With time I got used to taking taxis. I hardly ever take one for myself now – and if I do, it is only because my destination would be hard to reach otherwise. Sharing a cab is much more fun: you might get stuck between two huge African mammas (at such moments I always wish somebody would take a picture of me), there might be a cute baby staring at you with its enormous eyes, or you might hear or, better still, get involved in an interesting conversation. It is the latter I want to quote today.
7 a.m., the driver complains to a lady passenger:
Driver: …and the one that’s in France! He always says: I have exams! I need money!
Driver: So I sent him fifty thousand francs last month. Fifty thousand! And you know what he said?
Driver: Fifty thousand is not enough! How is fifty thousand not enough?! Fifty thousand I sent!
Fifty thousand francs CFA is seventy-five euro.
On my way home, the price for the trip is basic, 100 CFA (0,15 euro):
Me: Lycée León M’ba, 100 francs.
(I get in.)
Driver: You can’t pay 100 CFA! It’s too little!
Me: That’s the price for this trip and we both know it. You said it was ok.
Driver: Of course it’s not ok! You white people must pay more! You’re rich!
Me (patiently): If it’s not ok, I’ll get off here. You said it was ok.
Driver: You white people with all your money! You do the same work as the African and you get paid so much more! You get your European contracts! You must pay more!
Me: I am not rich, I have a local contract, I earn the same as my Gabonese colleagues and I will not pay you more than 100 CFA. If it’s not ok, I’ll get off here.
Driver: You earn so much more! You are rich! You white people are rich and you get your expatriation benefit!
We got to my place. I paid 100 francs. I’ve had this conversation countless times.
Going to my French class, I took the taxi for myself for 1000 CFA (1,5 euro):
Driver: So it’s cold in France, yes?
Me: Wouldn’t know, never been there.
Me: I’m Polish. You will notice I don’t speak good French.
Driver: I’m from Ivory Coast. Are there black people working in Poland?
Me: Yes, of course.
Driver: You must take me then. We get married?
Me: I’m afraid I already have a husband.
Driver: Not a problem. We get married and you take me to your country.
Me: Thanks but no thanks.
Driver: Oh, come on… I work hard, I’ll be good for you.
I kept saying no so he wished me a good day.
The taxi driver stopped twenty metres away from the place indicated by the lady passenger:
Lady: What are you doing?! Are you stupid?! I told you to stop and you didn’t stop!
Driver: I couldn’t stop where you told me to stop.
Lady: Are you stupid?!
Driver: I would’ve caused an accident!
Lady: I don’t care! You’re stupid!
The lady had told him to stop on a roundabout.
The taxi drivers are not Gabonese. The Gabonese are far too proud to take such a demeaning job. They are from all over Western Africa: Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Senegal, Nigeria… They drive around the city for hours on end – you often see them eat or take a nap in their taxi. They do not make much money and they very rarely own the questionable vehicle they drive; they must pay its owner a daily fee. They are very much looked down on by the Gabonese, who insult them for no reason at all. Do not take for granted, however, that they are all uneducated immigrants. We once met a Nigerian driver, who came to Gabon as an engineer and lost his job. He needed money and he took whatever job there was available. I’m convinced he’s not an exception. Life’s tough for a taxi-man in Gabon. Which maybe justifies a little why they want to make as much money as possible off a white girl.