Last Friday I was on cloud nine. I had just gone to the bank and withdrew thirty million kwacha ($6,000) to pay for the chickens we were stocking our new poultry house with. It is the first commercial activity for us and I was excited!
However, as is typical with life in Zambia, frustration was soon to set in. On my way to Yielding Tree with my hand holding tightly to my purse full of cash I had to drive down Lumumba Road, which is crowded and filled with thieves. Through the robot (stop lights) at city market I had three mini busses in front of me and a huge truck beside me so I could not see the lights. I just followed the traffic right through the light as it turned red – and yes, in front of the police who were hiding on the other side of the busses. They let all the other vehicles through, but of course stopped the white lady. It was about 10:30am and I had to be at yielding tree before noon.
The police made me pull over right in the intersection with cars all trying to get around me, honkin’ and cussin’. He asked if I knew what I did etc. Then he said he was “going to impound the car because I had violated the laws of traffic in Zambia.” He proceeded to get in the back seat of the car. The first thing he asked was how old I was— not, “Can I see your license?” I proceeded to tell him I was old, and he had the gall to flirt and say, “You can’t be that old!” So I got out my license and showed him that all 53 years were real. He was quiet and ordered me to drive through the congested traffic to City Market police post, which of course is where many of my children live, beg and sleep. I knew it would be chaos and would take forever so I did protest. Cripes, it would have taken an hour just to get through the traffic and park, and then I would have been surrounded by the children and had to deal with all of that at the same time as having to worry about the cash I was carrying. As I was explaining this to him, some of the children came up to my window, saying, “Mama Carol — what are you doing with the police? Mama Carol — who died?? Mama Carol — how is Charles?” Soon we had a trail of street children following us and sticking their heads in the window.
Knowing he was outnumbered, the officer told me to turn around and go back to Lumumba Road. Giving him my best eye roll and “I told you so” look, I turned around right in the middle of the road. He was quiet until we got away from the market. Then, when we got to the exit going out of the market, he ordered me to stop right in the road. I thought he was going to get out… I was wrong. He told me to put my flashers on, leave the car empty in the middle of the road and walk with him to the police.
Up to this time, I did pretty well — kept my cool, admitted all my faults, never made eye contact, said lots of “Yes, boss” and “Sikomo wakumba,” but this was it! I turned around, looked him in the eye and said,” Are you crazy? Do you think I am stupid? I am not leaving my car here in the middle of the road, completely empty.”
He tried to assure me he was the police and it would be safe. Then I actually may have used some language very unbecoming a missionary and went at him (all verbal or course.) He kept his calm and said, “You just lock it up and come with me.” I refused and he argued back that no one could steal it if it was locked. I laughed and told him that I know at least four boys that carry rings of keys they have stolen from pockets and purses for just such occasions. He replied with “That is not possible,” so I named names and said if he took me to city market police post, I could introduce him to them!
In the meantime, traffic was lining up behind us, a crowd was gathering to see if I was okay, and the older street youth were bearing down. He finally surrendered — but did he get out? No. He just ordered me to drive again.
“To where?” I demanded. Clearly he had no idea so he said, “To wherever you are going.” I explained that I had to go to Yielding Tree to pay for my chickens. He said, “That’s fine — I will just go with you.” As I began to drive I was still railing this guy. Nasty things like, “So this is what they pay you for? To drive around with old ladies all day? You think I need protection from my chickens??”
Finally, when we got far enough from City Market, he told me to pull over. I kept going until I found a safe place to pull off and said, “Just get out of my car.” He boldly looked at me and said, ”Madam, the fine for this violation is $180.”
I went into my purse, grabbed $100. I gave it to him and demanded he leave my car immediately — which he finally did. Then I proceeded on to buy my chickens!