Blame him who drove us home yesterday. His demeanor prompted me to finally come up with my own classification of the taxi drivers prowling the streets of Manila. If you find any one of these people familiar, know that you are not alone. My sympathy goes to you, but not that driver who told me to pay extra because the slow traffic is my fault. Not a chance.
The suspiciously endearing driver. As soon as you sit down and close the door, he starts talking endlessly. You think he is very friendly so you talk to him, too. He gets more personal and asks you different questions. This kind of driver leads you to think how a stranger gives a damn about what you do, where you live, and if you have a lover. Don’t get fooled. Because he seems to know if you’re near your destination and casually says, “Bahala na kayo Sir ha. Medyo mahina ang kita ngayon e…” (“Sir, this is all up to you, but business has been slow today…”) “So…,” you think to yourself. “That’s the point of him talking all along.”
What I do: A few kilometers away from my drop-off point, I prepare my fare. Because my taxi experiences taught me how to calculate, I just keep adding to my estimate until I get to where I want to be. In the end, the driver gets exactly what’s in the meter.
The materialistic driver. You open the door and ask if he can take you somewhere. Instead of a yes or no answer, he replies: “Magdagdag ka na lang ng bente pesos. Trapik e.” (“Just add twenty bucks on top of your fare. The traffic is slow.”) Huh? This classic line is delivered with variation. Some drivers command you to do it; some request for you to do it; and some pretend to be mad about the traffic condition while saying it. Whatever type of sentence they use, it’s all the same: they make you add to something that is supposedly measured by a regulated meter just because there’s a traffic jam.
What I do: Sometimes, if I have the time, I tell them that traffic jams is synonymous to the streets of Manila, and they’re supposed to know that. Besides, it’s not my fault. And I pay my taxes. And I don’t short-pay people. And so on. It pisses them off to hear me rant and drives them away.
What I do: If I don’t have the time, I just close the door without saying a word.
The opportunistic driver. Sometimes, especially during the rush hours and Fridays, I chance upon a queue of people who are all hailing for a taxi. A few times now, I hailed an available taxi and just as I make a move to approach it, it continued to speed past me. I look to where it is going and I don’t see how that’s surprising: he prefers to take a foreigner. Wow. As if foreigners pay more than the fare and as if they pay in dollars. Even if these passengers do, the money’s still subject to foreign exchange and obviously, the driver only gets what he is due.
What I do: I look for another taxi immediately. I’m cursing while I do that.
The all around town driver. I am being extra cautious when I take cab to a new place. First, I am not familiar with the streets and the shortcuts. Second, the driver may sense my ignorance and will take me all around town. I’ve experienced this a few times. So it is always good to sound confident when they ask me which way I want to go. I just tell them that I prefer the shortcut. It always worked because I get to the drop-off point without much irritation. But I know that one day, it won’t work anymore. So I’m busy figuring out my next strategy.
What I do: I ask the driver why we seem to be making the rounds. If he tells me he is avoiding traffic congestion, then it is probably is. If my gut is telling me something different, I mutter string of curses in my mind because even if I argue, I don’t know the shortest route to take. How unfortunate of me to be a loser.
The he-who-assumes driver. You know exactly where the taxi should pass and then out of nowhere, the driver says “Dito na lang tayo dumaan para iwas trapik.” (“Let’s take this route to avoid slow traffic.”) Fortunately, for me, I only go out and go home when the traffic is smooth. So I tell him to stay on the same lane, on the same road, and on the same vehicle. Sometimes, I feel the urge to push this kind of driver out of the taxi.
What I do: I speak firmly. The same people taught me how to be firm anyway. And before he starts driving, I tell the driver which road we should be taking. If he tells me there’s a traffic jam in the area, I tell him no, that I live there, and that I certainly know better when it comes to the streets leading to where I live.
The picky driver. Admittedly, some passengers pick the kind of taxi they ride on. I don’t know what’s with that. But most of the time, drivers have their own way of picking passengers through this line: “Pa-south ako e. Magdagag ka na lang para ihatid kita.” (“I’m heading south. If you want, you can pay extra so I’ll take you north.”) Absolutely not. It’s easy to place a sign bearing a notice that the taxi only caters to passengers who are south-bound. I haven’t seen anything like that yet. To date, I do not understand their reasons.
Another line I have heard recently is this: “Pagarahe na ako e. Hanap ka na lang iba.” (“I’m headed home. Look for another taxi.”) Oh, really? I can’t say for sure though. The way it looks to me, he is still taking passengers. I know some look towards dropping someone along the way home. But even that is doubtful if the classic reason is imminent: avoidance of the great traffic.
What I do: I just shut my mouth, close the door, and look for another. There’s no point responding anymore.
The extinct driver. I am not unfair to write about the nasty kinds alone. I also have come across taxi drivers who talk quietly, who laughed with me, and who never insinuated about charging anything extra. These are the kinds of drivers that I still hope would exist in the decades to come. The threat of values going away permanently in this place is impending, so I capitalize riding with the good ones. And these are the guys that I give a tip to. I hope their kind flourish even if this place is congested with people like me.
So it’s all about the concept of gaining more money. Taxi drivers have a boundary to meet per day and I understand if they fall short. At the same time, I also see a lot of taxis roaming the streets. Meaning, just like call center companies, the competition is stiff. I heard there are around 10,000 taxi cabs in NCR. That was a month ago. Besides, the problem lies on something bigger. I recently heard that the economy has improved. Where’s the money?
To you dear readers: feel free to comment, add to the list, or simply rant. Let’s make this our sounding board.