The Albania Story – Continued
October 16, 2008 by rtwsenior
Earlier, I began to quote from my new book, Hey Boomers, Dust Off Your Backpacks, the story of my border crossing into Albania, a country which Lonely Planet warns us not to enter. Here’s more from page 118:
“Okay, now back to the story of how I got here and of my fifteen hours in Albania. After saying goodbye to the last official, I returned to the car with my three thugs, who had rearranged themselves so that I could sit in front. Two men now held down the shifting rear seat. I was “not allowed” to fasten my seatbelt, as was also the case in Goran’s taxi, earlier. It’s obviously a terrible insult to their driving ability, and possibly, to their very manhood, and every time I pulled on the strap or even looked as if I were thinking about it, a finger would be shaken: “Ah, ah!”
What the heck? I’m in Albania now. Do as they do. I sure didn’t intend to antagonize these guys. But, ohmigosh, what dangerous driving, on what awful roads. At one spot, two old car tires had been propped up in a pothole to warn drivers away and prevent them from falling in and getting hung up… We did breakneck things as I admired the many shrines of flower-bedecked crosses and memorials to all those loved ones who had lost their lives doing just what we were doing now, though perhaps they had had a drop or two to tip the scales. One of their cars was still upside down and rusted out in someone’s yard…
We filled up with gas and a little farther along, we pulled into a fenced yard surrounding an auto repair business. “Uh oh! Do we already have car trouble or is this where I get done in? Why are we stopping?” Then, two harmless-looking teenage youth began to haul on a white fabric bag, half-filled with something sand-like. It might have been dirt, but I don’t think so. Then, a larger, similar bag was yanked, with some difficulty, from the other side. Both had been wedged on either side of the engine block. “Oh, okay. They aren’t banditos any more. Only smugglers. I feel better.”
La tee da. I didn’t say a word. Nosireee. We all just ignored that transaction and the hood was slammed shut and we were on our way again… Hey, it could have been beach sand for all I knew. But, if not, this would explain the tight features, the nervousness at the border and the refusal to exchange names. I’m not one to upset the delicate fabric of a country’s economic structure. Well am I familiar with the desperate subsistence smuggling done for mere survival in a Communist, or a post-Communist country.”
As it happened, the driver was true to his promise to take me to the bus in Shkoder and we pulled up to the side-street stop just as the Tirana bus was loading. I was the last passenger left in the Mercedes as the two cronies had hopped out along the way. So much for my Albanian bandit story.”
The moral of this story for me, now, is that we often leap to conclusions about the danger that we are in. Because things may appear strange to us, we can, and do, imagine all sorts of dire and unhappy endings – which, in real time, never existed at all. Those men were simply doing as they had been asked for a fair price. Not once did they give any indication that they would fulfill the Lonely Planet’s general warnings about banditos at the northern border of their country.
I’m also not blaming myself for having those thoughts, but I am mighty glad that I did not have a hissy-fit at the border trying to save myself from an outcome which existed only in my head.