The day I got stuck in the Congo and called Car Talk
Fortunately, Click and Clack knew the difference between the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, and a carburetor.
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RAY: Look, Scott, clearly it’s not doing any good to do that forward and reverse thing. At this rate, you’ll dig yourself down to China.Skip to next paragraph
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RAY: Thank you, Mr. Geography. Scott, have you tried wedging rocks or boards under the wheels to give them traction?
ME: I’ve tried to suggest that in my broken French, but the driver keeps insisting that he always gets himself out of holes this way.
RAY: Oh mercy.
ME: Uh-oh, now the engine just went dead.
RAY: Really. What does it sound like?
ME: Rrrr... rrrr... Rrrr...
RAY: How’s that again?
ME: Rrrr... Rrrr... Rrrr...
RAY: Yeah, that doesn’t sound good. Could be the battery’s dead.
TOM: No, Ray, I think the driver just flooded the engine. Listen, the local people in your part of Congo are more likely to speak Kiswahili than French...
RAY: Listen to my show-off brother. Ki-what?
TOM: Kiswhahili. I learned it during a backpacking trip across Eastern Africa in the ’60s.
RAY: Oh, that’s where you were. Mom thought you’d gone to some commune in upstate New York.
TOM: No, that was later. Don’t tell my wife.
RAY: Too late! She’s listening in the lobby. You’re busted! (Laughter.)
TOM: Scott, I’m going to teach you a little Kiswahili. Ask your driver to check the battery cable connections first, to satisfy my brother Ray. Say “Angalia batteria.” And then, have him do nothing for 10 minutes to let some of the fuel evaporate from the engine and try it again.
ME: How do I say “do nothing” in Kiswahili?
TOM: Actually, Scott, I don’t know. My Kiswahili is kind of limited. But better than my brother’s. (Laughter.)
TOM: Oh, ask him if he can fix it today. Say, “Utaweza kuitengeneza leo?” (Pause).
ME: The driver says no, he can’t fix it today.
RAY: So, Scott, I guess you’ll be sleeping in the village. (Laughter.)
TOM: Scott, did you bring any mosquito repellent?
TOM: A raincoat?
ME: We’ve got one. My friend and I are taking turns with it.
TOM: Any food?
ME: We’ve been living on bananas and warm Coke for the past two days.
TOM: Bananas and warm Coke. Mmmm, that takes me back to Africa.
RAY: Hey, Tom, (sound of snapping fingers). Tom, hello, we’re trying to help this guy in the jungles of Africa here...
TOM: Ray, there’s nothing Scott can do at this point but wait for the morning and hope the road dries out a bit. Meanwhile, you better get to that village. Don’t expect the Ritz. If it gets cold – and it will – you can ask the villagers for a blanket. Say, “Naomba blanketi tafadhali.” “Tafadhali” means “please.”
RAY: Tom, you’re scaring me with this Kiswahili thing.
ME: OK, Tom and Ray, my cell battery is starting to die. Or maybe it’s just flooded. Thanks for your help.
TOM: Thanks for calling Car Talk, Scott. “Barackasvili” (good luck).