Wednesday, 25 January 2006

opportunity (let's make lots of money)

A classic Highlands Highway incident occurred last week. A thousand and one stories of chancey scams are attached to this road, ranging from the harmless (when I last drove down from Gka to Lae, about 30mins outside of Gka a tree had fallen on or near the road; it was now on the side of the road. A group of local guys were standing on the road around it; when we drove up they prevented us from driving by, demanding 20kina for clearing the way. We managed to get away with 5k) to the potentially violent (general group-of-raskols-with-guns type), to truck-climbs-slowly-up-hill-and-raskols-have-time-to-clear-off-with-cargo-in-truck’s-tray. The one I am about to tell you is a tried and true example of opportunity seen and seized.

Anyway, last Thursday a coca cola truck was driving up to Ramu from Lae, carrying around 900 boxes of soft drinks. One of the truck’s tires blew, sending the vehicle careering off the road.

Local men, women and children sprang out from wherever they were and ran to the vulnerable truck, grabbing boxes and carting them home. Even more: passing PMV [public motor vehicle] buses stopped, people jumped out, snatched boxes and returned to the buses, which quickly zoomed away (or pulled away with a shudder and a fart of exhaust, depending on the bus).

Aside from 50 or so boxes they managed to track down somehow, all the cargo was long gone by the time the police tried to recover it. 850 or so mid-sized boxes, with, let’s say 36 cans in each – that’s around 73 100 cans. And that’s a lot when you think of the average streetside seller, with an esky and maybe 8 cans for sale. The truck driver was enraged, calling people’s actions “stupid and insane”. But, you know, one man’s folly is another’s fortune.

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