Pink Shirt Gangsterism

Camron wearing pink Pink Shirt Gangsterism

Ending of last blog:

The journey continues in silence and I am sitting in the back seat with my heart racing. All kinds of things are running through my mind and then when I think the night (or should I say morning) cannot get any more eventful it does.

CONTINUED…

The car pulls over. I don’t see the driver being signaled to the side of the road, but the next thing I know is he is looking all flustered and anxious. We ask him what is going on and he says that it is the police. I breathe a sigh of relief. If he was planning to do anything dodgy to us then this will surely make him rethink.

They speak in Wolof to him and he starts rifling through his glove compartment. He retrieves some documents and gets out of the car to talk to the policemen. While they are outside I tell Deborah how I was tapping her because I thought the guy was dodgy and not going in the right direction to take us to the hotel. She doesn’t get a chance to respond to my paranoid suggestions because there is a tapping at my window. It is one of the policemen. Even now I cannot envision his face. All I see is the pink shirt that he was wearing. At the time I was thinking, “Dipset, Dipset, Dipset.”

I wind down my window. The driver must have told him that we don’t speak Wolof because he addresses us in English,

“PAY-PAS, PAY-PAS”

He spits the words out rapid fire like a machine gun. Huh? Deborah and I look at him blankly.

“PAY-PAS, PAY-PAS, Where are your PAY-PAS?”

Deborah answers,

“What papers?”

“PAY-PAS, PAY-PAS!”

“We don’t have papers we are from England.”

He doesn’t care,

“I need to see your papas now.”

Now the driver gets involved. He has sweat beads forming across his brow. He leans into the open driver’s side door and hisses at us,

“Show them your papas!”

I can sense the urgency in his voice, but he is pissing me off now. Does he think we are deaf? I have to tell him,

“We don’t have papers. We have passports but they aren’t with us.”

“Show them your passport.”

This dude must be deaf,

“We don’t have them!”

The officer in the pink shirt now takes it upon himself interrogate us. He seems quite reasonable and is no longer as aggressive as he seemed previously. I mean lets be serious, how aggressive can a dude in a pink shirt really be anyway?

PSD (Pink shirt dude): Where are you from?

Me: England

PSD: Where are you staying?

Me: African Village

PSD: Where are your passports?

Me: They are at the hotel

PSD: Why don’t you have them?

Me: Because we left them at the hotel

PSD: We need to see your passports

Deborah: We don’t carry them with us. They are at the hotel. We’ve just come from a club in Senegambia

PSD: We can’t let you go without seeing your passports

This is exasperating now. How many times can you say, “WE DON’T HAVE THEM!”

Me: We don’t have them with us. We are staying at African Village. We didn’t know we had to carry them.

The PSD doesn’t say anything else he comes away from the car and takes the driver to the side of the road. They speak for a minute or two and then the driver gets back into his seat. I feel like I’m on drugs, my moods are just switching and with such contrast. From fear to relief to pissed offness to and back to relief. The driver is back in the car. My heartbeat settles. Everything is ok. They must be leeting us go on our way, right?

WRONG!

What the driver says next lead me to almost spontaneous combustion,

“I am going. You have to get down here because you don’t have your papas.”

WHAT???

My stomach is in knots and waves of nausea rush over me. I feel like I’m drowning. What the hell is going on here? Picture the scene; there are no streetlights. 5/6 men on the side of the road, two trying to blend in with the background with army uniforms and guns and he wants to leave us there with them, when we don’t know where we are. He must be crazy.

Where I am shocked into silence. Deborah is the one who is vocalising everything that I am feeling, She barks at the driver angrily,

“What do you mean get out? Did we ask you to dump us on the side of the road?”

“They are pol …”

“So! This was not the agreement. We get out of the car when we reach the hotel.”

“You have to stay here with them. I can’t take you.”

“I’m not moving. I’m not going anywhere. Are you mad?”

The driver gets out of the car to go and talk to the police again. Now my mind is running amok with scenarios. The one that preys most on my mind is that these men, may not be true police officers, and even if they are they may rape and kill us. This may sound farfetched but only last month I watched a Venzuelan film called Secuestro Express (Brilliant film.) In it a woman is kidnapped by a bunch of hoodlums. They plan to rape and kill her but one of the hoodlums falls for her and forfeits his share of the money (they extrort money from the woman’s father) in order for her to be freed.

