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Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh Taxi, My Taxi

If you know me at all, you probably know that I am considerably better at sticking up for other people than I am at sticking up for myself... and as any relatively consistent reader of this blog would know, I've had a smattering of memorable taxi experiences in this country - both good and bad ones.

Today, I accompanied a good friend of mine to Sofia with his baggage to point him in the right direction of the Black Sea Coast. Because he had a bunch of bags with him, we opted to take a cab from the bus stop on the highway to the bus station instead of navigating the already tricky bus system. I opted to sit in the front seat instead of giving my 7foot friend the more ample leg room next to the driver in order to ensure that driver didn't try and take advantage of us. He seemed a little "too" eager to offer us his services (including jumping out to put J's bags in the trunk), so I was a little cautious. He immediately started driving when we got situated, and told me that he'd give us the cheap price of 20leva to the bus station. "Hold it!!" I exclaimed, "I have never paid more than 6lv to get to the bus station from here. Please turn on the meter." At this point, the look of, "crap, she actually speaks my language" painstakingly shocked across his face, and then he told me it was broken. So I countered (in Bulgarian that came across so confidently that even I was surprised), "ok, then please pull over and let us out. We'll find a cab with a working meter." He then, sooo graciously offered to give us a one time deal of 15lv to take us to the bus station. "Six." I told him. At this point, I was almost enjoying myself. As I said, I'm not very good at standing up for myself in ENGLISH, let along in this crazy foreign language that continues to waft somewhere above my head all too often, even too years later.... but it felt good. Even though we were pretty much arguing at this point (another thing I often avoid).

I told him we'd give him 10lv, since all the bags were already in the car and we were running late at this point for J's bus across the country. His next point was that J had a lot of bags, so the lowest he would go was 12lv. We're still sitting on the side of the highway at this point, so I told him that if the fare should be more because we had a lot of luggage (woot! Go integration and acquired language skills!), then it should be listed on his fare chart with the other fees. But it didn't matter because his meter wasn't working anyway, and there was nothing listed about baggage. In reality, we would have had enough time to switch cabs, but we were in an awkward place on the highway, so there weren't any other cabs around. I told him 10lv was our final offer. No more, since any other cab with a meter would charge us six. Finally, he sighed and said, "fine, since you're a fine girl, I'll give you a 10lv price." He starts the engine, pulls back into traffic, and goes, "and then when we get there, you give me 2 more leva."

Sigh. He pestered me with questions and nonsense about my work here and acted generally sketchy and sleezy, and then I explained the whole conversation to J so his usual generous self wouldn't counter all of my progress with this guy with a good tip. I told him that since the fare would normally be 6lv, the 4 extra lev was already too much... we agreed we'd stick to our guns with the 10lv price, even though on principle, my skin was still crawling at being taken advantage of (don't get me wrong, it could have been MUCH worse! I've heard of friends who get 60-80leva cab fares... usually not when you have the language skills tho).

When we pull up to the bus station, I stealthily reach into my wallet and pray I have a 10leva bill in my wallet and didn't need change - I knew he wouldn't have given it to me. Praise God - I did. He again asked for at least another 2 leva - "I know you have it."

I get out of the car, and... low and behold... the guy won't open the trunk. I ask him. Nothing. I knock on the back. Nothing. At this point, J is getting ready to grab the bag he had on the back seat to come around and help me with the bigger bags, and I tell him to get back in - we're not leaving until his bags are out and we make sure that this guy doesn't race of with J's luggage. So my 7ft friend climbs back in the cab with his bag and I start beating on the trunk harder. Finally, it opens. I hurriedly pull out the two bags back there, and tell J we're good to go. The driver doesn't even close the passenger door I'd left open before he peels out onto the main road.

Call me a glutton for punishment, but despite sacrificing 4leva, I felt accomplished and proud of myself for sticking up for the situation, and for doing it all in Bulgarian.

And its another fun transport story from my crazy life in my beloved BG. ;)


Hope said...

I am so proud of you!!! Good job!

Vic and Suebee said...

You go, girl!! :D