The Accidental Extremist
There’s No Such Thing As A Bad Trip….

Lost Highway [Close Calls]
Monday February 09th 2009, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hey, hello, where are you from mister? You like soccer? It was January of 1997, and I was enroute from Kara, Togo, to Ougadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, hoping to continue on to Mali and Timbuktu. Flights were pricey, so I was going by taxi brousse, or bush taxi, one of the zillion converted Peugot 504 station wagons that ply the washboard highways at suicidal speeds, piled high with baskets and passengers and the odd live chicken. And this guy – call him Mister Friendly – who wouldn’t leave me alone. He wore a dirty windbreaker and spoke with his head tipped to one side, leering, and a bit goggle-eyed.

You American? I lied that I wasn’t, but it didn’t faze him. Sitting in the front seat, the cabine, I hand-rolled cigarettes and stared dead ahead, ignoring him, until the taxi suddenly lurched to the side of the road. Time to pray. Several of the men, including MF, dropped rugs in the dirt and prostrated themselves in the direction of Mecca.

Suddenly a gigantic woman who had been sitting in the last seat blotted out my window. “You see that man?” she hissed in French, staring at me with bulging eyes. “The one talking to you?” He glanced over, but couldn’t hear. “You stop talking to him! He works this line,” she said, going on to describe in colorful French how I was soon to be attacked for my worldly possessions, such as they were. She parked her enormous self in front of my window, a sentinel. Merci, I croaked, trying to seem unconcerned, but my blood had turned to ice. I was alone, hundreds of miles from a phone or embassy. I pulled out a knife to pare my nails, but it didn’t calm me. Getting out was unthinkable—it would be getting dark soon. I tried to make friends with the driver, but he ignored me. This is not good, I thought. Not good at all.

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