So these hoodlums take this woman to a clifftop blindfolded and stand her near the edge. They then let of a gunshot to scare her into thinking she has been shot and drive off leaving her barefoot and mashed up in the middle of nowhere. When they drive off the woman takes the blindfold off and is crawling on the floor in an awful state and sobbing to the point where she can barely breathe. About ten minutes later police come by and ask her what happened. She can barely talk but she manages to tell them she was kidnapped etc etc. They seem like they are really concerned for her and tell her not to worry that they will take her to safety and to report the hoodlums that kidnapped her. Although the woman is hysterical at first, she finally calms down and listens to the officers and gets in the back of the police van. As soon as the van shuts they locks her in and start laughing manically. The cops are just as bad as the hoodlums and they talk of raping her.

So this scene is the one running through my mind. After all the word police is just that. A word. It means nothing. I don’t trust them. What could they possibly want with us on the side of the road at 4AM? Its ludicrous. I grip Deborah’s arm. A look fear stricken look of panic in my eyes,

“They’re gonna rape and kill us.”

I don’t think Deborah knew whether to laugh or cry. Laugh because I was acting like a crazed lunatic or cry because now I had planted such a horrific idea in her head,

“Why are you saying that?”

“It’s truuuuuue! We just don’t know. I just can’t bloody believe this!”

Mr pink shirt man comes back to the window,

“You have to get out here. We can’t let you go without seeing your pay-pas.”

I can’t believe this is happening,

“How can we get out? How do we know you are police? You are not even in uniform. Have you got ID?”

He pulls out a pastel yellow A5 piece of folded card which has been laminated. It is some basic tatt that I could drum up in 5 minutes on a PC. I’m not impressed at all,

“Look we have only been here 2 days. We don’t know where we are. We cannot get out of this car. How will we get home?”

“You have to get down.”

Now I am pleading with him,

“Look you can come with us in the cab to the hotel and you can see our passports. It’s not fair to make us get out here in the middle of the night.”

He doesn’t say anything. I get the feeling he doesn’t know what to do. If we are not going to get out of the car the only thing that they can do is forcibly remove us. I plead with him again,

“Pleeeease! Just come with us to the hotel, then you can see our passports.”

He goes back to the side of the road and speaks with the driver.

The driver gets back in the car,

“I’m taking you to go and get your pay-pas.”

That was it. There was no more to it. No more discussion. He started up the engine and we got back on the road to the hotel.

***************************************

I cannot even describe the exhilaration that soared through me, being freed from what I felt could have turned into such an ugly situation. In the car we animatedly discussed what could have been the reasons for them wanting us to get out in the side of the road like that. We couldnt figure it out. We knew the African Union summit was in town, but what did that have to do with anything? Were they looking for terrorists? The driver remained silent the whole journey. We got back to the hotel in less than two minutes.

We didn’t realize how close to the hotel we had been. I had imagined we were nowhere near and  we had literally been within walking distance, but because of the lack of lighting it had been difficult to figure out our location.  The driver pulled up to the front of the hotel and we jumped out like we had been sitting on seats of fire.

We were talking about the whole situation very loudly. One of the security guards at the front of the hotel could see that we were distressed and came to ask what had happened. We recounted the events of the night and he stood there dumbfounded. By this time the taxi driver was standing with us too, still not saying anything. Then the security guard asks us where we have to go back to. Deborah nods towards the driver and says to me and the security guard,

“You think I’m going anywhere? You must be joking. No way! For them to snatch my passport and leaving me stranded here. No Way! What are they gonna dooooooo?”

She then starts runs further into the hotel grounds and does a hop, skip and shouts,

“I’m FREE! I’m not going back anywhere!”

The driver now finds his tongue and tries to run into the hotel after her but is apprehended by the security guard that we were telling our story to. The driver is shouting after Deborah,

“You come back!”

He then starts ranting but in Wolof to the security guard. That particular security guard calls his colleague to come and keep the driver where he is, and goes to where Deborah is. I follow behind, just dazed at the whole situation. I’m in a twilight zone. He explains to us that the police have confiscated the driver’s papers, only to return them when he brings us back. He tells us that he used to be a police officer and that he will come back with us to vouch for the fact that we are staying in the hotel and sort the whole mess out. He agrees that they should have never requested that we get out of the car like that, and seems just as angry as we are about the whole thing.

