Note: I said court; not jail. Now you can relax and enjoy this true account of the day.
“It’s a marvelous thing to be on a journey, not knowing where you are going, especially if you trust the cabbie!” according to Sister Carla in Vessel of Clay.
In El Salvador we mostly use trusted and known private drivers who also interpreted our interviews for us. But, these people DO have day jobs. The day of our BIG interview; the one we had worked most carefully to arrange because of the person’s extremely tight schedule, we knew we did not require an interpreter. A supreme court justice comes with her own. So being the generous, compassionate people we are, we gave our driver the day off. The night before the interview we arranged with the guesthouse owner to call us a reliable cab to the courthouse, so no problem.
We were instructed to report IN the justice’s chambers in the Supreme Courthouse for an interview punctually at 8 AM. We arranged to eat breakfast early, before the rest of our group that day and for the cab to come in plenty of time. The cab driver arrived smiling and we assumed he understood our destination. Assumed.
We arrive safely instructing the cabbie to return for us at a specific time. As we are sitting in the lobby looking unimpressed by our surroundings and being eyed by those around us, someone who thankfully speaks English approaches us and we discover that we are at A courthouse, but not THE courthouse. Apparently this is a municipal one and the one we are expected in is across the city. That person directed someone out in front of the building to get us into another cab pronto and off we dash to the very impressive and highly fortified Supreme Courthouse. This place is surrounded by iron gates and armed guards everywhere. I’m concentrating on the arsenal of weapons they wear. Not even Don tried to get a picture! He values his camera too much. I value my life more.
Now as Don is giving our names, purpose, and name of the justice expecting us, there is one additional oddity about our appearance. We are not only the only gringos at the gate. We are the only gringos carrying motorcycle helmets which I have now thrust into Don’s hands. No, we didn’t ride cycles, but were asked to bring helmets from the U.S. for the justice’s daughter. It’s this point where I am thinking, “NOW we go directly to jail; do not pass go; do not collect $200.” Don’s smile overshadows my look of fear and trepidation and the guard buzzes us through the gate where we were escorted into private elevators to the waiting justice’s chambers. Yes, we still made our 8 AM appointment. WHEW! The justice was as delightful and engaging as could be and agreed to a second interview over dinner later in the week.
At the end of the day after another interview in a totally different part of the city, the interviewee called a cab for us and lo and behold, there he was again, that familiar first cabbie of the morning. It was such a relief to see his trusted face and know that he would be able to get us back to our guesthouse from memory. He was extremely apologetic for having delivered us to the wrong courthouse earlier that day. We don’t even know how he discovered that, but we made it abundantly clear that it was not his fault. Our own lack of Spanish skills and false assumptions were the causes.
In a city of 1.7 million people with who knows how many cab drivers, what are the chances of getting the same cabbie twice in the same day? Not to mention getting such a sweet guy who apologizes to his fare for dropping us off at the incorrect original destination. We were doubly blessed that day. And THIS photo we felt safe in taking.