Yesterday we traveled by taxi a mile or so from the apartment to a more commercial area on the connecting boulevard to our street in order to shop for a kitchen table and chairs. We were fortunate to have several options available to us a number of stores selling home furnishings are located there. After making the required number of inquiries, i.e. making sure we had not missed a potential bargain, Denise decided on the first one we had considered.
Before completing the transaction we realized that we had a problem; we had to transport the table and chairs back to the apartment. I told the dealer that I did not have a car and he offered to call a friend with a van who would carry it to our house for thirty dirhams, about $3.50. That sounded like a pretty good deal to me, since we didn’t even want to walk back, much less while carrying a table. The thought of two or three trips to complete the task was out of the question.
I had to walk a few blocks down the street to an ATM to get the required cash and by the time I returned, the van was there, the table and chairs were already loaded, and Denise had already called shotgun for the trip back to the house. The van happened to be a Suzuki, a “Carry Easy” model. To call it a van is a stretch. It might be one and a half times the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, but with less space in the passenger compartment. In fact, the only thing between the passengers in the seats and the exterior is the windshield and a small amount of sheet metal.
However, there were already two people in the seats so I would have to ride in the cargo space. I suppose I was fortunate that we had purchased some chairs since I got to put it to use immediately. The driver moved the other chairs around a bit in order to free up enough space for me to climb in and manage to sit down in the chair. Since it is such a small vehicle, even I had absolutely no head room. Denise managed to stifle her laughter as the driver started the van. She inquired if my dignity were in jeopardy. Fortunately, my roots run so deep in rural south Alabama that I had been subjected to equal or worse humiliating experiences in the past.
However, neither of us was quite ready for the next phase of the experience. The boulevard to be traveled is separated by a fairly wide median, with at least three lanes of traffic in each direction. Actually three lanes are marked but one can often see vehicles at least four wide, especially at rush hour. To cross the median, one has to travel to the next round-about, the thru-ways being located about a quarter mile apart. As the driver started to enter the traffic, he mentioned that the next round-point was too far away, so he immediately put the van in reverse and started backing up the boulevard in the right most traffic lane. For the first fifty yards or so, everything was fine because a light had the traffic stopped temporarily. But as we approached the intersection, conditions changed as there were a number of cars, motorcycles, and a bus or two that passed us and had to merge to avoid a collision. I am sitting there in my kitchen chair, in a less than smart van, hoping that the driver is not going to do anything more reckless than what we had just witnessed.
Horns were being sounded everywhere and I was amazed to see two policemen on motorcycles among the covey of vehicles that avoided a collision with us. Evidently they considered driving backwards against the traffic a common occurrence that did not require their intervention. Besides by that time, it was about 12:45 and they could have been late for
Just before proceeding far enough that we could negotiate the change of direction, the driver did forego a challenge to a city bus, and actually stopped to allow the bus to pass freely through the intersection. By that time, I was holding on to Denise for dear life, rethinking whether or not carrying the furniture for a mile on foot might have been a better option.
The deliveryman managed to get headed in the right direction, and except for an anxious moment or two making a left turn and getting through the round-about where our street intersects, we arrived at the apartment in fairly good shape. Merging in the traffic at the round-about requires lots of nerve and a willingness to accept a lot of risk. When the driver unloaded the cargo and offered to carry the table up to the “troisieme etage” or fourthfloor, I decided he deserved a nice tip and I gave him another twenty dirhams. Sometimes those short-term memory problems can reduce a lot of anxiety.
I’m happy to report that we had our first meal in the new apartment last night and that the table and chairs serve our needs nicely. Moreover, the van experience is another memory that we shall probably talk about for a long time.