In my last post, I mentioned how I liked to imagine myself as a taxi savvy. Well, ladies and gentlemen, the day has not arrived.
My first day of catching my very own taxi was yesterday. Perhaps the only reason any driver stopped at all was because I was a foreign target with light hair and trembling knees.
As the first taxi pulled up, I forgot to greet the driver. Instead, I stumbled over the two words that I needed to say. As we zipped down the road, I fretted that the driver would overcharge me. But I had prepared for this. I pulled out my orange sticky note and reviewed the transliterated Arabic phrases that, if correctly delivered, could save my pocketbook.
I was blessed, however. The driver began to chat with me in English and just before he deposited me on the side of the road, he tried to undercharge me. Imagine! The phrases I had reviewed were all for naught!
I was confident on my way home from school. So confident, in fact, that I when no “petit” taxi stopped for me, I decided to crawl in a “grand” one. The driver misunderstood my butchered pronunciation of my neighborhood and drove me in the opposite direction.
“Wait! No! This is wrong!” He slowed to a stop and had me repeat my neighborhood name several more times before realization dawned. “Aaaaaah!” And then he said the name with the emphasis on the second syllable instead of the first.
We cruised along in the “grand” taxi, the driver overeager to make conversation and the passenger overeager to remain in deflated silence. The driver pointed to random things along the street as we zoomed past them and projected loud words toward my side of the car, as if I was supposed to know what he had pointed at in the first place. I stared out my window.
When we arrived safely in my neighborhood, I looked at him and shrugged to indicate that I didn’t know what he would charge. He pulled out a bill from his stash as a suggestion. I laughed out loud. It was the equivalent of $10 for a ride that normally cost $1.10. Not encouraged by my response, he shrugged and pulled out a hopeful $5. I shook my head and rattled my coins then handed him $2 to compensate for riding in a “grand” taxi and getting lost. He shrugged again and then rushed to introduce himself.
So far, not one taxi driver has known of the school where I teach English. My afternoon driver was no exception. He made a phone call and tried to look at the map I gave him…upside down. I tried to direct him in Spanish while he interpreted through his French filter. He finally believed the school existed when we screeched to a halt in front of it.
The adventures in taxis are probably just beginning.