You have heard of those heroes who snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, when they somehow come up with a last minute tactic that turns their fortunes round and right before your eyes, they emerge as winners. On few occasions in my life, I managed to do the exact opposite! Here is an example.
When I was 18, I travelled through a civil war-torn country (name and place are not relevant). The mode of transport that day was a 7-seater Mercedes taxi whereby you paid for your seat along with other passengers who happen to be taking the same route. The taxi driver will only set off if you are prepared to charter the entire taxi or, once his taxi is full or almost full. That day I shared the taxi with a couple and their pre-teen son, a single man in his mid thirties, and an attractive young woman in her early twenties.
The single man was the first to board the taxi and commandeered the front seat next to the driver, the couple and their son took the middle row and, joy of joys, I ended up with the nice young lady sitting in the back row! Normally, the journey would take about 40 minutes but due to the military tension, we expected to be stopped at least once on the way for ID checks and such like, which would add anything up to an extra hour to the overall journey time. That day, I did not mind how long the journey would take as I had the prize of sitting next to a fragrant young woman who also happened to be very sociable and willing to talk to me. For the first 30 minutes we drove without hindrance, the taxi driver was engaged in a typical taxi driver conversation with the passenger next to him whereby the driver knew everything about everything; it always puzzled me why taxi drivers were not in charge of every country they lived in since they knew so much about the economy, politics, religion, education and every other topic imaginable! The family in the middle spoke to one another intermittently about family things or keeping their son amused and informed.
I however, was in my own fantasy world. The young woman and I got on handsomely, thank you very much. We talked about music, films, poetry, food, her forthcoming marriage that summer, my going to university and a thousand other light topics. In fact, things could not get any better; after all, she was engaged to be married, I was younger than her, I was only passing by that country so, the relationship we had developed was pleasant but transient and even at that naive and fantasy filled world I lived in, I realised what I had was as good as it would get. I would have done anything to protect and treasure what I had accomplished so far for the rest of that day’s trip.
The taxi driver began to slow down in response to a waving soldier at a checkpoint ahead.
Soldier: Men outside, women and children stay in the taxi
Driver: Yes sir! Come on men, out you come
Soldier (to the driver): Open the boot of the car and step aside
Driver: Yes sir!
Soldier: ID Cards
Driver: There you are sir!
Soldier: Whose suitcase is this?
Family Man: Mine
Soldier: Open it
Driver: Open the suitcase for the soldier
Soldier: Shut up!
Driver: Yes sir!
Soldier: whose suitcase is this?
Soldier: Open it
Driver: Quickly son, open the suitcase for the soldier
Soldier: I said shut up!
Driver: Yes sir!
Soldier (to the single man): Open this suitcase
Single Man: It is not…
Soldier (shouting): Open it!
The young man unzipped the suitcase and stood back. Like with the other suitcases already opened for him, he rummaged through the suitcase, presumably looking for arms, explosives, food, mousetraps, I had no idea what he was expecting to find. As we stood by waiting for the soldier to satisfy himself that all was in order, along with the driver and the family man, I couldn’t help but notice the unusual contents of the man’s suitcase. The clothes were mostly female ones. In particular, his taste in female underwear left a lot to be desired, the colours were the feminine type but the had elaborate design with lace, frills and dangly bits; I had never seen anything like it, they went well beyond the functional and way into the world of kinky! It was all I could do to suppress my teenage giggles.
Soldier: Okay, close it, you can all go back to the taxi
Driver: yes sir, God be with you and protect you sir, victory is ours!
Soldier: If you don’t shut up and drive off, I am going to have you beaten up and arrested
Soldier: Very well sir, goodbye
We piled in to the car again and as the taxi pulled off, our driver shouted: Son of a dog, I hope you die and rot in hell!
She: Why are you laughing, because of what the driver just said?
Me: No, it is something else
She: What, tell me!
Me (still laughing): Oh you won’t believe it
She (amused): well tell me!
Me: You know the man sitting in the front?
She: Yes, what about him?
Me: I think maybe he is a pervert or is married to a weird woman
She: What makes you say that?
Me (still laughing): You should have seen the contents of his suitcase
She (now laughing herself): What were they like?
Me: Awful, just awful!
She: Why? Explain properly please
Me: He has a suitcase full of the most garish and horrible set of female underwear I have ever seen
She (now in fits of giggles): You are joking!
Me: I am NOT! I don’t know where he got them from, I wonder if they are his or his wife or fiancé, I bet they are his though, he is a pervert, no woman would wear such underwear
She: Describe them, please?
Me: Some are pink and frilly, some are red with black lace, yellow bras with tassels, the whole suitcase is like a crash with a lorry full of paint cans and a lorry full of women’s underwear
She (not laughing): That is not his suitcase; that is mine!
The rest of the journey seemed to last a lifetime of silence and abject embarrassment; I could not wait for it to come to an end. At that age, I could not find a set of words to express my shame, regret and foolishness. Even today, after many years of maturing, I rather doubt I can think of anything appropriate I can say to make amends and get out of this self-prepared deep hole.