
“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.
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...