Thursday, February 14, 2008

I got some pretty great, original Valentine cards this morning, including this adorable sheep that was a joint Mal/Al production. No card from JP however, as he’s out in the field doing some research for a week.
Over the last eight years, he’s made many trips. He has a little house in Boromo that he uses as a base camp, but it’s pretty minimal. So, he has to bring a lot when he goes- drinking water, his cameras and tape recorders, his camp bed, etc.. You’d think he’d have the packing down to a science by now. But, yesterday morning he called me with a desperate request.

“I forgot my mattress! You have to send it!”
“Umm…couldn’t you just buy a new one?” (Hey-it was worth a try)
“No, I can’t buy a new one! Mine was really expensive! It’s a special one, for my back. Please send it to me before the night.”

So, at noon, instead of sitting down to lunch, I was driving over to the TSR bus station with a rolled-up mattress in the back of the station wagon. The terminal is just a couple of small metal-roofed, cement-brick building and a dirt parking lot. There was one bus parked there- presumably the noon-time bus to BoboDioulasso. Just what I needed! I hurried over to the ticket window. The girls there told me to track down the cargo-master. It turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. All I did was look for the cargo, which was not hard to find. It was a huge mountain of bags, bundles, boxes, furniture, bicycles and scooters. There was even a sheep tied up nearby, looking a less concerned than he should have been. I don’t think he quite realised that sheep aren’t allowed inside the bus, but are generally tied onto the roof.

Near the tower of goods, I found a young fellow- a kid, really- that seemed to be “mastering” the cargo. At least, he was taking money and adding stuff to the pile, so he had me convinced. I explained my problem and he shook his head.
“Lots of stuff today. No room.”
"But it’s a small mattress, all rolled up! It’s minuscule!”
He laughed and had me bring it over. He agreed that it was a pretty minuscule mattress and said he could leave it at Boromo for the low sum of about four dollars. He marked it with a length of masking tape added it to the heap.
I wrote down the number of the bus and then went home to tell JP to pick up his mattress at about 4 pm at the Boromo bus station.

The plan worked out fine and JP enjoyed a good night’s rest on his “expensive” mattress. He woke up feeling refreshed on Tuesday, ready to work. He was going to film the….no wait! Where was the video camera?
That’s right. He’d left it in Ouaga. So, he called me and asked me to please send it to him by the next bus.
Actually, I didn’t mind all that much. I figured it would give me even more ammunition against him the next time he made fun of me for forgetting something.
So, I wrapped up the camera equipment in a bunch of newspapers, taped it up inside a sturdy box and labelled it using a big black marking pen.
The young cargo guy was surprised to see me again. He asked for a thousand fcfa (about two dollars) and put it aside to go on the next bus. It would arrive by 2 pm.

JP called at 6pm last night.
“It’s not here.”
“It never came. We met the buses all afternoon and it never showed up.”

I felt like such a dolt. I didn’t even have the number of the bus. Nothing. I’d been so confident, as things had gone so well with the mattress the day before.
I jumped in the car and went down to the terminal. Cargo Guy had gone home for the night. I interrogated the girls at the ticket window.

“Maybe the bus broke down.” One of them said.
“The bus broke down?!”
“Could be.”

“The bus could be broken down and you wouldn’t know?” I asked incredulously. “It left here at about noon for a two-hour trip to Boromo and now it’s six in the evening. Nobody would call you and mention the fact that the bus was broken or hadn’t shown up?”
“That’s right.”
I must have looked pretty discouraged as I walked back to my car. I felt like a complete doofus, surrounded only by even more pathetic doofuses. (Or is the plural doofi?)
My only plan was to wait until morning, when the cargo guy would be back on duty.

I called Boromo at seven this morning. Isseuf told me that a bus had come into town at 9 pm and the parcel for JP had been on it. The bus had been broken down along the 106 mile road between Ouaga and Boromo

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