Something strange has been happening to me lately. Those of you familiar with my writing know that I’ve been living in Central Africa for the past three years as an amateur sociologist. Since I’ve been here I’ve made friends with and associated with only the lower classes of people. Recently however I made friends with people who are connected to the small rich upper class of people. Without any maneuvering on my part I am now being introduced to a number of influential individuals and I hear that my name is spreading throughout the community.
As an amateur sociologist my job is to observe society and report honestly without any preconceived ideas or notions of influencing change. For this to work however I must remain neutral. As the data measuring instrument I must remain unchanged throughout the entire experiment otherwise my data will be corrupted. With this in mind I would like to report a change in myself that I observed. I’m growing more confident around police officers. Their threats don’t intimidate me like they did when I first arrived.
The other day I accompanied my wife to her job using a taxi. Usually the taxies charge a dollar if they pick us up on the main road but two dollars if they pick us up at our front door which is considerably far from the main road. This day we were walking out to the main road when a taxi offered us a lift halfway between our door and the main road. We assumed since we were all headed to the main road that we would be charged a dollar when we arrived at our final destination. When we arrived however and my wife handed the driver a dollar he through it back at us protesting that we owed two dollars. My wife laid the money back down where he could reach it and opened her door to leave. As she turned the driver grabbed her purse. Now, I would like to think I reacted normally under the circumstances but I’m not sure. I grabbed the guy’s wrist with one hand, made a fist with the other and told him I would knock out all of his teeth if he laid another finger on my wife. For the first time he turned his attention towards me. In a land with more human rights abuses than anywhere else in the world women here are treated with no respect so apparently the driver felt he was within his rights. My wife exited so he turned and opened his door. I followed my wife so I could stand between the two. I had already warned the driver so I mentally prepared to carry out my threat. As he came around to our side of the car he noticed that I stood a foot taller than him. He changed his tone and spoke more respectfully but insisted that we owed two dollars. I chided him for laying his hands on a woman and reiterated my warning. We finally paid him the two dollars but as we did so I found myself behaving in a surprising manner.
Here, status is everything. If you’re somebody important you let others know it and walk over your inferiors. This way of thinking goes against everything I stand for. Nevertheless I felt impelled to let this taxi driver know that we are Americans and he’d better be more careful next time. He said he didn’t care as he retreated into his car. This infuriated me and I found myself standing in front of his taxi, blocking his way, and threatening to call the embassy. I don’t know what came over me. Your thoughts???