He was obviously distraught. He kept checking the compartment below the stereo receiver and spread out the CD’s on the front seat. He pulls out old receipts from the visor up above, sorts through them. Still nothing. I’m his passenger, but he’s more concerned about finding something he’s lost. He drives safely on the straight stretches, and gets slightly maniacal at the stop lights. It’s obviously bothering him. I have no idea what he’s looking for.
“Can I light a cigarette? (I think he wants the nicotine to calm down.)
. . . I think when we stopped at the stoplight, there was so much noise, I thought he had paid me . . . he said thanks, and then he just left . . .
. . . I can’t find it, I can’t find the 20 sole note . . .
Did he pay me? I’m thinking now he didn’t . . .
. . . there’s just some bad people in the world, you know? just some bad people out there, dishonest, crooks.
Do you mind if I light another cigarette? (he puts the lighter in the driver-side door and takes out a map, a book, and a bunch of brochures.)
. . . ugh, that was like almost an hour . . . for nothing . . . he rests his elbow on the window sill and puts his hand on his forehead
20 soles! that’s like two or three taxi rides. (US $6.50)
I can’t believe it . . . 20 soles!”
I have to take taxi’s a lot here in Lima. I pay around 6 soles to get to most places (about $2.00) which takes about 10-15 minutes. Most taxi drivers fight to get passengers. They race around the corners, cutting each other off, often times putting pedestrians or their future clients in harms way.
Two or three taxi rides is probably more than an hours work all told. To fight to be first, to take almost any passenger to almost any destination, (except the ones where the expense would dilute any profits,) consume the costly fuel, deliver the client safely to their destination, and to battle the horrendous Lima traffic – that’s painful. Time lost, money lost, yeah, those are tough, but to be cheated – that hurts deep inside.
I know people put on an act to squeeze more money out of a traveler, but usually the charade wears out and the reality seeps in. I spent about 15 minutes in his car.
“Keep the change, I’m sorry that someone cheated you.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, go ahead. Have a good night sir.”
“Really? You’re ok with that? . . . Wow . . . Seriously? . . .
. . . (chattering in disbelief) . . .
. . . I prayed for work, I just prayed for more work after I lost the money . . . just two or three taxi rides to make up for what I lost . . .
I think you were sent! I think you were an answer to prayer. Thank you sir, God Bless you.”
The change I left with him was just 1/2 a taxi ride more than the fare he quoted me.
That’s how much a dollar means to some people.