10: The Ticket to Taxis
Today my journal entry begins with “A ship is safe in port, but that is not what ships are built for.” What in Benazir Bhutto’s name was I thinking? Obviously this story leads to some inclination of my mast swaying on unstable waters…or the like. So I’m out of the port, if you will, and for the first time, successfully BARGAIN A TAXI.
I watched Juice do it from the airport…pay attention: cash was in pocket, sweaty head fits through passenger window and starts scorsing prices, cab driver offended, gringo pulls out “all” cash from pocket, cab driver needs dinero, gringos jump in car and close door very gently or cab ride el fin. (Termination of being; death; destruction; extermination; also, cause of death or destruction.) Translation – make it known that you only have a little cash or are pretending to. Cheap ride likely to result from the above but never, ever slam the doors.
Why don’t we slam the doors?
- Raul’s ’83 Buick is held together with toothpicks and Scotch Tape.
- You scream, “I’m a westernized tourist who doesn’t give a yahoo about manners.”
- Fully closed door doesn’t allow for quick escape when bullets penetrate tinted windows due to Raul’s road rage.
It’s 5:00, my Spanish is weak and bartering skills unknown. My friends have already left for home and I must do the same. Where did the $.50 buses go? I must get a taxi but my Guatemalan-made wallet reads: only 32 lempiras!! There was no way I could convince a driver to knock 20 lempiras off of the usual quoted price. I’m scared. I’m definitely going on crossed fingers and feigned confidence. But I approach today’s Rauls and start auctioning off a trip to Cerro Grande as if I am doing them a favor. After two rejections, Raul #3 belches a yes for 50 lempiras. I pull out my honest and complete 32 lempiras and wink that I’m holding everything I have. I forgot to stick my sweaty head into the passenger window but the money seemed to communicate just fine from a distance. I won, I was in and carefully shut the door. I was proud. It was luck. Or was it?
He was driving fast and the streets were different from the route I clearly knew. We were heading the wrong direction. “Cerro Grande,” I remind him, I pleaded. I suddenly imagine myself beaten and skinned, left hanging for humor – an activity wholly worth 32 lempiras perhaps. I make small talk. He doesn’t have family, knows Florida and enjoys his job. But why East? What’s East? I squeeze my fists and clench my teeth. He pulls up to my barrio. Maybe it was guilt induced fear. Maybe not. But I’m home. We have comida typica for dinner and bananas and cream for dessert. I officially survived my first steal.