Do you ever get that sinking feeling when you get into a taxi? Do you take one look at the cabbie and think “Oh no, this is not good”. I know I have had that feeling more than once but some inate and stupid sense of good behaviour tells me to sit back and shut up. “Don’t embarrass yourself, Lesley. He’s probably a perfectly good taxi driver, even if he does look like he has just stepped out of the Projects”. So I just sit back and clench my teeth.
One trip from Miami to Fort Lauderdale my sister and I picked up a cab at the hotel. When we got into the cab with the interior padding of the doors hanging off we should have known – but of course like well behaved tourists we said nothing. The driver spoke little English and had a cold – a bad one. So he drove with his window wide open so he could sniff and spit – frequently and with great gusto. We cowered in the back seat covering our noses with tissues desperately waiting to get to the cruise port where we took advantage of the sanitizing hand cleanser. Ugh, that was a bad one.
On a recent taxi trip in Rome from the airport to the pier our taxi driver seemed to be quite nice. Very polite and friendly, shook hands and introduced himself. He did drive a bit fast but, well, he’s Italian. But then the cell phone calls started. An animated discussion on the cell phone (damn I should have taken that conversational Italian course) was followed by a long glum silence. I could not see from my side what was going on but eventually my husband nudged me and said in Afrikaans (our secret language) “Hy huil” which means “He is crying”. OMG our taxi driver was crying, actually clenching the cell phone in his teeth, crying and driving on a highway in Rome. What a way to go, I thought. Should I say something? Pat him on the shoulder? Offer him a Kleenex? Again British sensibility ensured I sat back and said nothing. Maybe his wife told him she was running away with another man – or another woman? Maybe his favourite soccer team just lost? Who knows?
Strangely by the time we got to the pier he was all smiles again – perfectly normal. Weird…….