Friday, June 10, 2005

Taxing Taxi's

Taxi's seem to outnumber humans at least 10 to 1. We have christened them "pocket rockets" because they rocket up to you in a cloud of dust and rubber, load you in as fast as possible and then rocket off again - it is your responsibility to hold on tight to your luggage, children and other appendages which might be left dangling out of the open door when the rocket takes off. No going back for bits and pieces! The standard fee is Dh2 (R4) which you virtually throw at the driver as he barely slows down at your destination, before rocketing off in search of another victim!

Of course, taxi drivers spend their entire lives cooped up in those ovens-on-wheels, which probably accounts for some of the rather interesting odours one encounters when entering them! Many of them actually have little air fresheners on their dashboards. They also have a variety of other interesting dingly, dangly things on their dashboards and scattered around their taxi's : these include prayer beads (for use by driver and passengers!), Christmas tinsel and baubles (in and out of Christmas season), boxes of tissues (who does so much crying or sweating??), bushels of faded plastic flowers, and lots of gaudily framed photographs of various relatives and themselves. In fact, many also have these ornaments hanging from their bumpers and outside mirrors too. We have even seen some taxi's (and cars) with fringes and curtain tassles hanging from their bumpers!

Like everyone else, there are different personalities driving these pocket rockets. There are the taciturn, grumpy, don't-talk-to-me type; the eager, enthusiastic, obviously-still-new type; the chatty, look-at-my-photos, where-are-you-from type (who, when we say South Africa, invariably respond with :"Ah, Mandela and Hansie Cronje!!")

Taxi drivers have their own language - spoken and understood only by themselves. When we asked to go to the Post Office, one smilingly replied : "Smoker's Corner?" The more we insisted "Post Office", the more HE insisted "Smoker's Corner", until we gave up, smiled and agreed to go to "Smoker's Corner", which turned out to actually be the Post Office - don't ask how! And likewise, the "mall" has become the "mawn", the "club" has become the "cumb" and the "church" is the "chiz". I don't know how, but somehow we do finally reach our destinations!! Most of the time!

The other day we leapt into a taxi - the driver smiled broadly while vigorously nodding his head and saying : "New?! New??!!!!!" Of course, we replied : "Yes, we are new ..." and told him where we wanted to go. We rocketed off. However, after 20 minutes, during which time we passed the same buildings at least three times, we tried to find out if the driver actually knew where we were going. "No, ME NEW!!" was his reply - HE was new and had no clue where to go, he was waiting for us to direct HIM. We had to jump out and find one who did actually know if he was coming or going!

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