Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tales from the Taxis

As Heather says in her post entitled Creeeepy Taxi Driver (which is a great look at another amusing anecdote about, you guessed it, a creepy taxi driver), a good 90% of the taxi drivers here are polite and helpful. Yesterday, however, I was batting a thousand.

Heather and I hail a taxi to take us to school at about 8:30 a.m. We need to be there at 9 a.m. We are about three blocks away when I realize I gave all the cash I had on me to a friend the night before. Heather checks her purse... Crap. We have no cash.

Heather asks the guy in Arabic to take us to a bank so we could pay him for his services. He proceeds to turn the car around and take us a dinar and a half in the wrong direction. As if this weren't bad enough, we then see an Arab bank, which we know takes American cards, ONE BLOCK away from our destination, which we reached at 9:30 a.m. Uncool, taxi driver. Uncool.

My second fabulous taxi experience occurred as I was trying to get home from school. Few taxis drive by the school, so I walked up the street a bit to a traffic circle. Apparently I have to be a lot more aggressive when it comes to taxis, because people kept grabbing every one I went for. After about twenty minutes of standing in the heat and having sketchy-looking non-taxi-driver guys ask me if I needed a ride, I finally got one. I told him, in Arabic, where I live. He refused to take me. I was not ABOUT to get out of that taxi after it took so long for me to get one. I told him again where I live, and this time he deigned to listen to what I had to say before refusing. I tried to explain in more detail where I wanted to go, and we set off.

When we got to the center I told him I lived close to, he didn't even bother asking for further directions to my apartment; he simply stopped and spun around in his seat expectantly. The cost was 1.80 dinars. I gave him a 5, and he gave me some dinars in change. I hiked the last ten minutes to my house, where upon Heather asked to borrow a dinar. I grabbed the dinars he gave me as change and noticed he had helped himself to a 1 dinar tip (you don't tip the drivers here). Very professional. Very.

I've been told since then that you can read the identification they supposedly post in their taxis (though thinking back I've never seen something like this), and you can call if you are mistreated by a taxi driver. We'll have to put that into effect if ever I run across this gem of a taxi driver again. Thank goodness we're taking the bus as soon as the girls start school.

On the other hand, today has been a much better taxi day. Our morning taxi driver was extremely jolly and smiled at us non-stop from the front seat. My taxi ride home didn't speak much English, but he chattered away at me in Arabic and laughed hysterically (in a good way) when I said yameen and ya3 tek el 3afyeh. The fare was about 2.18 dinars. I gave him 2.50 because I didn't have any other change, and he demanded I take the 30 cent change he offered. Nice guy. Maybe he could give my friend from the day before some advice on how to make friends, influence people and avoid making me mumble curse words under my breath for the rest of the evening.

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