Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bank Machines

A colleague here in Burkina had some visitors from the States who needed to get some cash. So she got them to hop in her car and they went out to look for a bank cash machine that worked. When we first arrived in Burkina just over 10 years ago, bank machines were unheard of. However, over the past several years, they have been popping up in increasing numbers. By making arrangements with their bank back home, visitors can use their bank card to make cash withdrawals (for a fee charged to their account, of course).

The trick is to find a machine that is working. Our colleague hit upon a novel way of determining this without having to stop at each one to try it. She figured that if there was a guard with a shotgun or machine gun out front, the machine was likely operational.

Finding one of these, she pulled in to park so her visitors could carry out their transactions. However, instead of pulling in to the parking spot frontwards like everyone else, she decided to back in so that it would be easier to leave when the time came. With all the motos, bicycles, pedestrians, children, and donkey carts around here that you could hit or run over inadvertently while backing up, this isn’t a bad idea at all!

But to her surprise, the armed guard came running over immediately and demanded that she turn her car around, that she drive into the parking spot frontwards instead of backing in. He explained that only thieves back vehicles in like that so that they can make a quick getaway! And no amount of talking would change his mind. Our colleague was obliged to turn her car around. Who’s going to argue with a man carrying a machine gun anyway, right?

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