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Of Kings, Taxi Drivers and (Surely) Well-Meaning Thieves

Writing in the local paperLocal issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

It was long after the British were forced out of their toehold in Arabia and about a decade before the Saudi bombs began to rain down indiscriminately among both sides of Mohammed's followers. It was around Christmas time and I remember it was hot. Mind you, in Aden, it’s always hot. We flagged down a taxi and braced ourselves for the accumulated filth that years of poverty and unending working hours contribute to the beat up interiors of taxis across Yemen and indeed across much of the developing world. But as soon as we climbed in, I noticed a difference. Not only were the holes in the seat darned and mended with care, but I could actually distinguish the color of the floor. A bigger surprise however came when the rather old driver with a kind, wisened face turned to me and asked where we would like to go in an English that would have made his ex-colonial ruler proud. As we spoke, I found out that the spry old fellow had worked for the English before they were expelled in the late 1960’s and hadn’t forgotten a word since. As he fondly reminisced about how much better life had been under British colonial rule, I couldn’t help but ask if he didn’t prefer living in the current, albeit flawed democracy. “Democracy!” he spat as we passed what looked to be a nine year old boy driving an SUV full of women. “Give me a king like they have in Oman or the Emirates or even our old ruler the Queen of England any day.” The anti-monarchist in me needed to find out why, even if it meant that his driving got even more erratic as he got more and more excited. “But doesn’t the fact that your children or perhaps even great-grandchildren could never become head of state bother you? Don’t you prefer to choose?” I asked, as he swerved around a man selling a chandelier in the middle of the road. “Kings rob at the beginning of their rule but as they get comfortable, they let some crumbs fall to the ground for the common people. These ‘democrats’ however, only get elected for four years and in their timed greed, steal everything but the kitchen sink and leave nothing behind for us!” I look around at all of the recently elected governments that surround me here in Spain and hope that old man isn’t as wise as he looked.


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