One of the things that has always been a bit daunting here is taking a taxi. Many of them refuse to use the meter, and as soon as they see you are foreign try to price gouge, charging exorbitant rates. But as I have become more comfortable getting around Marrakech, and having a better idea of how much things should cost, I have had less trouble with them. Now if they refuse to use the meter, I just get out and pay what I know the rate should be, plus a little extra. Usually no one says a word, but on the occasions where someone wants to argue I just walk away, and it always works. You can never ask the rate in advance, or it will be insane. Today for example I got in a taxi and gave the name of my hotel, and the guy starts driving and then says, “You know what the rate is?”, and I said “Yes.”, because I knew that the rate is always about 15 dirham from the place I work to my hotel. And he says “60″. And I said “goodbye” and got out. Then he tries to follow me with offers of 50, then 40, then 30. Another cab came by and I got in, he took me to my hotel, I gave him 20 and he was all smiles and thank yous because it would normally be 15. But without some local knowledge, this kind of exchange is vey difficult, so I am feeling pretty good that I can finally take cabs in Marrakech with confidence.
The NY Times has a piece about the new cab design that won the “Taxi of Tomorrow” competition last year and will be rolled out as the official new taxi design for the next ten years. While there are some welcome changes including more room, elimination of the middle bump, better individual climate control and USB chargers, there are also a lot of stupid design decisions that I hope they manage to change before this goes through. Notably:
- These vehicles need better access, they will be more difficult to get into for the elderly and disabled.
- What idiot thinks it is a good idea to do away with openable (roll-down or automatic) windows? There goes a pleasant taxi ride in spring when one wants to feel the breeze on one’s face. There goes the ability to use the wind as AC instead of destroying the environment. And there goes the ability of many late night partiers to quickly throw up outside the confines of the cab, rather than in.
- And although this is but an aesthetic quibble, these things scream “soccer mom“.
- Let’s hope the photo below is not current, because they also really need to get rid of their stupid light system. I don’t give a rat’s ass if the driver is off duty, I only need to know if a cab is available or not available. (Please let this story be true.)
Well I finally arrived in Salvador, and it is hot and humid here. The driver that the hotel sent to pick me up was way cute and tried to teach me a little Portuguese in the car on the hour drive to the hotel. I really wasn’t understanding more than about 50% of what he said, and he likewise only understood about 50% of my Spanish/English mix, but the intent was there, and he seemed really nice. We tried to talk about a range of subjects, some more successfully than others. He seemed to want to talk about prostitution quite a bit more than I did, and I maybe wasn’t understanding him all that well, but I think at one point he offered to get me a hooker.