You can tell a great deal about a place just by going for a ride in one of it’s taxis.
Think of the taxi as a barometer – a modern day version of the “canary in the coal mine”.
I just came back from DC, a place where the fare is always more than you're expecting - there is a charge for each person, each zone, bad weather, late night and early morning hours, etc.
Another important element of the ride is the driver, a person who probably sees the best and worse of humanity and has an opinion on everything (two words - talk radio). I’ve met them all:
- There was the driver from LA who was working on a screen play
- The driver in Chicago, who used to be a Doctor in Uganda and left his country with $5
- I’ll never forget the driver in Vegas, an immigrant who measured success by the ability to have "steak and eggs” at least once a week.
- And why are the drivers almost always men?
- Ever notice that once they find out you're from Canada the first question is"do you know my cousin in Toronto?"
Forget having a conversation with a driver in New York, you’ll find a partition of bullet proof glass between the two of you. And what’s the deal with the pre-recorded messages from b-list celebrities telling you to buckle up? Anyone remember Adam West?
I once visited a place in Eastern Europe where one was advised to never get in a cab without first negotiating the fare, otherwise be prepared to pay dearly - needless to say I ended up walking everywhere.
A few months ago my son went on the ultimate ride in Bangkok, a story that includes a local driver and corrupt cop. Fortunately he only lost his cell phone and a little money in the process.