My light-hearted, mostly violence-free blog BurkinaMom’s Life in Africa almost became BurkinaMom’s DEATH in Africa yesterday.
As I have previously noted many times before, the people here are mostly INSANE drivers and one of them nearly did us in on Tuesday afternoon.
I was in the car, with Mahama driving as we returned from some errands in the center of Ouaga. Sev was in the backseat, absorbed in a game of Risk on his Nintendo DS.
Now, Mahama was going pretty fast as we tooled down the Blvd Charles de G. It is one of the very few straight, paved, four-lane roads in the whole country. It has wide dividers between the opposing traffic, separate cycle lanes and it boasts many stoplights- these are functioning, large-sized, highly visible traffic signals that tell you when to go and when to STOP. One of these fine, useful devices is located at the Babanguida intersection. As my car approached this marvel of modern technology yesterday afternoon, it was green. Not yellow. Not just about to turn red. It was good and green and my driver didn’t slow down.
Then, just for the fun of it (I guess) a car shot through the intersection from the left. If it had come from the other direction, we would have been fully broadsided and smashed to bits. As it was, the car crossed in front of the two left-hand lanes before getting into our path of travel.
This is when we found out that Mahama is not from the “pump the brakes” school of emergency manouevering. Though he has been a driver for many years, he apparently adheres to the “smash the brakes down to the floorboard in a panic” technique. This has the advantage of being instinctual, but it doesn’t work real well. The tires squealed, rubber burned, and my car (no surprise here) spun around like it was on ice.
It all went in slow motion, as these things tend to do. I saw the Kleenex vendors and newspaper hawkers standing on the corner with jaws dropped. A little tomato-can boy covered his mouth, eyes opened huge. I almost felt like waving and telling him “Don’t worry! This will probably turn out ok. Or not.” as we swung by. It seemed to happen that slowly.
Mahama and I didn’t have on seatbelts. Severin was silent in the backseat. I knew he didn’t have one on, either.
The other vehicle shot past on my side of the car as we spun. It was close- a foot to spare, if that.
My car finally stopped safely at the edge of the street, far beyond the intersection.
I looked back and saw the other car stopped in front of the grocery shop on the south. Their vehicle was also untouched, but like us, I guess they were just sitting there, shaking for a while.
Severin said “Umm…what just happened?”