They are often yellow. Technically they are cars. The similarity between Liberian taxis and American ones ends there.

Even outside of California’s extreme, where the rules of vehicle maintenance seem to border on impossible to maintain, there are limits to the jalopy-ness permissible in a motor vehicle. All the more so if people will be paying you to ride in it.

But earlier this week I climbed into a taxi and patiently waited for it to fill. And fill it did. Four adults in the back seat – a common number, four in the front* – less common. Add to that a four-year-old, a tw- month-old, and two guys standing on the back bumper as we swerved around pot holes and other taxis, and it felt less taxi more clown car.

On the less populated front, today I rode home in a taxi (only seven people total inside and out) that had fumes streaming directly the car from the trunk and through the back seat. The faster we drove the thicker the plumes of gray smoke curled around our heads and left us dizzy and gasping for breath.

As one of my fellow passengers complained that it wasn’t healthy, the driver huffed an indignant reply about his car being broken.

Yeah, we could kind of tell that as we all began to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning.

We managed the eight or so miles (roughly 20 minutes), but all the while I watched as pin pins laced their way between cars packed to the brim and hobbling along the cobbled road. How I longed for that fresh air ride…alas, only taxis are in my immediate future.

*in case you are wondering, you fit four adults in the front seat by sitting an extra person in each front seat. Keeping in mind that cars here are all manuals, which means that the driver has a passenger sharing his seat and he shifts gears around that person. And of course, there are usually two people in the passenger seat so that is a given.

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