We agree to go to our room and get our passports. The whole way there we are bitching about the whole situation. When we come out of our rooms the security guard is seated in the pool area with another guy. He must have been there when we went to our rooms but we didn’t notice. As we approach where the two mean are seated they stand up. The guy with the security guard addresses us,

“I hear you guys got into a bit of trouble?”

He has a British accent. We start telling him the story too. As we tell it he is getting worked up. He is saying that it was out of order for them to tell the driver to go and leave us there with them,

“Let me come let me come!”

We tell him he can come,

“The more the merrier.”

The four of us march out to the cab. The driver is now back in the car waiting. The security guard gets in the front and the three of us pile in the back, slagging off the police the whole way there. As soon as we get there a ruckus breaks out. The security guard launches a verbal attack on one of the officers who is sitting on a chair on the roadside. He appears to be the top dog. I can’t understand what he is saying as they are speaking Wolof, but it is getting very heated

The security guard really had our backs. One by one he approached each officer cussing them out viciously. Jacob (The British guy, Gambian parentage) follows him adding his two pence in here and there. In the meantime we show our passports to the pink shirt guy, and then tuck them away in our handbags. He isn’t impressed at the crew we have come with,

“Why did you bring all these people? Now see all the trouble you are causing.”

I tell him,

“You caused the trouble when you expected 2 women to stand on a dark road in the middle of the night with 5, 6 men.”

The security guard overhears or conversation and comes to give him input. I don’t know what he said but feathers were ruffled again. The taxi driver has been given back his papers by one of the officers and is buzzing around like a bee adding to the chaos, talking about,

“My money, my money!”

Deborah went in her bag to give him his fee, but the security guard stopped her,

“He can wait.”

The taxi driver is moaning and groaning about his money and so when Deborah goes to pay him again the security guard stops her, telling her,

“He was willing to leave you here. He can wait!”

When the taxi driver went to open his mouth after that the security guard just cussed him out, until he just shut up and just stood around sulking. By now there are so many loud voices and shouting. Tempers are flared, and amongst the Wolof being spoken there are a few English words scattered here and there, mostly curse words.

The chief police guy decides its time to take control and rises from his seat. He tells us to leave. We start walking but then one of the officers (with the army outfit and a gun) shouts something in Wolof from behind. The security guard runs back to challenge him, in fight mode,

“You this bastard. YOU, YOU, YOU ASSHOLE!”

They are squaring up and one of the other officers has to hold the one with the gun back. Jacob goes to calm the security guard down and brings him back to where we are standing for the walk home. The Chief of Police makes the decision that it would be best to escort us to the end of the road to prevent any further ruckus. It would have been funny if not for the fact that the officer the security guard was trying to fight had a gun strapped across his body.

We are walking back all talking about how the police are pisstakers. The security guard is referring to them all as assholes and the Chief Police guy is walking right alongside us happy as Larry. Can you believe this motherfucker sidles next to me talking about,

“So what part of London are you from? I used to live in London. I visit quite often”

He has the same leer in his eyes as Macumba. Ahhhhhhhhh hell no!

I’m not impressed. We just keep walking. He gets the message and turns back after that. We walk back to the hotel and Deborah and I stay up for another couple of hours talking to Jacob.

Jacob is 21 staying at the hotel by himself He has come to visit his parents, who both live in the Gambia. He lives in South London like us. We are talking to him about how we wanted to go to Dakar, Senegal but don’t know how to get there because there is no direct route. His eyes brighten up,

“I wanted to go too because I’ve got family there. I’ve never met them though. I was just going to go by myself and take buses and cabs. If you guys want to we can go together. I don’t think it will cost more than 1000 dalasi (£20)”

We jumped at the chance ROAD TRIP! He asks us when we want to go. As now it is Monday morning we tell him that we want to go the next day, Tuesday early morning. He says he’ll call his family and ask if we can stay with them too.

***************************************

Later on that day he tells us that his family is cool with us staying.

We are estatic! We are going to Senegal!

Comments

  1. this scared me a whole lot, i keep thinking what would have happened to you girls if you had let the cabbie abandon u, am so relieved nothing serious happened. thanx to security guard and jacob. this is a cautionary tale that the police is never your friend…………………….

  2. nimd4 says:

    Didn’t the Police just try to scare you into paying them (for like having no papers)?!

    • MsBeautySoul says:

      They didn’t outright ask and I didn’t pick up any hints, but those times I hadn’t yet been to Nigeria so I was oblivious to the whole bribing thing and the subtle ways in which people may suggest it.

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