Buenos Aires cab drivers suck.
Not all of them.
In fact, half of them are really cool. I chat with them. Tell them how much I love their city, what I do for a living, and the normal chit-chat. I leave the cab with a smile, in the right location, for a fair price.
Then there’s the other half.
They don’t want to turn the air on.
They go in the wrong direction.
Here’s one example. I get in the cab on a Tuesday night, and I’m heading to tango in a neighbourhood about 10 minutes away from my house. The taxi driver is an old man, maybe 70, and he asks me where I’m going. I tell him “Rivadavia tres, ocho, tres, dos.”
He asks me to repeat.
“Rivadavia tres mil, ocho cientos, treinta dos,” I reply.
He asks me to repeat again.
“R-I-V-A-D-A-V-I-A TRES, OCHO, TRES, DOS,” I reply, almost yelling.
He seems to understand and we are off.
I am not too familiar with routes to get across town, and on this Tuesday I was out before going to tango, so I was taking a cab from a different part of town. The route he took wasn’t familiar, but I was enjoying seeing some of the street art in an unfamiliar neighbourhood.
We arrive at Rivadavia 5000, and the numbers start getting higher.
I ask him where he’s going.
He responds with “we’re only 12 blocks away” in Spanish.
I disagree with him, and tell him that I’m going to 3832. He looks at me like I’m crazy.
I get in a bit of an argument with him, telling him that I told him three times, and spelled it out for him very clearly.
He told me that he was never going to pick up a foreigner again.
I told him that every other cab I get in the driver understands me just fine, and that I conduct my days in Spanish, so I don’t know what his problem is.
He tells me “soy hombre de dios.”
I tell him that I’m not questioning his love of God, and that I just want to get to the bar to learn some tango.
About 10 minutes later we arrive at the bar. He doesn’t charge me the full fare, but it was still more than a taxi should have cost to get there. I leave the cab frustrated, but proud that I was able to argue rapid fire in Spanish. That was about the only positive from that cab ride.
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A few nights later I’m out with a friend. It’s about 38C with 85% humidity. We wave down a cab, get in, and ask him to turn the air conditioning on. Not an unreasonable request when you feel like you will melt into the backseat.
He starts to roll up the windows, gets flustered, and then tells us to get out of the cab. Apparently it needed to be 50C for the air to come on.
We jumped in the next cab, and the following cab driver was part of the really cool 50% of cab drivers in Buenos Aires. Ice cold air conditioning, friendly smile, and efficiently got us to where we were going.
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The first two examples I gave you were just inconveniences; nothing that was going to threaten my life.
Well, I had one cab experience here in town that was truly scary.
I got in a cab from my cousins’ place in the far west of the city. It’s about a 25 minute cab ride from where I am living. I hadn’t had problems before, but on this given night there was something definitely wrong with the cab.
The cab driver was driving very slow, and was using his hand brake to stop.
You heard me. He was using his hand brake to stop.
I ask him what he’s doing, if his brakes work, and why on earth he agreed to pick me up if he knew his brakes didn’t work.
He responds with telling me that it had just happened when he got to my cousins’ place.
I thought of exiting the cab, but it was 2am, and I had no clue what part of town I was in. I decided to put my seat belt on, let him drive at 30km/h, and to take my chances with the devil I kind of new, versus the devil I didn’t.
After about 40 minutes (what should’ve on empty streets taken 20,) we arrive. I pay him the full fare, and tell him to use it to fix his brakes.
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One friend of mine tells me that I have ‘bad cab karma.’ I don’t think this is the case. I think that in Buenos Aires it’s the law of averages. He’s only been here a few days, and I’ve shown him the best of the city. He hasn’t had the law of averages slap him across the face with s scowl and BO.