These are the guidelines taught at taxi school in Dakar. Don’t ask how I got my hands on their curriculum – it’s best you don’t know. Just trust me that this is what must be mastered before you can cruise the streets in something yellow, black and Arabic all over.
You must train your ears to hear a calm, “Hsss…” from two blocks away. When you hear this, slam on the brakes, put the car in reverse and back up to the person who hissed to get your attention. Even if this means going the wrong way down the street, you must do it. The call of the “Hsss…” must not be ignored.
If at first you don’t succeed at getting a potential client’s attention, honk-honk again.
Toubab women are not capable of walking anywhere. You must drive them.
No really. Even if they are wearing running clothes and moving at a respectable pace along the Corniche, you must slow down, honk-honk and be sure they know you are available to drive them to their destination.
If your taxi is missing door handles or the opening mechanism is rusty, it is polite to reach across the vehicle to open the door for your passenger.
Once a toubab woman is in your taxi, you must establish right away if she’s married. If not, will she be your Xth wife? If she is, is her husband Senegalese? Does her husband have multiple wives?
Follow up on these questions with, “No, why not?”
After this conversation winds down, then you may move on to other topics, such as the weather, if Senegal is a nice place to live and once again… why not be your Xth wife?
For the enjoyment of your passengers, turn up the radio. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Wolof, French, Whitney Houston or mostly static. Just crank it.
If your taxi is missing the window crank on a passenger door, it is polite to remove the crank from your door and hand it to the passenger for them to use for the duration of the ride.
Lesson 11: extra credit
Passengers appreciate the little touches that make your vehicle unique. A scented air freshener, some decorative tissue boxes, cracked windshield where skulls have hit, maybe some stickers on the dashboard and definitely something pretty dangling from the rearview mirror… all things your passengers will notice.