Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yet Another Taxi Story

For those of you who miss the good old days of lewd taxi driver stories, from when I lived in Cairo:

In Kuwait, on the day of the theme park opening, everyone was busy.

Real busy.

Normally, someone—Mr. Fixit, the office driver, the art director—would stop by the Ibis and give me a lift to work. But today, everyone was busy. Mr. Fixit was in the park. The office driver was racing around town. And the art director? Well, he was under orders (from me, no less) to learn a song on his guitar.

No worries. I am a big girl. I am more than capable of taking a taxi. I even know where the office was, just over that big famous cemetery in downtown. I can even say my destination as if I'd been here for months. (I'm glad the office had moved out of the car wash district, which was far, far away.)

I had sorted out the fare beforehand. I walked out of the hotel and into a taxi.

"I'll give you two KD. I'm going to (blah blah blah)," I told the taxi driver. The real fare was a half a KD less, but I was factoring in my unofficial "white American taxi tax."

The driver nodded and I got in.

He hadn't driven more than half a mile before the chatter started. He eyeballed me in the rear view mirror.

"Where're you from?"

"New York."

silence.

I sighed. I knew this routine. Exasperated, I steeled myself to play my part.

"And you? Your country? No, wait... don't tell me... you are from Egypt."

His eyes grew wide.

"Yes! How did you know?"

I thought, "Because you look like a lecherous creep driving a taxi, and in Cairo about 40 percent of taxi drivers are lecherous creeps."

I said nothing. I only shrugged.

We went through a whole series of small-talk questions, about my age and his age, did I have kids, how long was I here, etc etc.

Which shoe was he going to throw at me first, I wondered. The fare or the sex one?

The latter, as it turned out.

"You have a husband?"

"No. Too much trouble."

"Boyfriend?"

I thought for a second.

"Yes," I announced.

He thought for a few beats.

"How many boyfriends?"

Oh gross. I looked at the side of the road. About 5 more minutes of being cooped up in here.

"ONE."

"Only one?"

Please drive faster.

"Twenty-five KD, okay?"

"HA! Riiiighhht."

Silence.

"Twenty-five KD."

By now I was just ignoring him. After he persistently requested 25 KD (that's $86 for a $5 ride), I finally looked at him and said,

"No. That's ridiculous. You are being ridiculous."

I didn't bother saying two KD or whatever. He'd get what he got, after I'd opened the door and stepped outside of the taxi.

He pulled up in front of my office tower. I opened the door, stood outside the taxi, and reached back in with a crumpled up wad of bills. He'd have to uncrumple them before he counted them. I closed the door hastily and walked to the office building entrance.

"Madam! Madam!"

I looked back but did not hesitate. He motioned wildly to me. A part of my brain thought for a second: "Maybe he's trying to give me back the extra half a KD I overpaid... Nah. Keep walking."

I walked into the building as he continued to call after me.

Whenever I miss living in Cairo, it is for the friends I had there. It is for the sentimental time when the man I met there (then dated here) treated me as a human rather than as a fouled Kleenex. It is for the camaraderie of hanging with Yasir or Captain M, of the parties at J and K's, or the fun of running into a pal at Coffee Bean and yakking to her about utter nonsense involving cats and hair.

It's not for the exasperating taxi experiences.

1 comment:

jack said...

I, as a man, don't get 1/10 the hassles from taxis that the women do.

But even at that reduced hassle level, they are still my least favorite part of living in Cairo.