Friday, September 30, 2005

My Tunnel Friends

Near our house is a one lane tunnel that crosses under the motorway and comes out on Spintex Road- a main drag for us. The tunnel is manned during the day by men with reflective green vests and red flags and they do a good job of moving traffic through the tunnel one direction at a time. Every once in a while you will see a car ahead of you drive by the men with a hand out the car window to give them a small gratuity for their service (usually a 500 cedi coin or a 1,000 cedi note- that would be a nickel or a dime). We did not know about this practice for the first month or so, although in retrospect it seems pretty brainless of us not to have realized. But even before we learned about the tipping, we were treated to cheerful recognition by both men each time we passed through the tunnel.

The man on the west side of the tunnel is a young guy- mid 20s- with shoulder length dreadlocks and a constant smile. He keeps up a patter with each car that passes him, and whenever I go by he yells "Ameri-CA!" and waves and gives me that 100 watt smile. The man on the east side is older (age is difficult to gauge here, sometimes), and much more subdued, but he smiles for me nonetheless and each time I pass he yells "British Mama!" (I am Mama or Madame to all strangers here). How they each decided on my nationality I have no idea other than their guess based on my skin tone, and traffic is so busy at the tunnel I doubt I'll ever be able to slow enough to find out their names even though Cooper has asked me to do that. We mostly just make sure that we have coins in the car to give out on a regular basis.

At night, the same tunnel becomes a dangerous place. No one mans the entrances, so there is danger from oncoming cars, but unfortunately it's also an attraction for criminals after dark so we just don't use it then.