One of my biggest fears while traveling is being involved in a car accident and landing with my kid with autism in a foreign country hospital setting.
However, both my husband and I don’t want to drive around much during our vacations, especially internationally where many times they drive on the “wrong” side of the street. That pretty much leaves us at the mercy of taxi cabs and public transportation, and we have accumulated quite the collection of good, bad and ugly cab stories over the years.
The ‘good’ were chatty, friendly and did a great job driving us from point A to point B efficiently and without much fanfare.
We experienced a pleasant cab ride in Cape Canaveral from the cab lady recommended by the hotel concierge. She did a superb job driving at the right speed, stayed in her lane at all times, was an excellent conversationalist, and drove the cleanest SUV imaginable.
She was one of the few people I’ve enjoyed riding with in many months.
However, excellent driving doesn’t make for many interesting stories, and I thank my lucky stars I haven’t encountered the ‘ugly’ yet – and hope I never will. That leaves me with one category: the ‘bad’.
My main gripe with bad cabbies is speeding, but zooming in and out of traffic is a very close second.
The speeders are usually found at airports, and they’re the ones who make you feel as if you are still flying, but this time on terra firma.
The ‘swervers’ are found in cities, zooming in and out of traffic faster than whirling dervish dancers. I dislike both kinds immensely, especially when my kids are in the car.
Sometimes, you get unlucky, and the two are combined in the nightmare driver, the one who has decided to break his record. For those, I have a three-step technique that usually works in calming them down.
• Step One: Casually mention (loudly) to another family member how fast he is driving over the permitted speed. Wait a moment to see if there is a reaction or if the speed slows.
• Step Two: Ask the driver directly to slow down and promise to cover the extra cost of the time involved. I calmly add that I get car sick at high speeds and during sharp turns. At this point, most comply, but some pretend they’ve lost their English skills.
• Step Three: This involves retching sounds and quite a bit of sign language. Most drivers give up and just do as I ask; no sane cabbie wants to spend an extra half hour cleaning vomit from his car’s upholstery.
And then, there are those awful experiences that make for great around the dinner table stories.
The Real Bad
In Puerto Vallarta, we had a couple of harrying trips. While flying up and down the cobblestone roads on the way to the Zona Romantica, I was convinced that the massive crack across the windshield would break and kill my dear husband sitting in the passenger seat. On the way back to the cruise ship, our driver kept veering in and out of traffic, insisting he’s the second best driver in town. The first was his mother; she’s currently semi-retired due to a “minor traffic violation”.
In Rio, we took a cab from the airport to our hotel in CopaCabana some half hour away.At first, the driver seemed like he had mastered some basic English but that all vanished when started driving a hundred some miles-an-hour.He didn’t budge even when I repeatedly asked him to slow down. When we finally arrived at our destination, he parted with a smile and explained he drove faster than usual since he knew his brakes were failing and he thought it would be best to get us to our destination ‘as soon as possible.’
But no story is better than the one about our cab ride last summer in London, where we experienced the misfortune of having a ‘swerve-r’ take us back to our hotel after a theater show. It was like riding Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride but faster and without any of the Disney pizzazz or comforting safety bars. It was quite dark outside; he kept turning left and right quickly and narrowly missing pedestrians and other vehicles. I felt incredibly blessed to have cheated death that night and felt he deserved a small tip for his misguided services. My husband disagreed; he found my terrorized expression so hilarious that he tipped the driver generously.
Have you ever had a scary taxi experience?
What did you learn from it?