The Allure of the Far Away and Exotic

Here's a ruse we hadn't seen: The local boys use signs with people's names to get access inside the pass control gates, then they make like officials who are going to open up another pass control lane for you, grab your passports and expedite you through the lines, with the acquiescence of the real pass control clerks, for tips.

They're on you like a glove until you tip them, at which point they're joined by the baggage cart cadres just outside the pass control desk. These guys artfully monopolize all the available baggage carts and attach themselves to each arrival.

The pass control expediter got a dollar though he demanded ten. At least his scam was novel. Plus, we kind of needed our passports.

But we'd been through the baggage cart game quite enough on this trip to Africa, thank you, and we simply told the little round fellow who appointed us his (thank goodness we knew enough French), "We don't want your help, we will not pay you, go away," and he smiled and laughed and thought it was all a big joke and didn't begin to move until I rested my hand on his shoulder and repeated the same words slowly and more gravely. Finally he shook his head at the terrible wrong to which he'd fallen miserable victim and slowly walked away, but he was back at the curb for one last try.

Welcome to Abidjan.

– Tuesday, 21 March, 1995, from the collected dairies.


Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

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