Aaaaah, taxis. I won’t surprise you if I share a list of 5 most irritating patterns about taxi drivers all around the world. But I will try also to find 5 positive things, too.
5 irritating patterns about taxi drivers all around the world:
1. The Tourist Scam
Fortunately, not all taxi men rip you off ; but I would have trouble naming more than 3 countries where it never happened to me (I would say the UK, Sweden and Finland).
And for me this is the most obnoxious treatment that a taxi driver can impose me. So easy because the customer is not familiar with the city. So low, paltry, unfair, like hitting a man who is already down.
And, in a certain way, a xenophobic behaviour as it is done only to foreigners. One example: I am in the Hague in the Netherlands, in a taxi with an international group of friends, and our driver is doing the most ridiculous detours to make the meter run. Decided to stop this crap, I start speaking Dutch to him. And immediately, as if by magic, he gets back on the main avenue and further takes the shortest way home. Because you only rip off foreigners, not locals.
2. The Rejection of Sat Nav
So many drivers are not familiar with their own city, in certain places it is certainly distressing. My own record is Istanbul, where drivers do not hesitate to accept a ride even when they do not have a single clue where you are going; and can shamelessly stop 10 times en route to ask the way to the most random people they come across – while the meter runs of course. Drivers also often ask me if this is the right way, if that is the right street… How would I know? You are the taxi driver!
3. The Sickly Speed
I do not appreciate at all when my driver unilaterally decides to drive 110 km/h in Brussels city centre, or 160 km/h on a two-way road in Uzbekistan, or 180 km/h on the Malpensa airport motorway to Milan. Do you think your life is a video game? I don’t. And I certainly don’t believe that being a taxi driver gives you the right to terrorise everyone: me, the other drivers around, the pedestrians, and the cyclists.
4. The Complaints
I admit that, once tipsy, it may amuse me a little bit – just a tiny little bit. It is easy to kick off a lament about the traffic, the weather, the football, the government, how so much better life was before. But let’s try and keep this to the meaningless level it deserves; taxi, do not start vomiting your racist arguments to me, I won’t have patience for that.
5. The Small Change
Or better said, the lack of small change. Universal phenomenon, a taxi driver never has change. Seriously, you are picking me up at the Erevan airport on arrival of an international flight; and you expect me to have small change of local currency with me? How absurd.
In the end, one of us always has to get out of the car to run somewhere make some change, and this applies everywhere, from France to India. If only taxis accepted plastic payment everywhere, like in Scandinavia!
OK, this is fun, isn’t it. So a few additional anecdotes – with a more local flavour – that reinforce my preference for walking or public transportation whenever possible:
- The Rule of Three: this is a purely Parisian rule, according to which taxi drivers accept a maximum of 3 passengers, even if their car is fit to take 4. Particularly irritating, obviously mostly when we are 4 of us.
- The Noisy Fart: very LOL, apparently, in China.
- The Half Aggressive Half Pathetic: best example was a morning in the traffic jams of Mumbai, when my taxi and the car next to it started to play mirrors against mirrors, until the level of testosterone was so high that they both felt the need to get out of the car and fight. Eh but do you really think I have time for this nonsense on my way to the office?
- The Lousy Pick Up Line: a special for Latin America. In Buenos Aires, I count my local money and give it to the driver, asking if it’s all OK. The answer I receive: “No, something is missing”. Really, what? “Your telephone number“. Yuck.
But let’s finish this post with a more positive note, by enumerating some of the things that are actually nice about travel by taxi and taxi drivers. Some examples:
- Language Practicing: a short taxi ride is often a good opportunity for me to practice those languages that I don’t speak so fluently, such as German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, without complexes.
- Immersion in Local Culture: asking your taxi driver if he supports City or United is generally a good way to get into the mood on arrival in Manchester.
- A Political Barometer: it is generally insightful to let this Iranian taxi driver express his hatred for the Ayatollahs, or this old Russian tell about his nostalgia of the Soviet system.
- Good Personal Stories: Many taxi drivers are immigrants themselves, and if we manage to find a common language to communicate, it is a guarantee to meet some interesting slices of lives. A few humans that I met this way and marked me most: a Pakistani in Manchester, a Turk in Berlin, a Georgian in Moscow, a Senegalese in Paris.
I realized I had promised 5 positives to counterbalance the 5 negatives. But I’m stuck on the 5th one. Can you help me?
PS: When preparing this post I realized that despite my many experiences I do not have any photos of taxis! So I have used nice photos found on Google Images instead. I hope that’s OK.