Taxi Driver from Anywhere

Greece Add comments

Late at night, awaiting the last arriving ferry, yellow taxi’s sit double parked on both sides of the street outside of port Piraeus near Athens, Greece. It’s a huge collection of idling Mercedes Benz’s and during the winter months there are about twice as many of them as there are passengers getting off the ship.

Outside the gate, Desiree and I are sized up and lightly harassed by the most desperate of drivers who have left their post by the sides of the humming, yellow cars. They have come here to the gate, where they are surest to make a catch.

Calmly and thinking back to those much more aggressive fellows back east, I report to the three men who surround us that we will be taking the bus. We maintain our cadence to further express this position.

One man falls back, but two others keep on. They ask where we’re going. I tell them, but they are expecting the usual and so try desperately to decipher a hotel name from of the words “Volkswagen” and “parked”.

“No thanks, we’re taking the bus,” I reiterate.

“Buses are no more. Too late!” blurts one of the men.

Curious to the possibility, I take a quick look around. No buses are in sight. There must be night buses, I think.

“No buses, huh?” I say looking the main straight in the eyes. The other wanders off.

“No, too late. Come with me. I take you. Where you going?”

It’s late. We’re tired. With a quick consideration, Desiree and I decide to take the mans offer.

The cab is new and clean. The trunk is large and empty and my overstuffed pack holding both of our things fits nicely inside. We take the back seat, sliding across the smooth leather. I lean forward with my arms on the passenger side front bench as our driver pulls into traffic.

“We need to turn around,” I say.

“Ok, ok.”

“Can you turn on the meter?” I ask.

The face of the thing is dark and I think back to all the drivers in Thailand who tried to tell me theirs was broken and how I gave up asking and just took to turning it on myself. But this one is obviously not broken, so with him not answering, I ask again.

“Can you turn on the meter please?”

“No meter. Too late. Minimum fare.” he says preparing for a right turn.

“How much is the minimum fare?”

Ignoring me, he keeps his eyes on the road.

“How much is the minimum fare?”


“How much is the minimum fare?”

“One minute,” he replies softly as if distracted by an intense driving maneuver.

I suspect he is stalling, but give him a moment. It is a simple right hand turn onto a one way street blocked by parked taxis. All he is doing is waiting for them to move. Not a turn which requires much concentration, I think. Then, even if it were a situation which required much focus, enough motionless time had passed that conversation was again acceptable.

“How much is the minimum fare?”

Silence again. Then finally he turned down the street.

“How much is the minimum fare?” I say as we pick up speed.

“What do you mean? Minimum fare! It is late!” he responds with a tire.

“Yea I know, but how much?”

“Fifteen Euros.”

“Fifteen Euros?” Desiree yelps.

“Hah, that’s too much man,” I say. “Calm on, let us out. We’ll just walk.”

“No let you out. We are driving. I will take you.”

“No thanks. That’s too much money. It’s only five minutes. We can walk.”

“Not too much money. Minimum fare. It is late!”

“Stop the car please. Let us out.”

“No. It is too late! Now I lose my job!”

That is the last piece I need to see the whole picture.

“Stop the car,” I say again adding weight to my voice.

“No! Now I lose my job! You pay me anyway.”

“Stop the car.” Heavier.

Finally, after a painfully slow decent, we come to a halt.

“You pay me to here,” he demands disgruntled.

“Open the trunk please,” I respond.

“You pay me now,”

“Open the trunk.”

”You must pay. It is too late, now I lose my job!”

“Open the trunk.”

”It is open!”

I remember this game as played in the East when “open the trunk” means the driver has to get out of the car, but then looking backwards I see that he has indeed opened the thing.

“Wait here a second,” I say to Desiree.

Leaving my door open, I yank my heavy pack from the trunk.

“Ok, come on. Let’s go,” I say to her shutting the door on his voice.

Standing behind the taxi, I watch her door open, hear the words “No, shut the door, you pay me now!” come from the front seat and then watch as her door shuts again.

Becoming frustrated by this man’s aggressive behavior, I open her door on my own.

“Come on. Let’s go, don’t listen to him.”

“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to give him something until here,” she says getting out.

“No way. He’s just trying to rip us off. Come on, lets go.”

We walk away from the man in his yellow purring Mercedes. Through the open window, he calls to me.

“My friend, my friend!”

We keep walking.

“My friend!”

There is a pause and then a door opens.

“My friend!” he says with footsteps now.

I make a quick glance backwards to judge the distance between us, then putting my hand on Desiree’s arm, guide her ahead of me as we keep walking away.

“My friend! My friend!”

In my mind I reduce the scene to a wide open, empty and dark space, the only objects the three of us and the car. I follow his footsteps, continuing to judge our distance. I feel my large backpack as a turtle’s shell, a shield between us. He is getting closer.

“My friend!”

I imagine his hand on my shoulder, a hard grip on my wrist. I picture breaking his nose, his arm. I picture paying him. I picture hugging him.

“My friend!”

We walk on, not looking back.

“F#@k Y%#!” he shouts, his footsteps stopping.

We keep going. I grin at the timeliness of his halted advance and increase in verbal aggression. It fits and I play through all of it in my mind. His aggressiveness at the port, assuring us there were no more buses, insisting he drive us, ignoring the subject of cost until we were well underway, the outlandish minimum fare, not wanting to stop, suddenly reducing the fare to cover the aborted journey, following me with friendly words and then stopping his strides to shout slander.

With the poor man talking loudly to himself in Greek mixed with emphatic and over pronounced curse words in English, I hear him make his way back to the car.

We turn onto the main throughway as a large bus wheels by and walk for awhile, but it is late and the hills are tiresome, so we flag down another taxi. Desiree looks nervously inside to see if it’s the same man, but it is not.

We get in. He’s a big jolly tax driver. His meter is already running. The man makes jokes and sings to himself as we drive along. Reaching the van, we are well relaxed by his light and good nature. He joins us outside. The meter had read only two Euro fifty, but liking the man, especially after our previous encounter, I suggest to Desiree we give him four Euros instead.

“Six Euros,” says our friend as I approach him with payment.

“But the meter said two fifty?”

“More,” he says with that jolly smile, pointing to my big pack and the trunk.

I briefly ponder his claim that our luggage costs more than we do.

“So much for giving him a tip,” I say to Desiree.

“Do you have any change?” she asks me.

“Only five Euros.”

Not wanting another confrontation, we agree to pay him. Desiree hands over a ten Euro bill. Coming back from his door, he hands her a fistful of coins. She counts them. He watches from the corner of his eye.

“Ok?” he asks in a small leak of guilt.

“No, there is only two here. You owe us two more.”

“Oh! Ok.”

Coming back again, he hands her one shiny coin.

“That’s only one Euro,” Desiree says to the driver as he gets into his taxi.

With a wide, jovial face, before driving off, the man speaks his last words.

“One for my tip!”

3 Thoughts on “Taxi Driver from Anywhere”

  1. Lauren Says:


  2. UT Says:

    Those dirty bastards. There comes a point were violence is condoned. That was close.

  3. Jeff Says:

    What a bunch of jerks! Moral of the story is to always to have small bills/coins?

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