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My Indiana Jones Moment

Press play, then come back to read the article: 


A true story, 1996  

Black market street vendors lined the sidewalk all the way out to the main road. They were agressive, thrusting armloads of cheaply made and stolen goods out in front of me as I passed by. Trinkets, souviners, flowers… I’d just about made it out to the street when something useful caught my eye.

A black leather whip.

“Whip?” the vendor asked hopefully, as he removed it from his arm. “Very good leather. Made from bull,” he added, “I show you.” With a downward thrust of his arm, a loop wound through the long coil, ending with a loud crack as it snapped back on itself. He smiled at me. “You try now,” he held it out to me and as soon as I wrapped my hand around the handle my inner Indiana Jones sprang to life. I knew I had to have it.

I handed over my rupees, stuffed the whip into my backpack, and turned towards the street where several rickshaw drivers were calling to me. I went to the nearest one and looked it over, sizing up the driver with a wary eye. “Very comfortable! Very comfortable, ” he assured me. I doubted this to be the case, as I looked over his rusted three-wheeled motorized rickshaw but, no matter, I was just going back to the hotel. The driver took a look at the address printed on my hotel’s business card and assured me he could get me there, so we settle on the fare and I jumped into the backseat.

With a sputter of the engine, the rickshaw took off.  We rounded the corner and fought our way through the narrow streets of the ancient city, braking for other rickshaws, pedistrians, and the variety of livestock that veered into our path. Gas, brake, gas brake; my body lurched forward and back, pitching left and right as the rickshaw bumped over the pitted streets. It was taking much longer than it should have and I began to sense a tenseness in my driver.

He doesn’t know where he’s going, I realized. Digging into the side pocket of my backpack, I brought out my hotel’s business card again and offered it to him but he waved it away. So, I sat back and watched as the streets continued to pass by. Finally, after turning away from the main road and driving us onto a more deserted and darker street I ventured to ask, “Hotel?”

“Yes,” he answered, with another dismissive wave.

“I don’t think so,” I point to a busier street a few blocks away, “Take me back to the main road over there.” I didn’t know where I was or where my hotel was and it was quite obvious this driver didn’t know either.

“I take you to hotel,” he said with authority.

“No, you take me to that road now.”

He turned in his seat, taking his eyes off the the road ahead without easing up on the gas. “You sit. I drive!” he ordered.

“No! You stop this rickshaw, right now!” I was becoming more and more angry with each exchange.

“You be quiet, woman.”

Well, that was it. I knew who I was dealing with.

I slid to the edge of my seat and as he slowed to take a corner I caught the ground with my foot and sprang from the rickshaw, landing safely on the dirt road. As I turned to walk away I heard his brakes squealing and felt a spray of rocks pelt the backs of my legs. “You come here! Pay me!” yelled the driver as he came running up behind me.

I had already goetten a few steps ahead of him and knew this would be my best chance to protect myself, so I reached into my backpack and pulled out the whip. His cursing was growing louder and I knew he was almost close enough to grab me. With a spin on my heels, I turned to face him. With his fist raised in anger, he yelled, “You listen to me, woman!”

I kept walking as I readied the whip.

“You pay me!” he yelled, reaching out to grab my elbow.

Raising my arm high in the air, I drove the handle of the whip forcefully down towards the ground. The leather rippled in a high arc, snapping as it curled around its end with a resounding CRACK!

Surprise stopped the driver in his tracks. A stunned look passed through his dark eyes before turning to a new level of rage. “You pay me!” he yelled.

Anger flooded my own face as I shook the whip’s handle at him. “No! You listen to me! I am not paying you. You are not taking me anywhere so turn around and leave. Now!”  I backed away, keeping my whip out in front of me, ready and waiting for more action.

“You pay me,” the driver called out once more, shaking his fist but not moving. “You pay me…”

I kept walking and made it to the main street where I hired another driver. Anger had overridden fear, but I was tense. After making it back to the hotel I headed to the bar for a whiskey.

Because that’s what Indie would do.

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