I have become ill-equipped at taking public transport in Trinidad. In Tobago, everytime you jump into a taxi, you are so not prepared for what exorbitant price they are going to call to take you to a spot on the island. It is almost instant haggling. In Trinidad, to take a taxi, well that is another story. No actually it is this story.
With my car still located on the Renault lot because they don’t have a spare thermostat to fix it, and no courtesy car to give me, I am forced to travel home. (I still shudder at the thought of traveling home). The instances of “mopping a drop” will occur but I like to be independent, so I will only do these things if absolutely necessary. On Wednesday and Thursday last week, I was forced to (gulp) travel to work.
This task involved me leaving home much earlier than usual, as I now had a ten minute walk to the main road in order to flag down a taxi. I won’t say that my experiences on both mornings left me traumatized but I just knew I couldn’t do this another day.
The strange thing about my fear is that I have no problem using public transport in the US, UK or Continental Europe. These transportations systems are efficient (to some extent) and provide you with many alternatives so that one is never left stranded. I love a London bus, the Tube (a bit claustrophobic) but nice, the Autobahn in Germany (sigh…memories) always on time. I could go on but in each instance, I am able to concentrate on other things other than transportation.
Taxiing in the Caribbean? Well that is an adventure. One never knows if the taxi drivers will actually be in the mood to work on any given morning or whether they will drive really fast, super slow or if the car will smell like wet dog. It is truly a “luck of the draw” with taxi drivers and their vessels of torture. What is one to do?
On Wednesday morning November 18th 2008, I left my home at 6:12pm and proceeded to walk to the main road for my first occasion of traveling from my apartment. I am accustomed to driving to and from West Trinidad, taking a taxi or even walking in my neighborhood hasn’t been something I have done at all. Well I do walk to the nearby Supermarket (4 minutes away) but that is only if I am too lazy to open my gate on a morning to drive to it. Anyway I digress…..
As soon as I left my apartment I called my friend Clint to talk just so that I have a clear distraction from what seemed to me to be a long walk through unfamiliar territory. That plan worked well, in no time I was on the Main Road. What greeted me was what seemed like hordes of people waiting on the main road for transport just like me (gulp) and that not many were passing by.
Then I saw it. An old brownish-white (I’m not good to colors) Cressida with just a driver, no passengers in it. Seeing that I did not feel to be bunched up with anyone in a car on my first morning, I hailed him , got in and told him that for the price of TT$100 I would be commandeering the vehicle to carry me to the office (no other passengers allowed). In hindsight, I should’ve offered him much less but at the time I thought that by that evening I would’ve had my vehicle back, so that would be a sunk cost.
Little did I know that for that price I would have to endure his discourse on the state of the economy, health care, the flooding situation and then finally a long discussion on the “End of Days”. There was no radio or air condition in the car (jeez I sure know how to pick them).
Info received from Taxi Ride:
· Did you know that we are living in the last days?
· Did you know that according to Revelations 13 that the USA is the beast that is rising up to destroy us?
· Were you also aware that Obama may be the Antichrist based on the fact that he rose to power in a period where the world is suffering?
· Since the world is suffering, and Obama promises to fix it and if he does it will be a clear indication that Jesus is coming soon?
· Did you know that he drove really slow so that he could torment longer with all this information? Did you know that I rolled my eyes so much during the discourse that I had a headache after I left the car?
Serves me right for trying to be too “bourgeois” to travel with others.
DAY 2: CAR-LESS AGAIN
Got to the main road a bit later than yesterday and found more cars than the day before. Too bad they were all passing filled with passengers. After a ten minute wait (Clint is on the phone all this time as some old man trying to make small talk with me and I’m not having it.), I get into a car. All the windows are up so I assumed that the air-condition was in use. How wrong was I? It started to get real hot and so I turn down the window.
Driver: Brudder man yuh didn’t meet the windows up?
Me: Yes but the car getting hot.
Driver: Well dem windows in the back does give trouble so yuh better hope it could go back up.
Me: And when u was going to tell me this?
Driver: Ah tell yuh now
Me: you putting on the air condition?
