Monday, March 28, 2011

Uzi Money

Here's what happened today. And just to head off the wild rumors, no I did not buy an uzi.

The traffic leaving the airport is always bad. I mean an hour to get 1/2 a mile bad. So, we decided to try going the opposite direction and see if it was any quicker. (In crash investigations, this is referred to as link one in the chain that led to the badness).

It looked like a fairly easy navigation (for Luanda) problem. Basically 3 roads, all listed in yellow on the maps. (That means they're 4 lanes, divided, PAVED and at least marginally free of the pot holes that swallow elephants.) Link 2.

Somewhere before we even got to the second road, we got lost. I mean we probably took the wrong exit out of one of the roundabouts. Link 3. The road very quickly stopped being 4 lanes, stopped being divided. Hell, stopped being paved, and don't even ask about the pot holes.

We found ourselves driving through that unique style of shanty town that is 75% of Luanda. It was a rough neighborhood. So we stopped using any sort of map and just kept prominent landmarks at the same relative bearing to us and followed were most of the traffic was heading. Hey, they've got to be going "out of here" eventually. Link 4.

About half an hour after starting this bounce between ruts and pot holes we come upon a traffic jam. Only about a dozen cars bottle necked at an "intersection". We don't know if someone hit someone, a car broke down or what. But there are cops on the scene. Not a good thing in this country. There is no "To Protect and To Serve" motto on the police cars here. If the cops are here, someone's getting beaten, thrown in jail, sent away, or any combination of the three that the cops take a whim to.

After about 15 minutes, (no time at all in Luanda) the traffic starts moving again. Right past the cops. Now, we're two white guys, in civvies, in a part of town that two white guys in a Hyundai Getz should NOT be in. The traffic snakes it way past the cops and the bigger meaner of the two takes that chance to cut in front of us to get across the dirt rut that's the road. Johnny is sitting next to me saying, "Just go, JUST GO" out of the side of his mouth and I'm doing my damnedest to not look the cop in the eyes while mentally levitating all the other obstacles out of my way. Just as the cop gets to the other side of our car, he looks in, sees said white guys and the following flashes across his face.

  1. Surprise, because hell, two white guys here, just ain’t possible.

  2. Anger, what the fuck are two white guys doing here!

  3. And whatever someone’s face looks like when they realize they’re about to get to beat two white guys in a part of town that they ain’t supposed to be.

At which point I gunned the engine and moved with alacrity away from the scene.

Pucker factor, about 6.5 Cops carry uzi’s here, or AK’s if they’re feeling bad.

People back in the states laughed when I told them that I keep a bunch of hundred dollar bills in my wallet as “Uzi Money”. (No, I’m not gonna tell you exactly how much, but there are more than 3 figures to the left of the decimal point.) When someone sticks an uzi in my face on this continent I’m gonna shove hundreds at him till he goes away. That is what uzi money is.

1 comment:

Alan said...

I bet you take the regular way from now on.