20-On The Road
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The heroes of our work in Bangladesh were our drivers. They
had to be ready to go early, have the cars serviced, and they were the last home at
night. They often put in 16-hour days, sometimes 18-hour days. They were mostly good
spirited, reckless, and sometimes sleepy at the wheel. They loved to pass busses on
narrow roads just to see if they could dodge oncoming traffic.
My favorite driver was Jalil. He began as taciturn and grumpy.
He didn't like me at all. After several long trips with just the two of us and several
substantial tips, we became good companions if not friends. He was by far the best
"driver" of the pool and the hardest working. Also, he gambled less and won more than
Click on a thumb to see a larger version.
This is Jalil in the driver's seat - in the RIGHT hand side of the van. We drove on the left,
mostly, depending on his mood.
Here we are dodging an oncoming bus, that was passing a rickshaw which you can't see,
after we'd passed a car and headed straight for the rickshaw. And, there's another bus
coming at us on the wrong side. This was common.
We came across two wrecked trucks one day, with a crowd of people blocking the road.
Without television and little radio, things like this provided great entertainment in the countryside.
I got out to take a picture when the driver jumped out and started yelling and waiving
his hands at me.
He ran to the nearest truck ...
... and climbed on top so I could take his picture. It was a big deal when I
gave him a copy back at TWX. All of the other drivers wanted one too.
One of the things drivers did often was fix flats. The roads weren't so bad
but the tires were terrible. They would re-groove old tires and drive them
until the threads were exposed.
You can see the kind of help the drivers got when we had flats. Lots of people
appeared from nowhere to watch and offer advice.