Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Monday, October 05, 2009

Taxis Can Drive Me To Distraction But Not To My Grave

If a taxi driver comes to collect me or picks me up, there are certain things I expect. I expect him or her to take my luggage and load it into the vehicle. I see that as part of the service. If you refuse and I kick up a stink and threaten to not take me and my other passengers then do not expect me to love you when you grudgingly change your mind when I say that I will try to get your licences pulled.

I expect him or her to drive carefully and considerately: I do not expect him or her to treat the car like a racing machine while I am in it. I expect him or her to pay attention to the road: I do not want to see him or her on the cell phone most of the journey--unless it is to deal with a major issue with the taxi company. I do not expect to pay a tip or to be asked for one. I should say that I have a very negative attitude to tipping in general, so that ought to be understood. If you want extra money, reflect it in the base price and I will decide if I think it is competitive or interesting. Do not tell me that the tip is 15 or 20 percent, especially as I am taking my luggage out of the truck.

Things like smoking while driving are less of an issue in most countries now as far as taxis are concerned, so I wont go into that, but just note that it is also on my negative list.

I like to engage the driver in conversation, though I accept that it is better to do that briefly or at teh tend of the journey. I like to know that my driver is not too distracted. That said, I do not want to see the driver's eyes constantly flitting in the mirror looking at me, my wife, or my child.

I like taxi drivers to give me back the correct change--a variation on the tipping issue. If they do not have change I do not expect to have to go to find it. I will walk away.

I expect the taxi to have room for passengers and luggage. I do not want to find the trunk filled with all sorts of extraneous junk. I also do not want the trunk to look like the floor of a service station, with grease and bolts all over the place. I do not understand why taxis are not modified to ensure that the spare wheel and devices are always available. Recalling a trip last year, when I had to change the flat tyre of a taxi whose driver was too old to do the job without a clear risk of cardiac arrest, I do not understand how taxi drivers who work for companies are not in contact wth their bases when problems arise.

All of this is apropos of nothing in particular, but just a range of things that came to mind as I travelled over the past few weeks. Of course, I loved my experience over the weekend with the taxi driver that God sent as an angel. I have also had a taxi driver in Istanbul 'kidnap' me and take me for a tour of the city instead of to my hotel. He had a good lesson in how Jamaicans deal with that kind of nonsense as I ripped his hide at the hotel and had the police come to deal with him. No taxi drivers compare to those in London--none. No taxis compare to those awkward looking black cabs that always seem to take the 4 or 5 people and all of their bags. No one knows a city like a London cabbie--he has to learn 'The Knowledge' and all the streets that exist.

So, if you expect less from cabbies than me, then I am sorry for you.

I look at Jamaican taxis as vehicles of sport: why does the driver think that his 5 seater car can hold 8 people, with two children in the front? I look at Guinean taxis as vehicles of death: why does the driver think that having only one door that opens--his--will make me happy when I have 7 other people sweating and pressing against and around me, as I sit in dust and heat? I think of NY City cabbies as conmen mainly, with many strangely good exceptions. I figure that on average the NY cabbie is highly educated but sees driving as an easier way to make money than real highway robbery, and there is often good time to study. I may be wrong. I see German taxi drivers as frustrated industrial foremen, and I really do not need to have my life rearranged while driving from Frankfurt airport to downtown, even though I am in very comfortable Mercedes. I regard Parisian taxi drivers much as I do many French people in France. Wanna guess how? I was never so insane as to get into a taxi in Italy. I tried a taxi in Hong Kong and was amazed how polite the driver was.

I wonder if there is an international brotherhood of taxi drivers. I lament that more women are not taxi drivers.

All of this is really about service and whether you expect and accept mediocrity. I don't. If I am paying you had better give me the best service for my money.

Glad that I have that off my chest.

1 comment:

Drey said...

Whew!!! LOl