When I lived in Malawi I would occasionally take a taxi from the city centre to my home. This was a rare treat when I was just too tired or the rain was too strong for me to fight my way on public transit. This summer I pretty much ignored the taxis until the last week. As I wearily walked along with my 2 litre bottle of water and some strawberries, it occurred to me that a taxi would be far more comfortable than a mini bus. You must know by now the stress I feel when traveling by mini bus.
When I decided to take a taxi I was far enough from home that I’d need to either walk 20 minutes and get a mini bus or I’d need to take two mini buses. Either way I would face a 10 minute walk after getting off the bus. I decided to treat myself. The mini bus would have cost me about 55 cents and the taxi ended up costing me $8 but the expense was well worth it!! I arrived home clean and not stressed by a difficult journey. I wondered why I’d not thought of a taxi earlier in my trip.
The day after my luxurious taxi ride I traveled out of town and arrived back after dark. I have always been told that Lilongwe is not a safe place after dark. My traveling companion, Simon, lives on the opposite side of the city from where I was staying so he couldn’t escort me home. He insisted that I must call Azikiwe and ask him to meet me at the depot. Feeling sheepish, I sent a text to Azikiwe telling him of our estimated arrival time and asking him to meet me. I wasn’t aware that when Azikiwe received the text, he was already half way home and it was dark. He gallantly returned to the depot and waited for my arriavel. Simon, ever the gentleman, literally delivered me into the hands of Azikiwe before heading off to his own home.
Azikiwe and I traveled to his house by mini bus and I felt guilty all the way. He is not the type to get angry or to make a person feel bad but when I found out that he had been almost home I felt terrible especially when he kept saying how he hated being in the depot at this late hour. I told him it had not been necessary for him to come back and get me. I suggested that if he was unavailable I would gladly have taken a taxi. I was carrying an overnight bag which was a bit heavier than I would have liked.
To my suggestion that I could’ve taken a taxi Azikiwe became very agitated. He began ranting about the unsafeness of taxis. He emphatically told me that it is not safe to get in “those things” and that the drivers are known to take people to secluded places and either drop them off after robbing them or, in extreme cases, kill them. He told me that it was safer to sleep in the depot than to get in a taxi and that even the police would agree with him.
He was so insistent and passionate that I chose not to share with him the wonderful taxi ride I’d taken just the day before.My secret will no longer be safe since he will likely read this post but he can’t do much about it now! Feeling that I’d escaped death only a day before I told him that while I’d lived in Lilongwe I’d taken the occasional taxi and that I had lived to tell about it. To this he responded that it is best to take a taxi driven by someone you know. When getting in the taxi you should call someone and tell them where you are and who you are with. Honestly, Azikiwe’s warnings made me angry and fearful. I wondered if there was anything safe or anyone trustworthy in this city. If I was to return how would I manage to get around without the back up of a taxi?
I must say that one of Azikiwe’s more endearing and frustrating traits is his extreme caution. Recall that he didn’t want to see the animals because “those things are wild and will kill you.” Knowing that he tends to be overly cautious I spoke to a few friends about his taxi warnings. While they all agreed that taking a taxi at night driven by a stranger is a bad idea, it is safe during the day. In fact, they said, it is more dangerous for the driver because people have been known to try and steal the taxis.
Next time I will be sure to befriend a taxi driver and only use him. I do have a friend whose son drives so I assume he won’t try to kill me!! Who knew this would be an issue?