The Psycho Taxi Driver

Gambian Gas Station 300x213 The Psycho Taxi Driver

Around the corner from where the taxi driver picked us up he pulled into a petrol station. He asked if any of us wanted anything and I jumped from the back seat to make my way into the store to go and get a bottle of water. I stood in the queue for a few minutes before becoming restless. I couldn’t be bothered to stand in the long queue and so made my way back to the car.

When the driver saw that I was empty handed he asked why I didn’t get anything. I told him that I couldn’t be bothered to queue. He seemed outraged at the injustice of me having to stand in a line and beckoned for me to follow his lead back into the store.

Inside the store he walked over to the fridge with me trailing behind and pointed to each one of the two types of bottled water on offer. I indicated which one I wanted and he picked it up and swaggered to the front of the queue slamming the water down on the counter. I expected someone to object but no one did. He bantered with the cashier whilst holding out his hand to me for the money to pay for it. I gave him a 100 Dalasi note, and he handed me back the 75 change which the cashier had given to him. We then walked back outside to the car.

Back in the car we are ready to go. He goes to start the engine and it stalls again and again and again. After trying for a few minutes he gets out of the car and opens the bonnet. He fiddles around for a few minutes before getting back into the car and trying to start it again. This whole trying to start the car and then fiddling under the bonnet goes on for another ten minutes or so. The next thing we know there is a guy helping him start the car while he buries his head under the bonnet.

The guy trying to start the car tells us,

“Don’t worry I can take you where you are going. You see my car.”

(he points to a small banged up red car)

“┬áIt’s right over there.”

“We’re fine,”

I tell him

Despite him meant to be helping his friend and my refusal to want to get in his car he keeps repeating the same nonsense about him taking us home. The driver is not communicating with us about what is happening and his “friend” whispers (because he knows the driver will be pissed if he hears) whenever the driver is in earshot that we should go with him It was getting tiresome and we just ignore him. Half an hour passes and nothing new has happened. The car starts and then stalls and has not moved an inch. It is around 3AM and we just want to get back to the hotel.

At one point Deborah just gets out of the car without a word. I follow, not quite sure what she is up to. The driver is not pleased at her actions and shouts after us vehemently,


We keep walking

“COME BACK NOW! You are not going anywhere pay me my money.”

Deborah shouts back at him,

“You must think we’ve got all night to sit in your car.”

This makes him super vexed and he physically runs behind us screaming like a nutter,


I am clutching my bag close to my body and walking hurriedly back towards the store attached to the petrol station, worried that he will actually try and follow through with his actions. To appease him I say calmly,

“What is your problem? We are going to the shop and you are screaming at us.”

He stops shouting but follows us into the store.

Once in the store we try to get someone to call the police and start telling some guys in there what happened. When he hears our rendition of events he becomes irate once more. He keeps screaming,

“50 Dalasis, PAY ME MY MONEY!”

At this point I try and reason with him and explain to him that he cannot expect us to pay him because he has only taken us around the corner and broken down. The agreement was 50 Dalasis to take us to the hotel and we have not even got a fraction of the way back. He is not interested and keeps screaming the same old shit,


When we explain to the guys where he picked us up from (which was around the corner) they too try and reason with him (I can only assume because they were speaking Wolof, but it seemed so by their body language.) In the end the police don’t get called (note to self: never go abroad and not know the emergency services number for the country that you are in) because we don’t know the number and one of the guys in the shop is trying to call some soldiers.

The driver does finally listen when we tell him that if we pay him 50 and have to pay someone else 50 then it will have taken us 100 to get home when it should have only have been 50. His solution is,


Yes he really did shout it too. Deborah is astounded,

“I’m not getting in the car with you. You’re a nutter. After you have been screaming at us, you expect us to get in your car? You expect us to wait all night while you try and fix your car. I don’t have time for that”

A ruckus breaks out all over again and there are about 5 or 6 different voices all shouting over one another. In the end I see one of the guys in the shop hand the driver a note (money) and he goes back outside to deal with his motor. Not before threatening us,

“Watch out for me! If you ever see my cab, don’t you get in it.”

(I know what kind of a threat is that right?)

Deborah and I are left in the shop with this group of guys. The drivers “friend” is still hanging about though and spouting his shit about getting into his car still. Deborah is in no mood to be played about with and warns him to not open his mouth again (this is all with a Nigerian accent as she figured it would be more effective than a British one.) Unfortunately the guy doesn’t listen and she gets wicked with him, telling him to,


He finally gets the message and pisses off. The guys in the petrol station shop are really sweet and we stay chatting with them in the shop for another 20 minutes, until we see the driver pull off. They even go and get some crates for us to sit on. When we are ready to leave one of them walks us outside to go and get a cab. A cab pulls up, and there are two guys in the front. Hmmm there should only be a driver. We are a bit wary about getting in. The driver is telling us he will take us, not to worry and to get in the car. The guy who took us outside is speaking Wolof with them and smiling and laughing, however he makes a face at me when the new driver isn’t looking and whispers,

“Don’t go.”

Thats all I need to hear and we tell this driver we don’t want to get in his cab. I’m beginning to think that psycho driver may have sent one of his friends to come and deal with us. I mean he must have been dodgy or the guy who was helping us find a cab wouldn’t have warned me about not getting into the cab. The new driver drives off and the guy we were with from the petrol station shop flags down another cab for us. Everything appears above board and he agrees to take us back to the hotel for 50 dalasi.

Deborah sits in the front and I sit in the back again. This driver seems different to the rest. He doesn’t talk. After we have been driving for about 15 minutes I am getting a bit paranoid. Maybe he is the original driver’s friend? There are no streetlights so it is difficult to make out surroundings and I don’t recognize anywhere we have passed. I tap Deborah gently on the shoulder to catch her attention. Deborah is not the most discreet person in the world and she jerks back abruptly catching the attention of the driver. Now I can’t signal to her that I think this driver is dodgy because he is looking, so I pretend I had dropped something on the floor and tapped her by accident (totally unbelievable but I didn’t know what else to say!

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.

What happens next will be in the next blog.

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