‘how to steal a car’ is Googled around 27,000 times per month globally.
My uncle that initially refused to let me stay with him in Yaoundé eventually gave in after several times of me showing up at his doorstep to plead my case. He lived on the campus of one of the most prestigious seminaries in Cameroon, situated on an elevated plane right in the heart of Yaoundé. Off of his back porch, you could see a panoramic view of the city, with a heavy mix of vegetation, city lights and stars that filled the sky on clear nights. His house was very modern in comparison to the shacks common to most that lived in Yaoundé, excluding the homes of the most elite that were reserved for Cameroonian politicians or ex-patriots, most often from America or Europe. He had a bathroom with a sink, stand-up shower and toilet. The only problem was that there was little to no water pressure in the line that ran to the bathroom. This meant that you had to shower with a steady drip of water and that you may or may not be able to flush the toilet when needed. At night and during the day when no one was taking a shower, a bucket was left inside the shower to catch the slow leak of water that could not be stopped when completely turned off so that the collected water could be used for bathing or washing clothes.
There was also a kitchen area where meals were cooked if there was food to be eaten. My uncle had, what I thought at the time, to be strange mannerisms and ways of interacting with all of us who lived in the house. The house had three bedrooms, a large living room connected to a small dining area and a small kitchen that led outside to where there was another room built onto the side of the house. That small side room is where I eventually settled in as a roommate to two other young men around my age who were in some way connected to our family. The oldest of the two, a very well read and educated individual, probably around eight years my senior, was working on his Master’s degree and arrived to my uncle’s shortly after me. The youngest of us three, was Betron. He was around two years younger than me and quite the lady’s man, to say the least. Benjo’s intelligence and Betron’s suave made for an interesting mix, as my personality was still finding its own. I identified with both of them and as the new member of our group; I was always the wild card.
One day Betron convinced me it would be fun to take a joy ride in my uncle’s car. To this day, I don’t know why I’m alive after that incident. But neither of us knew how to drive a stick shift and somehow we ended up wedged in the thick traffic with lots of honking and cursing directed our way. Betron was driving and as we sputtered along, hardly able to keep the car going because the clutch would lock up and we’d panic that the car would stop right then and there without us reaching our final destination, which was of course, back at the house, parked in the driveway, with the wheels turned just like my uncle had left them. For those few moments, Betron, the clever womanizer of a milder blend, enjoyed winking at the ladies out the window as we choked our way down the street. Having a car in Cameroon was a sure lady magnet and our inability to woo the women one on one, for fear of them seeing our boyish physique up close, made a quick stroll in the car effectively spark our imagination of what could be. Unfortunately our fun was short lived and we ended up getting into the classic fender bender that marks a memory for future reference when we have our own children who grow to do stupid things just like us. Almost quicker than I’d realized we had been in a crash, Betron had deserted the car and left me to figure out what to do next. Our punishment was complete and utter silence from our uncle, without any glimpse of hope that he would ever speak to us again. A mild punishment for one who never wanted his acknowledgement to begin with. But for me, his silence felt very personal, perhaps a clear indication that he didn’t care how careless my mistake had been, because he didn’t expect more from me anyway.
- Where in Cameroon are we? (27monthsincameroon.wordpress.com)