This afternoon, I decided to do something a little different, something a little out of the ordinary for me. I decided to do something that would hopefully change things for the better in da’ car – I mean, in Dakar.
I needed to take a taxi to pick up my kids from school and then go on to downtown. So I walked to the corner taxi stand, like I do most days. But this time, rather than taking the first car in the lineup, I said I want one with two belts in the backseat. I thought it was a pretty reasonable request since there were 11 taxis there waiting. Surely this would be no problem, right?
The first three taxis did not even pretend to have seatbelts.
But the fourth did! I opened the door and slid in… and saw that there was in fact one seat belt, as promised, on the far left. But no buckle for it and no seatbelt at all on the far right. So I slid out again.
Taxis #5 and #6 did not have seatbelts. However taxi #7 offered to drive very slowly wherever I needed to go. Pass.
At this point the taxi drivers are all teasing me about the fact that I’m “so safety conscious” and this is the first time that they’ve ever seen me ask for seatbelts. But nothing will ever change unless we make it change, so I forged on.
Taxi #8 assured me he had seatbelts. They were just inacessibly wedged under the backseat. I guess this is like seatbelt-good-intentions, but not good enough for me today.
Finally the driver for taxi #9 was pulled away from his bowl of rice and fish to drive me and my safely seatbelted children downtown. He drove very patiently and safely, and I paid him well for this route. However, in my gratitude and in an effort to bring about change through positive reinforcement, I am also going to share his contact info here. Just tell him the safety-conscious mom in Almadies sent you. 😉
Gorgui Diop: 77 083 5848
Taxi Driver 101: 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.
Taxi, taxi… hisss!: My tips for taking taxis in Dakar.