Series, Taxi Tales

Taxi Tales: “‘Hello’ saved you!”

By David Tumusiime, Uganda:

Joyce has a habit she cannot break. She must greet you, if she thinks she is going to be more than 5 minutes in your company. I met Joyce because of this habit. In a taxi!

She is not bad looking so she has “met” a lot of men because of this habit. At least many of the men “believe” they have met her. She probably has more phone numbers than she will ever use; more than a Monitor Directory.

She once told me that she could not recall when last she bought airtime for her phone. There is more than one man who thinks it is an insult to them for Joyce to say she did not call because she does not have enough credit on her phone.

Her mother drummed into her head those manners, as a good Muganda girl. They are manners she is not always grateful for. Especially when, to her, a total stranger calls at 3am on a Saturday morning demanding playfully but insistently, “Don't you remember me? How can you not remember me? We spoke in a taxi.”

But she has also had good reason to be grateful for her mother's relentless assault on her barbarian modern ways until some of her teaching sunk in.

Joyce says she still does not know how it happened. She is usually so cautious. One of her mother's key admonishments is, “Never trust men. Never put a man in a position of temptation, if you don't mean it.”

But she had entered, at night, in those ghostly half empty taxis with three men and a woman. Greeted the man she hopped in right next to and before the journey was done, all three men and women were chatting like they were old school friends catching up.

It was when she was getting out, the door already open that one of the men stopped her for a 'lecture'. Joyce says she would have sat back down to catch her breath if she had not been so scared. Taking in all the man said, “You're lucky, you woman. Your good manners have saved you. Have you never been warned not to enter empty taxis at night? We are the thieves you are warned about who rob taxi passengers. But we have forgiven you because we have liked you. Your 'hello' saved you.”

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