The passenger hire cars that I’ll be taking to school through New Amsterdam, are mainly Morris Oxfords. What you’ve got to do, is to flag them down when you spot them coming from a distance.
I’m told that there is never any danger of them not stopping to pick you up, because no matter how many people they’ve already got mortared in the back seat, your fare is still attractive enough for the drivers to cannon you into the pile. They can get as many as twenty-five children in one Morris Oxford, and this is the non-exaggeratistic truth. Some of the hire cars go specifically to B.H.S because it’s the school in the remotest bit of the town.
This morning, on my way to school, in the back seat of the old, rusting, used-to-be-black Morris Oxford, I had one girl sitting on my lap.
When the car chugged to a stop on the side of the narrow Main Road, there were already about 10 of us folded up together on the torn leather seats.
“You going to BHS?” the girl who’d flagged the driver down, asked.
“Yeah mon, jump in the back,” the driver said. He was big and gruff, and already smelling of tonight’s drinks and sweat.
We shifted down, but there was nowhere else to go.
The driver checked his gear stick which had disappeared under the legs of the boy sitting next to him in the front, eased himself out of the black, iron, rusting turtle of a car, and inspected the scarce empty air in the back seat, for a place to slip the girl in.
“You,” he said to me, pointing a chubby finger at my face. “Lean back.”
I pressed my back to the leather.
“Go back a bit, no,” he told the girl sitting on my lap.
She leaned back and the side of my face made one with her back.
“Jump in,” he signalled to the girl in the street, taking her back pack and disappearing around the back of the car.
By the time he had slammed the car boot door, the new arrival had one foot firmly placed on mine.
After some ouching (on my part) and crouching, she’d managed to crumple herself in half and sit on the lap of the girl who’s back I was now cushioning with the side of my face.
I didn’t know who was worse off, me the very bottom, the cheese pressed in the middle, or the folded, scrunched up girl at the top, trying her very best not to sit down too hard (and how does one do that?)
The driver eventually slammed the door, but it couldn’t shut. Someone’s hip is usually in the way, in these situations (I’ve been in cars like these before – but with adults in them).
“One of you got to hold the door, mon. I can’t get it to shut,” he said, giving up after three or four tries.
The girl on my lap volunteered, but when the engine vomited to life, the car jumped forward, her hand slipped, and the door sprung open suddenly. The only reason the girl on the top of the pile did not fall out, was because of my help.
Well, I say my help – but that only applies if the process of ‘help’ can be described as; someone stepping on both your feet with all their weight, forcing you to jump up with pain, which results in them being caught between the back of the driver’s seat and the children sitting behind them, making it impossible to fall out of a moving car.
This would’ve been scary, except for the fact that, this wasn’t the first time someone had threatened to fall out of a moving car, which was too packed to have its door shut.
In the afternoon, Sita and I had to do it all over again, the opposite way around. We flagged down a Morris Oxford, which took us from school to High Bridge, (near the burial ground) the street that marks the end of Stanleytown and the beginning of New Amsterdam. She lives just a stone’s throw from here, so we walked to her street together, and then I hurried home the rest of the way.