Driver: You willing to pay extra?
Me: Obviously it will only be blowing on me? Otherwise everybody else have to pay.
DRIVER LAUGHS!!!! He puts on the air condition
Driver: I like you….yuh handle meh good dey.
I chuckle to myself unaware of what he really meant there. I was just happy that the car was now cool. (Yesterday’s car had no radio, no air condition unit and I had to slam the door really hard to close it.)
I must admit. Not bad experiences really but while driving in this car, I began to notice small things about people who wait for taxis.
1. They are indiscriminate. They will go with anyone just to get home
2. They give weird signals as to where the want to go. I saw a boy on the main road pointing down with his finger at the car and the driver passed him even though we had space. What does this mean?
3. They carry huge loads with them that they prefer to go in the seat with them instead of in the trunk.
4. The women try not to move or sweat, so that they look fresh for the office.
5. They stare at you. As if they are angry for you being in the car while they are outside.
6. They try to talk to you. Well some of them.
The woman next to me in the backseat kept looking in my direction as if she wanted to talk to me. Seeing her becoming more agitated, I pulled out my Ipod and placed the headphones in my ear so that she will know that I didn’t want to be disturbed. Did it stop her? Oh Hell No……
Woman: Umm excuse mister……you does be on tv?
Me: (slight blush) Umm not really. I was on a tv show once
Woman: Ah know dat…. I know your face look real familiar. You does be on Gayelle?
Me: (rolling my eyes again). Yeah I used to be on Gayelle but that was last year
Woman: Oh ho, so you is frens with Reagan?
Me: yeah kinda.
Woman: Tell him Cynthia real like him. Oh God he does make me laugh. You not as funny as him but he does do some chupidness dey boy
Me: Yeah (nervous laugh) he does.
A strange silent pause fills the car so I put back in my headphones… She touches me again.
Cynthia: So what you does do?
Me: Nothing much. A little ting here and there
Cynthia: No ah mean where yuh working? I working in the Off Track Betting Place right up the road here (WE ARE IN ST. JAMES AT THIS POINT)
Me: Oh I am a messenger for an advertising agency.
Cynthia: Really? Yuh does dress nice. Yuh looking real important.
Me: well that is how they want me to dress
Cynthia: Yuh must let Reagan hook yuh up with a good job man. You can’t be working so hard when you could be on tv. Ent that right driver?
Driver: If de boy like he job leave him alone.
Cynthia: Steups…wha u know……Man..yuh passing meh stop.
Driver: How I supposed to know where u dropping out? We sleep together last night?
Cynthia: Buh ay ay you only fass. Anyway, nice meeting you Reagan friend. Ah know where you does take yuh car from so I go wait for you tomorrow and we go talk more. Ok
Me: (smiling nervously) Ok Cynthia. Take Care and have good day
Cynthia: Oh gosh yuh nice and have manners too. Ah go see yuh tomorrow darling.
She leaves the car and I wave to her smiling but saying through my teeth… “Oh God a mad woman like meh”
The driver bursts out laughing as we drive off and tells me that he liked how I “handled” her (I now understood what he meant before).
I got to work and settled in after feeling hot and sweaty from the walk there. I organized with a co-worker to “mop a drop” for Friday morning and on Friday evening I rented a car for the week.
To date, the part for my car still hasn’t arrived but this car rental thing is very expensive and one never knows who or what has been in these cars and what has been done in them.
Here are some pics of the car the Car Rental place wanted me to drive use for the week. They chose a Nissan Wingroad (ugh..a horrible car plus it is a station wagon) for me that smelt like a gym locker room and had no upholstery in the trunk area. I also found empty beer bottles with the spare tire. It was promptly returned and I was given a new car.
So I pray for the return of my car and its possible sale over the next 3 to four months as it is “milking” me dry and at this rate it I don’t think it will be going to university. (Hope you got the car/child reference)
There are few things that make me uneasy and being dependent on others (especially taxi drivers) is the main one. So please add me to your prayer list and if you can, say a small one for my car and its speedy return to me in good working order.
It’s all I ask.