Seeing red over the problems with those taxi drivers

Some San José taxis should be shipped to Cuba for renovation. I usually try to determine the condition of a taxi before I flag it down. Sometimes I lose. The other day I tried to lower my arm before the very large, very old taxi pulled to the curb. All I could do was look regretfully at the brand new taxi behind it and hop into the antique.

Some taxis are so worn that when you sink into the seat you feel like you are falling into the rabbit hole fanny first. This was one of them. “Donde vamos, mi reina? (“Where are we going, my queen?”) the middle-aged driver asked. I told him and reached for the support handle above the door. There was none, not even evidence of one having been there. I had to do with the seat belt dangling from the front seat. Fortunately, I did because after several blocks, my door flew open. This time I slammed it good.

The last time I climbed into a taxi, I nearly fell into the gutter along the street in doing so. These gutters are wonderful because they dispose of downpours that would otherwise flood the city, but they are treacherous to pedestrians.

So, almost falling into the cab, I pulled the door behind me — hard. “Oops, perdone.” I said. To no avail. The taxista berated me for the Gringa I was and slamming his fragile door thinking I was in a heavy Gringo car.

I gave up excusing myself and enjoyed his comical rant. Taxistas really do hate it when we Gringos slam the doors.

This driver was quiet and very good, although it was difficult for me to judge from my sunken position. He made it in good time and thus a couple of hundred colons cheaper. The other day I called for a taxi and after we had gone only about eight blocks, the meter read 960 colons. I commented that that was pretty high for such a short distance — usually at that point it was still at the basic number of 530. He became so indignant at my implications that, over my objections, he turned off the meter. At our destination, and over his objections, I paid what I usually do. “Por favor,” I said, and he relented.

This taxista was a good driver, no heavy horn blowing and jolting starts and stops. Lots of experience, like his car, I thought. At my front door, he turned and said, “I can give you my number in case you need a taxi to go anywhere. From here to downtown, anywhere you want go.”

Oh dear.

I rummaged into my purse and found my notebook, wrote down his name and number. Climbing out of the cab with some effort, I closed the door, then had to open it again and slam it hard. “I think you could use a newer taxi.” I said, as I wished him good night.

Even my experiences in brand new taxis have not been so great lately; not since the new national stadium in Parque la Sabana is up and running. I experienced my first road rage (and, as my friend Sandy pointed out, I don’t even drive.) No, but when all access to escaping from the neighborhood hours before a concert is scheduled to begin, and it costs me nearly twice as much as normal to go anywhere, I get irritated. But in a ladylike way, of course; no hand signals, no swearing. It would be pointless anyway, since everyone on the detour is having the same problem.

By next week I will calm down and talk about the interesting and, in most cases, excellent suggestions for the qualifications that make a good columnist. One of the suggestions was that the columnist likes living here, but not be Pollyannish about it. Pollyanna would not have written this column.

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