Tuesday, June 14, 2011

safety in numbers

I used to run around town in "taxis".   It was cheap and very convenient.  In a town where "ex-pat" goods are extremely expensive (rents are over $2000/month..cornflakes are $8/box), the taxis are unbelievably affordable (if you have a good paying job, otherwise you walk everywhere-which is really what most people do).  They are set by the mayor and the price is very controlled (the population also expects this so it is very difficult to raise the cost).  Right now it cost a bit less than 50 cents to go one way across town.  The funny part is it costs the same amount (50 cents) to go 200 yards or all the way across town.  The main street in the city is one price.  If you go off the main street you pay double.  But if you pick it up off the main street and ride back on to the main street it is still the 50 cents.  And there are so many taxis.  There aren't really buses that do the same route (they tend to go up into the neighborhoods outside of the town).  The wild part is that until recently you had no idea what was a taxi and what wasn't.  Any sedan like vehicle that stopped for you was a taxi.  And you get in and they drive.  Of course, sometimes it all felt a bit sketchy, but I was so happy to have some freedom.  I would take little I with me and off we would go.  In any car that stopped (and most of them don't have doors that open from the inside and many have broken windshields).

Well, about 3 months ago, our cook borrowed some money from us and went into town to buy some supplies (he was building a walkway).  He got in a taxi.  They told him they had to stop one place before going further, so they pulled off on a side road.  They pulled off the road, pulled knives on him and robbed him of his money, phone, etc and pushed him out of the car. Thankfully they didn't hurt him.  And of course, you don't call the police, you don't report the taxi.  If it was even a taxi.  There isn't a way to track the registration of each "taxi" (if it is even a legitimate taxis).

So, I stopped going on taxis.  I really didn't feel safe anymore.  Just getting into a (potentially) stranger's vehicle, when most likely the inside handle on the door wouldn't open, no longer worked for me.  

Then the other day I noticed  a lot of cars had numbers on them!  Suddenly, going in a taxi felt safe again.  Sure, it might be a false sense of security, but somehow knowing that you could potentially follow up with the number of the taxi to find out who the driver is helps.  I suppose in many ways, there is safety in numbers.

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