Taxi Tales: Taxi Instincts
By David Tumusiime, Uganda:
When you've been using Ugandan taxis for a while, you develop a taxi instinct. A well honed taxi instinct that will warn you, when not in a taxi park, about not boarding a taxi you find parked by a stage: Unless you do not mind, in this new heat wave, baking a while as you wait for this taxi to fill up. To reach wherever you're going so nerve-frayed, everyone scurries out of your way because your face is smoking, “I'm looking for a quarrelling opportunity. Try and test me.”
A tried and tested taxi instinct wisely advises you to get a seat in a taxi with more than two bazungu; the more they are the better. Bazungu in taxis tend to be tourists, going all the way on a route and if you're in a hurry, they are the best to travel with. The taxi fills up faster. Taxi conductors also seem to have qualms about squeezing in more passengers when they're on board. They want them comfortable so they can make them pay tourist taxi fares; not the usual ones.
A well travelled taxi instinct with thousands of hours of taxi time will alert you when it's time to get out of a taxi in a jam because experience tingles it to life with the memory of past gridlocks. It doesn't let you sit in the taxi getting madder and madder, that with this jam, you'll have to endure much longer the smelly nest of unwashed hair from that woman in the seat in front of you. Your instincts get you out of such a taxi, and instead of wasted energy in angry look-backs at the conductor and driver, incorporate the enforced cracked pavements walk in your day as good exercise for you.
An unerring taxi instinct means, if you have a radio-phone, you'll never let yourself get caught outside your home without your earphones. You may not once use them in two months of taxi travel. But your instinct understands there will be that one evening when you get in a taxi with a Judith Babirye fan for a driver whose taxi's CD player works. And he has one Judith Babirye CD. On a three hour journey. Your earphones, then, will save you from going Boko Haram on him.
There's always something baffling to render us wide-eyed Nakawunda about Ugandan taxis. Like fuel prices going down but taxi fares continuing to rise. You need your taxi instinct to make it every day.