I know better than to get into cabs filled entirely with men.
It’s written somewhere in the Idiots Guide to Shallow Roadside Grave and I know my mother won’t weep for me but for my fatal foolishness when they eventually find me covered in soil and stupidity somewhere off the B1.
It isn’t so much my fault as it is the blight of tinted windows.
I’ve hopped into cab behind Avani Hotel and I don’t realize that it’s a certified sausagefest until a man hops out so I can sit in the middle of the backseat between him and an appropriately ragged fellow eyeballing my two cups and a string of a cellphone with a mixture of curiosity and disgust.
Lucky for me, when it comes to technology, I’m a flagrant cheapskate.
So cheap, in fact, that I bought the cheapest Samsung Bangkok had to offer and almost a year later I’m of little interest to the gang of men who all seem to know each other and who get a little angry when I tell them I only have ten bucks for a trip I would like to take with the window open.
The last bit is so people can hear me if I scream.
But, with my unending gratitude to my Lord and saviour, the guys let me out nice and easy near the Katutura Community Arts Centre where I promptly get hit in the eye. With a hard candy.
“Sweets for my sweet!”
A food vendor.
He’s grinning at me from across an assortment of Chappies and wrapped sweets as if he didn’t just try to blind me with his ill conceived forays into flirtation and I can’t help but return his smile because sometimes life is uproariously stupid.
Because it’s one of those days, the art exhibition I want to take a look at is closed and so I’m back in a cab heading to town just as quickly as I got out of one.
This time I’m alone and perched in the front seat and the man driving me starts proceedings with a cautionary tale about how if I pay him my fare then and he forgets by the time we get to my destination, I’ll have to pay him again because I won’t be able to prove it.
He tells me this like a man recently returned from screwing someone over and quickly getting a taste for it so we agree to leave paying until someone is giving me the finger amidst tumbling out of his taxi in traffic.
This deal suits us well enough and when we turn into the bumper to bumper mess of central Windhoek at 17h00, we can’t help grinning at each other as we languish behind a car with the word ‘Money’ for a license plate.
Eternity, home and a gym session later I hope into a cab outside Carl List Haus because an ergo machine has wreaked havoc on my ability to walk home or anywhere on Earth and surrounds.
This time, the cabbie takes in my gym clothes and asks why I don’t just walk home if I want to exercise.
It’s a question for the ages and one that makes one ashamed of paying money to cabbies so they can take you somewhere to walk on a machine and I answer it with an elegant and profound:
“I’m tired, bruh.”
The man nods his head knowingly and says he’ll be knocking off soon and then he’ll make some time to read my column.
Noting the Ghosts of Stalkers Past creeping slowly into my eyes, he hastily adds that he’s dropped me off before.
He tells me he ran me over to the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre one night a few weeks ago and that he recognized me then but didn’t mention it.
His name is Amos and he laughs at me when I extend my hand with a giggle and say “I’m Martha.”
It’s been a pleasant ride but I’m in a hurry so I thank him for reading, run upstairs, get dressed for a my friend Cindy’s party and whoop in delight when I see a cab parked outside my apartment building which means I won’t have to walk down the street in search for one in my heels looking like so much hooker.
That whoop soon turns into “What the hell?” when I realize that one of the party of four exiting the cab is still sitting in it while the others hurry up stairs.
“They’re just going to get money. Can you wait?”
Dreams of not being mistaken for a woman of the night still fresh in my mind, I agree and settle in for what I assume will be a short sojourn.
Instead it is the middle-aged Angolan woman in the front seat cursing the rabble that has run upstairs with every breath in her lungs while the cabbie clucks his tongue and knits his brows under his bright white bucket hat.
While she yells in Portuguese, the cabbie decides to while away the time by telling me a story.
It’s been weighing on him and he lays it down in those short, shocked bursts you sometimes share with strangers
“My sister called me to pick her up outside FNB but I was too late.”
Stalled by duty and detours, the cabbie’s sister had been relieved of her cell phone in broad daylight near the FNB in Ausspanplatz and the guilt of not getting there in time was compounded by his sister’s sigh of “I told you to hurry.”
Somberly, we concur that crime in Windhoek is on the rise before he admits to carrying a panga and a knife in case anyone tries anything.
His friend was hit a month before.
They took his taxi and his money and drove off into the night after waving a gun at his head.
Eventually the Angolan woman’s daughter returns.
She counts out N$80 from a ragged plastic bank bag, apologizes in halting English and the cabbie nods distractedly before zooming off into the night.
What’s the rush?
Someone is waiting for me to pick them up at the mall.
Why don’t they just use the cabs there?
They are my client. Better safe than sorry.
Don’t worry, I’m just going around the corner.
Why don’t you just walk?
Oh, you know…
Better safe than sorry.