As every foreign correspondent knows, taxi drivers are the font of all information – and of wisdom too. My driver from the airport to the centre of Paris was from Guinea and he was starting a business in Senegal: a chicken farm to supply a grocery and a restaurant that he wold also own. He showed me a picture on his telephone of the house he was having built just outside Dakar.
There was a better future for him and his family in Africa, he said. In France regulation, taxation and the high cost of living was making increasingly life difficult. There was more freedom in Africa.
I knew what he meant. Day-to-day freedom and constitutional democracy are not the same. I asked him whether many people he knew were making the same decision to move back to Africa.
‘Many, many’ he said.
He asked me where I had flown from.
‘Brazil,’ I said.
He seemed very well-informed on the political situation in Brazil in so far as anyone is. He asked me what I thought of the new president Michel Temer, and I had to admit that I had no opinion on him. I had heard in Brazil both that he was corrupt and that he was not corrupt but that personally I had no evidence either way.
I noticed a spider’s web crack on the upper part of the windscreen of the tai. I asked the taxi what had happened.
‘A Romanian hit it with his fist.’
‘Why?’ I asked.
‘I stopped at some traffic lights. He washed the windscreen and then asked for money. I refused to give him any because I had not asked him to do it. He hit the glass with his fist in revenge.’
‘Does this kind of thing happen often?’
He told me that he now told his women passengers to keep their bags on the floor rather than on their laps so that the robbers at traffic lights could not see them. If they saw a bag, they smashed the window, grabbed it and ran away.
‘Where are you from?’ he asked, and I told him.
‘The English have done a very good thing with their vote,’ he said. ‘The Union cannot last. It will break up. The creation of the Euro was a disaster. It is destroying the economy. We must change.’
Taxi drivers are the fount of all knowledge and wisdom.