I had to go to the small airport, and I called the local cab company. It has a Shamrock for a logo and an Irish name, but rarely am I greeted by anybody from the “old sod”.
This time it was a distinguished older gent driving, dressed better than I, and with a better command of the English language, too, I might add.
Eventually I asked about his accent. He was originally from Nigeria, and had come to the US long ago, and has been involved in a number of businesses, either as partner or owner.
“I was in the mortgage business, until the financial crash, then I opened a health food and herb store in the suburbs. It was in a poor location, so I recently moved it into the city of Chicago,” he said.
Then he laughed.
“You know what is funny,” he said. “They say the government here is not corrupt, but they drain everything out of you,” the taxi driver said. “They just don’t hold their hands out for it,” he added. “They make you sign things.”
As we drove the streets to the airport, Midway Airport — the small one that’s up for sale to the highest, lousy, corrupt bidder, no doubt with parking meter eyes.
“Yeah, they make it impossible,” said the taxi driver. “You need this license. You need that license. You have to pay this fee. You have to pay that fee. The fee doubles or the license is not granted unless some strange thing that is done nowhere else is done.” He paused. “I mean nowhere else in the world.” He then repeated to make sure I understood: “the world“.
The taxi driver then said he was going to take a trip soon.
“Where?” I asked.
“To Lagos, back home. You can live there. And you can party and have some fun, too. None of this afraid to go on vacation because your job may be eliminated while you are gone.”
I told him I knew several people that that happened to. He probably hears “true cab confessions” and fears all the time, so I thought he was just voicing the half-hearted but truth laced jokes told by some of his taxi patrons while on their way to sun and sand.
“Yeah, business is slow at the store, so I just put somebody there, and I am doing this (driving the taxi).”
“To keep the cash coming in,” I said.
“I will put the store online eventually, and I am going to spend a month in Nigeria looking for business opportunities and a better life.”
I know the power of a bribe. I’ve done it myself in foreign countries. Not for business reasons, but to ensure prompt service — or any service at all. I know business people in different countries, and they say that a little bakshish always is the best way to go to get things done. And it’s simple too. No forms to fill out, no pleading before committee’s for this or that, or hiring expensive attorneys. It is just cash and carry. Drop the bills in the hand, sometimes in an envelope and sometimes not.
We arrived at Midway. The “For Sale” sign right under the Mayor Rahm welcomes you sign. Just kidding about that. For now.
I wished my new friend luck in Nigeria, said that I would stop at his his store, because god knows there has to be a magical (legal) herb not regulated by the FDA that can make me feel better about a taxi driver wanting to get the hell out of Chicago and look for green pastures in Nigeria.
I’ve been to Africa, I said, but only northern.
“You should come to Nigeria,” he said.
Right now it was to St. Louis, the former “gateway to the West” and opportunity. I thought about Horace Greeley’s old saying of “Go West, young man….”
I wondered now about going east and somewhat south.