I have been driving in taxis for a long period of time and I love it. Back home, taking the taxi is not always the most pleasant experience but it was still good. I am taking taxis here too and its not always a pleasant experience either; albeit safer, and well organized. Funny how that works. Disclaimer: I am comparing a rural taxi experience in a developing country with a city taxi experience in a developed country.
Back home, a taxi can be a source of entertainment, as you are almost never alone for a ride. And so invariably stories and gossip abound, and we all like a good gossip although we cuss and whine about the number of us in a car. When I think back to taxis when I started high school, I considered the recent past a luxury ride. The further back I reflect the more I realize how much God was in those cars with us back then.
As I write this, I consider that these taxi drivers get a lot of free education each day! I am also thinking they must be very tired at the end of a work day as it takes a lot to solicit passengers each trip, ply the same route many times each day, dodge potholes, road bumps and traffic police, maneuver your car in the tight spaces in taxi parks, operate a ‘robot’ taxi. Very tired but hardly bored.
Contrast this to taxis here, highly regulated although just as competitive. Well dressed men who wait on a call or wait their turn wherever they are parked. Almost never the same route and I assume fewer trips per day, one or two passengers at a time, strict fare rules, electronic payment devices, GPS systems and ridesharing competition. I think of this and think, how boring it is to be a taxi driver in the developed world. Very boring but way less tiring.
I think of my friends home who are taxi operators- very cheerful and colourful characters. Always agitating for a fare increase, demonstrating about bad roads, complaining about the high costs of operations, cussing out the incumbent government or the opposition, seeking out a new ‘wife’, all knowing of everything that is going on. A lot of camaraderie with their fellow colleagues……and they remain in the job for years on years and new ones keep joining the fray. I don’t think its so bad after all……although some will be quick to tell me its the economy….stupid.
I think of the taxi drivers I have met here. The Ethiopian who was jovial and happy with his thick English Accent, the Pakistani Muslim who was obviously upset about the legalization of marijuana, the Iranian who was true to his word, the Seikh who was so patient I was in awe, the Caucasian who was weeping about the state of the contemporary governments……and the majority who prefer to remain silent. A very different sphere of operation, but it may just be the economy too.
What can I say? There are some differences but not that many and quite a few men seem to make a decent living this way. I have had only one female taxi driver over the years…..I wonder why???? I have taken a taxi in NYC, Barbados, London and despite all these experiences, I think I love my taxis back home the most!!!