Taxi Tales: Watch out for those night taxis!
By David Tumusiime, Uganda:
A friend of mine just died: Thomas Pere. Killed Sunday night in a taxi. Sunday night, people. Somehow it seems wrong that anyone should die on a Sunday night. Murdered. Losing the fight of his life in a speeding taxi down Kampala-Entebbe highway, way past midnight.
I see his death more vividly than all the deaths of all the friends I have lost so far. I see him fighting to unpick the fingers closed around his neck, strangling him, trying to twist his neck. Trying to kick the iron seats of the taxi out of the way to find more fighting room, escape route.
I see the men, passengers who had been chatting him up as they left the city behind, bent over him, surgeons of death. Snuffing the life out of him: the dark consuming the light. All for a laptop, a camera and maybe a recorder that Pere would have handed over if they spared his life.
I keep asking myself, why on this night, did Pere not see there was something not quite right about this taxi? He was not a virgin traveller, new on this highway; he had lived in Entebbe longer than most people I knew. Not just Entebbe – he travelled the world, he understood the dangers of the road.
Was his soul so tired that night, wearily checking out of office at 10:45pm, that all he wanted to do was find a taxi, any taxi, get a seat and slump against a window to nod off? Waking when he saw the lights on the lake, heralding Kawuku and home?
Did Thomas leave his doubts behind; forget a cardinal rule to never board a night taxi where it seems like you are the lone passenger? Travelling at night, get your taxi from a designated stage, never one that finds you along the way. Avoid those like you fight off any feverish indication of Malaria, sleep in an unfamiliar town if you are unsure you will get safe transportation.
Thomas knew all this, I'm sure. Why did he ignore it all on Sunday, June 16, 2013? Here is a death I'll never quite accept. But it's time to say goodbye because we are in very different taxis now. I turn to Chekhov, Pere takes St. Peter's hand.