Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adventures on the Airport Run

I’ve been doing a number of airport runs lately. That’s to say I’ve either gone to the airport to pick up people who are coming into the country, or bringing folks there who are on their way out. When you work with an organization that has a lot of expatriate members, there are always comings and goings. Someone’s going to be doing an airport run with us later on this week, but that’s another story.

Interestingly, the last several runs have been anything but the normal, uneventful kind. Kathy & I were on our way to the airport with one lady when suddenly all the streetlights and stoplights went out! Apparently a very selective power cut because most buildings lining the streets still seemed to have electricity. Anyway, you can just imagine what traversing intersections was like here in a city where even under regular conditions the rules of the road are merely suggestions!

Yup, we had a number of close calls alright. The trick was to be prudently aggressive. Otherwise you’d never get anywhere. My strategy was to stay right on the tail of the person ahead of me. One gap and the line of traffic waiting to cross the other way would rush in to fill it and you were stuck. Thank God we made that run safe and sound!

Another incident happened on my way back from a night-time airport run. I was sitting at a light waiting for it to turn green when suddenly the truck jumped forward about a foot! At first I thought that I’d left the truck in gear and accidentally slipped my foot off the clutch (no automatic transmissions here in Burkina, so it’s a good thing I grew up driving standard!). Then I realized that someone had run into my back end. Fortunately it wasn’t hard. Just someone in a Mercedes that had let HIS foot slip off the clutch, or was over-eager to make his left turn. Since my steel bumper was higher than his, he received a slightly smashed front grill and I got nothing, except an apology. We parted on amicable terms :)

And finally, there was the wooden bench incident at the airport itself. It was sticking out into the parking space I pulled into near the drop-off point. I misjudged the amount of space I had to spare and ended up clipping it. Unfortunately, the other end was already up against an immovable object, so the six-foot long bench twisted, buckled, and splintered in part. A baggage handler jumped on me about it almost as soon as I got out of the vehicle, telling me that I was going to have to pay for that. Well, of course I was! What did he take me for?

For my part, I thought they were going to want to replace the whole thing, which would cost anywhere from 5,000 – 10,000 FCFA ($10 -$20). But to my surprise, they just wanted to repair it. Hailing a nearby man who claimed to be a carpenter, we began negotiations. A few minutes later, we settled on a cost of 2,000 FCFA. And parted on amicable terms.

To be honest, I actually don’t mind such incidents (provided they don’t cost me an arm and a leg!). Each is a great opportunity to meet new people here in Burkina. Gotta look on the bright side, right?

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