Sunday, January 25, 2009

Yellow Cab

Monrovians rely heavily on taxis for transport, particularly since the city is spread so linearly, and because so few people own cars.
Taxis are only for individuals if you pay for every seat in the vehicle, known as a charter. Otherwise, all your money gets you is one seat, and sometimes not even that, as it is common to see 5 or 6 in the back of the tiny vehicles.

There are also cars available for hire, and sometimes these seem to be acting as regular taxis, pulling off to the side of the road and packing with people. I haven't really figured this out yet.

Taxis here are generally small hatchbacks, always painted yellow, in addition to other decoration. Lots of them are named, usually something religious like "God Willing" or "Jesus has chosen" or a bible phrase anyway. A lot of others show football enthusiasm: "Man United", "West Ham", even "Fly Emirates."
Some other monikers are pretty catchy: "Skill is Work," others are hauntingly enigmatic: I saw a taxi yesterday called "Laughter is Not Friendship". I still haven't figured out what that one means, maybe I missed that bible quote.

There is also a hand signal system in place to communicate to the driver which direction you wish to go, so that the taxi can head in a likewise direction. Pointing down to the ground is to indicate that you want to stay on the main boulevard, either heading in or out of town. For the market area of the Paynesville suburb is to shake an open hand to the side. That area is called the Red Light District, but this is Africa, not Amsterdam. It simply got the name because there was a traffic light along the road there. To point up means that you want a taxi that is turning on to the Old Road area, and to point straight away from your body is to indicate the airport short-cut which heads towards Spriggs Payne airfield.

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