A man in the road ahead was flagging me down furiously. He had a bicycle with a basket of live chickens on the parcel rack behind the saddle. I thought he was just being an entrepreneurial salesman, but I wasn’t going to buy one of his chickens to self-cook in my hot car while I worked at the clinic. There was something about his insistent manner that persuaded me to stop.
The usual greeting was short and sweet. “There are elephants by the road. Can you shield me?” he asked. “I saw a giraffe and that alerted me to the possibility of elephants. They don’t like cyclists. They will kill me.”
“Of course, I will help,” I said. He came along side the car and I drove at walking pace for a hundred metres or so. He came around to my side of the vehicle, pushing his bike and the chickens-in-a-basket. We talked about how frightened he was by the elephants. “Even the baby ones will try to kill you,” he said.
To my left, there was a group of elephants, minding their own business, stripping leaves and branches from a copse of mopani trees. They paid me no attention at all. “See, they are not bothered about you and your bike,” I said. “No, their eyesight is not good. They cannot see me behind your vehicle.”
Up ahead there was a small group of people, some one bikes, some on foot, who were loitering by the roadside. When I reached them, the chicken seller thanked me and pedalled off. The group of workers asked if I would help to protect them from the elephants and I agreed. I did a three point turn and drove slowly back down the road. The elephants didn’t bat an eyelid, though they did bat their ears.
That was why I was five minutes late for this morning’s meeting.