Of taxis

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One 24 hour period here has exposed me to a common piece of North African culture: taxis. The exposure I have had with taxis so far is generally isolated to rides that cost both an arm and a leg. I have a well-based suspicion, however, that my exposure is soon to be enhanced.

There are two kinds of taxis here: a “grand” taxi and a “petit” taxi, differing in both size and price. To flag one, hold out your finger(s) to show how many passengers would like to accompany the driver on his merry way. This way, the drivers can decide whether or not you will fit in their car, depending upon the number of other passengers (if any). When (or if) the taxi careens toward you and with a squeal of worn brakes stops for you (and try not to leap out of the way), politely tell the driver where you need to go and he will determine whether or not he venture to that part of the city. It is nice to greet them and thank them to show that you are not just a rich, clueless tourist.

I am writing this not from my own experience since I have done nothing that I have just written. In watching my acquaintances here, I can see that a key in succeeding in this culture is acting confident (regardless of what you feel). So I guess you could say that this is what I dream of doing some day with a superior level of poise and expertise.

Yesterday morning a “petit” taxi picked us up and we were thrown into the morning traffic, swerving around a parked car and narrowly avoiding collision with a bus. The driver didn’t check his blind spots before attempting these distressing feats; rather, he trusted his side view mirrors, one so cracked that a chunk was missing. (I can’t imagine how that could have happened!)

The bright sun glared in the driver’s window and rather than adjust his sun visor, he pulled out a piece of cardboard and wedged it in the rubber window rim just above the open window. The cardboard was so perfectly sized that this was obviously not the first time he had employed it thus.

Right now I am still just a clueless foreigner, but I may learn a lot of culture by riding in taxis.

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