Mr. Prince walked back into our lives Monday morning, bringing an unexpected ray of sunshine to the desolate landscape of trash and disappointment outside our compound walls.
He came to our gate as we worked our way through our morning emails with big bowls of golden mango and cape coast pineapple. Bob didn’t recognize him at first but once he knew it was our long lost neighborhood taxi driver, he flung open the gate. I came running out of the house to squeeze his hand and take in his familiar eyes, aquiline nose and slightly graying hair.
After nearly a year of struggling to repair his taxi, he had made an arrangement to drive another car and was back on the beat. Unable to call because he no longer had our phone numbers due to a cell phone mishap, he came to tell us in person even though he knew we would spot him on the corner the next time we walked up the street.
Bob had lent Prince some money for repairs when his car was first spoiled last April but after months of struggle, the car was ultimately finished. The terms of the loan were that Prince would charge us half price for fares until the debt was paid off after he got his car back on the road.
Prince was already working for Jeremy when we arrived in Ghana. “I found this great taxi driver,” he said and we were soon relying on Prince as well. His English was good, he was confident, composed and honest with a good sense of humor. His car ran well and was always clean, he was a careful driver who knew his way around town and could find anything. Everything you hope for in a driver.
Mr. Prince helped us settle into our new home in West Africa, a transition that would have been much more of a struggle without a trusted ally and resource.
Periodic inquiries about Prince at the Melcom corner taxi stand with its fruit and food vendors continued to yield the following response: “He is at home.” Meanwhile, he had lost our phone numbers and we had stopped calling.
We hoped his story wasn’t yet another example of dashed hopes. We wanted to think that he had fallen on bad times and would contact us when all was well. We hoped he hadn’t gotten his car fixed and was avoiding our neighborhood so he wouldn’t have to pay us back. We wanted to believe that some Ghanaians were intrinsically upstanding and honest. Especially Mr. Prince.
We saw him later that day, standing at his old spot and surrounded by his old cronies, face beaming like a rainbow with his signature beige taxi towel in a roll across his shoulders.