Death, taxes and taxis

“Taxi, anyone?”

I’ve decided to devote my first post to taxis. Most of us have had experiences with riding taxis and it is likely that we will have many more. Once reserved only for the wealthiest, taxis are now more affordable. The rich, I mean really rich, don’t have to bother about getting a taxi anyway. Most have their chauffeurs and do not have to interact with us commoners. In Latin America the rich don’t even have to touch the ground, due to the risk of kidnappings many use private helicopters. They effortlessly sail through the air, from one skyscraper to another, avoiding the inconvenience of traffic jams. Some two years ago the incumbent mayor of London, Boris Johnson, suggested a provocative idea of reserving one line of highway only for the richest. He might have been trolling and he most likely was, but then again it just shows that we are all equal but some are a bit more equal.

Driving a cab requires a lot of knowledge

One can now choose from a wide array of taxi possibilities. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato, argued that ideas have their concrete material manifestations that are only the emanation of the idea itself. Well, if there is such a thing as the idea of a taxi, we can all agree that it indeed has many, many forms of appearance. Of course, we all know about the New York yellow cabs and the famous London black cabs. Especially the later are very interesting since they are a serious authority and anyone aspiring to become an official black cab taxi driver must pass a rigorous and rather frightening exam, called The Knowledge. On the other hand there is a colorful palette of taxis that don’t have such rigorous exams, but doesn’t mean their drivers are not authorities on the cities in which they operate.

Taxis around the world

The future of Czech taxi?

 In Slovenia you can find “The Cavalier”

Cuban Cocotaxi

and my favourite, Russian under-water taxi:

Taximètre

Before writing the post and after deciding it will be about taxis, I started wondering where the hell does this word come from, what are its origins? Well it appears that it derives from the French taximètre, taxe meaning tariff and metre a measuring instrument. As the saying goes only death and taxes are inevitable. Leaving death aside, one could perhaps argue that there is indeed an intimate correlation between taxes and taxis. Perhaps no government institution other than the tax office is paying such a close and undivided attention to its citizens. One can get away with a lot, but tax evasion and tax fraud are something that no government is willing to tolerate. Al Capone after all was charged and sentenced on the basis of tax fraud/evasion. Which is telling  in itself. We will come back to this rich and complex topic in the future, now let us focus on what taxis have to do with it?

Khaled al Khamissi

Well, I would say that as a tax officer enjoys a specific ( very revealing) inside in the individuals and social life, so does the taxi driver. Of course, the first is formal and the second is not. Nobody can force us to have a chat with a taxi driver, but nonetheless a lot of people do and this amounts to taxi drivers having a specific and valuable insight into social life. Just how telling can this insight be, is revealed in a wonderful book written by Egyptian writer Khaled al Khamissi. Taxi, is a small book of 58 short stories, usually 3 to 5 pages long, which depicts authors encounters with taxi drivers.58 is indeed a small fraction of some 80.000 taxi drivers that are said to operate in Cairo, but nonetheless it provides for a nice trip or should I say drive. You can enjoy two chapters and a foreword by the author on this page:

To give you a little teaser:

»After he had calmed down a little, he said: “Do you know what’s the reason for the whole problem?”

I asked the reason and he said with a laugh: “The story is that as I was driving along I got a text message and I looked down and found it was a joke, and I laughed out aloud as I was coming up to the checkpoint. They thought I was talking on the mobile. A joke cause me all this shit.”

“And what was the joke?” I asked.

“We thank all those who voted yes in the referendum and we give special thanks to Umm Naima because she voted twice.”

Together we burst out laughing.«

Beaten and thrown in a trunk & Jewish world conspiracy

Since the onset of the crisis in 2009, Slovenia experienced a drastic surge in public debt, budget deficit and unemployment. We will deal with these issues in future posts, but for now suffice it to say that many people who lost their jobs started driving a taxi. We don’t have any uniformity and taxis come in all shapes and sizes but you are still able to quickly recognize them by the taxi light and sticker on their sides. I am not a very talkative person but I did enjoy some, how should I put it, peculiar conversations with taxi drivers. The first is a story about a driver that really did not have a lucky night.

My driver told me that this guy was doing a night shift which, one can only imagine, can be an extreme pain in the ass. This driver picked up four guys, of which each had a share fair of booze and they immediately started bargaining for a lower price. Apparently the guy even agreed to lower the price, but when they arrived at the destination, the gang of four decided they are actually not willing to pay anything at all. After some protest, the driver got beaten, thrown in the trunk and the bunch took control of the taxi.They’ve started the taximeter and drove around for the better part of the night. When his agony finally ended the unfortunate taxi driver was left with an enormous taxi bill to pay, a few bruises and a damaged car.

As for the second story, I can testify first hand. I’ve ordered a taxi and for a first couple of minutes everything seemed completely normal. The guy was driving cautiously and we had some small chat. All this changed when the conversation touched the subject of politics. Without any hesitation the driver started immediately convincing me that Slovenian politicians are only willing servants of American masters, who in turn are only puppets in the hands of Jewish supreme-masters.The remainder of the journey was the annoying diatribe about Zionist conspiracy, topped with the »useful« advice for good-bye, you should only discuss important stuff out in the open. As you can imagine each building and room is wired by the Jewish conspirators. When exiting the taxi I had the strange feeling of being temporally hijacked by an utterly insane man.

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