January 31, 2008

Taxi Rant

Here's what hacks me off about today. I was in a a taxi 3 times. The experiences are always different but today there were quite pronounced.

My first ride was my normal monthly bank run. From the office to the bank to transfer money for student loan, geedy bastards. The second was a return to the office with lunch in hand since it takes me the entire hour to hit the bank, grab lunch and get back again.

I eat lunch in a taxi once a month. It is not something I enjoy.

Normally, the taxi drivers just drive. Occassionally they pick up on my American accent and want to know where I'm from/what brought me here/wax lyrical about their trip to (insert massive coastal city here). It's all fine and dandy, I'm always up for educating people on the where abouts of Wyoming and the fact that we don't 'drive horses'. We drive cattle. Unless you think our main transportation is comprised of animal choices, in which case we drive Ford and Chevy. Horse power, not actual horses.

But today, as I was starving, I dove into my lunch and immediately had to explain that I was late to the office, had spent my lunch hours standing in line in the bank and was ready to chew my arm off. Driver was appropriatly sympathetic and I munched away. Then he started talking. Specifically, he started questioning. Questions that demanded actual answers. I have to say, it was a bit annoying. All I wanted was to eat my lunch in relative peace while directing the cab. What I did not want was to discuss the economy, whether or not we are 'a tough people', or if farming is lucrative. I wanted sea salt and black pepper chips (crisps) not conversation.

So I paid my fare and hopped out, leaving my sandwich to be eaten at my desk in between plots. (those would be the large sheets of drawings we do, not schemes to be hatched a la daytime soap operas)

Tonight however, I met an entirely different beast.

I knew from the outset I didn't want to get into the cab but it was the first one at the taxi rank and it was too slow and cold to wait for another car. So I hopped into a Mercedes.

What I love about New York cabs, and indeed any city with a standard issue cab, is that it doesn't actually belong to the driver. Which means there is precious little preciousness about the vehicle.

This guy slowed down to 2mph each time we went over a speed bump. And there are tons of speed bumps in Dublin. He didn't need to slow down that much, and after the 6th one I could only feel sorry for the car behind us, because said driver would tear between the speed bumps only to slow down to a near stop before surmmounting the extra 6" of tarmac. The time it took for him to drive me home, cautiously ascending the dizzying heights of Mt. Humpty cost me an extra two euro.

Which isn't much, I'll give you. That's $3 in the US, so maybe it is a bit.

What hacks me off is that before we've even moved an inch in Dublin, the moment I enter a cab, I already owe 4.10. If I pick a friend up at the airport, it is 4.10+1.00 for the friend and +1.00 for each bag the friend brought with them. So without even starting the car, I'm in for 6Euro, which is $9.

And the thing that pisses me off is that the baggage fee isn't mentioned in the official taxi literature provided by the union in each cab! It covers the cost of extra passengers, even offering a discount for kids, but no where does it mention the cost for bags. And by bags, I've been charged for groceries. I've been charged for a carrier bag with a pillow in it sitting in the seat beside me. I actually argued with a driver one day because he charged me 6euro extra on the fare 'for the bags'. I pointed to the laminated sign in his taxi, provided by the taxi union, and explained that there was no mention of charges for baggage. He dug in and so did I. I kept pointing at his sign and he finally backed down.

The thing is, its an 'unwritten rule' of taxi fares. Everyone knows about it, so it must be above board, right? I'm sorry but when you tell me my rights and then dictate my responsiblities as a passenger (all perfectly reasonable; don't be unruly, don't break shit, don't assault anyone, pay your fare, don't puke), I will not abide by hidden charges. You wouldn't take that from a bank, or a restuarant, so why should I go quietly for a taxi?

But tonight, what got to me was the other hidden side of hiring a taxi.

I crawled in and immediately realized the driver, who is quite tall, had pushed his seat as far back as he could and was reclining for more head room.

Honestly, do I need your head in my lap? No. I'm not paying extra for that. In fact, you should be paying me for the priviledge. This is not a case of simply picking up a hitch-hiker on the side of the road and I should be happy just for the damn ride; I'm paying you for a professional service. I should not have to ride with my knees touching my shoulders simply because you won't buy a car to fit your body. You knew how tall you were when you bought the car! You are providing a service, not a favor. And as a professional, you have stated that I have rights. Why is the right to space for my legs not included? It's bad enough I'm in your smelly cab listening to any varitey of music (or worse, you taking personal phone calls, which is 1-dangerous and 2-illeagal, because it's dangerous) but do I really need to contort myself into advanced yoga positions for your comfort and benefit?

No. I do not.

And what's more, stop arguing with me when I pay you! You tell me my fare, I offer you a note to pay for it. I make a point to offer you the smallest demonination possible, but occassionally, I have to hit the ATM before I head home, and you know as well as I do, Irish ATMs dispense 50 euro notes more often than not.

So don't yell at me when I offer you cold hard cash and YOU DON"T HAVE CHANGE! It's your job to have change! And if you don't have it, don't be sitting in the taxi rank doing crosswords next to a Spar (7-11 for the Americans) where you could easily get change!

Can you imagine a bartender refusing to give you the pint because he couldn't change a 50? Your cab is not a luxury you extend to me. It's your office and I expect as much professional behaviour out of you as you expect courtsey out of me.

Have some standards, please.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.


Paixao Family Blog said...

hey beth, nice story about the cabs. i never thought cab rides could be worse then then NYC but i guess they are. how about a review of other city cab rides? sounds like the making of a good book?

D-Vaz said...

I hate cabs. Loved this story. I'm sure they figure it is an easy job, so why should I take time out of my life to prepare and make my customers life easy too. Damn cabbies!

B said...

See, this is the thing about writing that I love: I can never tell what is going to strike a chord with people. So thanks for letting me know guys!

Also, writing is very cathartic for me. I'd forgotten how angry I was that night.