Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The car mechanic calls back

I haven't written much about our road accident on the main Route Nationale Numero 1, the two lane paved road that is the primary "axis" of the country connecting Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso. Trying to repress it. Sukie still asks when we go out in the car whether I have "two hands on the wheel"? (Hey, I wasn't even driving- remember driver rule number 1?).

After the accident a nice young mechanic in blue overalls eventually arrived to where our car was broken down. he had come from Sabou, after a passerby had kindly called him when stopping to "inspect" our accident. Pierre, was the name. So Pierre worked on the car for several hours. Image never to be forgotten: 2000 lb. Mercedes by side of road, held up by small jack and a couple stones, Pierre flat on back underneath car, as trucks lumber by, swinging a heavy mallet (did say he was flat on his back?) to punch our wheel struts back into usable form.
As the day turned into night, and we have finished with the solder guy and then the tire guy, the time came to negotiate Pierre's compensation for the afternoon and evening. He started at 10.000 CFA (about $25) so that meant 3.000 would be fine, but as I later explained to a Burkinabe colleague:
"When the man called Pierre after stopping at our accident, he didn't tell him that there was an accident and some people needed a mechanic. He said that a white person (nassara) had an accident and a nassara needed a mechanic. The reason Pierre dropped his work in Sabou and took the first bus to our accident site was because I was a nassara."
So common courtesy dictated that I pay him "above scale", and I was happy to give him 6.000 (over my driver's objections).
Early the next morning Pierre called my cell phone. At first I thought it was an exaggerated hey we're friends now can I come to the U.S. kind of call. But we got cut off, and he called back. This time he went right to the point.
"If my brother calls, you tell him you gave me 4.000, not 6.000."
I thought that was cute.
I apologize that it has nothing to do with African libraries. Or does it!?!?

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