It’s very un-Australian, but we don’t have a car. Yes, a sad truth, and prior to coming to Rio, a situation probably outside my realm of imagination. This in spite of the fact I have watched Gav ride a bike to work for the last 18 years. (OMG – 18 years! Is that really true?) Unfortunately, my imagination is no longer required as we are living the reality which is that is our transport needs are now met via a ‘transport allowance’, which means taxis. And that in turn has meant that I have had to confront a deep seated prejudice and acknowledge that I am in fact taxi-ist. (This is not to be confused with ‘taxist’, although I am that too.) In Australia, the only time we ever caught taxis was to and from the airport, although this was infrequent and ALWAYS ended with the vehemently expressed – “We’re never doing that again!!!” And that wasn’t usually even me.
However, here our choices are limited to bikes, (yes, Gav has chosen this option for his commuting needs), buses, (lawless, super-crowded and at peak hour just plain suicidal), or the taxis. So taxis it is.
And actually, things aren’t that bad.
- Taxis account for at least forty percent of cars in our neighbourhood so we never have to wait for one.
- They will stop for you at the merest twitch of a finger and if they already have a passenger, they wave a special hand signal so you don’t feel ignored.
- By and large, they are very clean and well maintained.
- Unless you are coming from the airport, they are also very honest and the meters work.
- In comparison to Australia, they are very cheap.
- The drivers are generally very friendly and are normally willing participants in a pidgin portuguese (PP) conversation. That is – they speak portuguese and I speak a weird hybrid language with some portuguese words thrown in. (Not to be confused with the portuguese pigeon)
- They rarely have seat belts. (Could result in death)
- They travel as fast as possible. (Could result in death)
- Because they have regular downtime, some have small TV’s so the driver can watch and keep boredom at bay. This unfortunately also means he/she might be watching whilst they are driving, which results in an anything but boring trip for the passengers. (And could result in death)
- After dark, road rules and red lights are apparently optional. (Could result in death)
- On Sundays, some pray along with the church services on the radio. Kind of kills conversation……. (But, I concede, not the passengers).
- Some like to sing. And not just along with the radio. Mitchell and I had an interesting ride one day when the driver took upon himself to entertain us. Covers of Michael Jackson, Elton John and a lot more for about forty-five minutes. That killed conversation too. (But again, not the passengers.)
- Some of the pidgin portuguese conversations can derail badly and then you’re trapped. Eg. One day going to to the school, we were in a taxi clipping along at the speed of sound when suddenly the brakes were slammed on for no apparent reason. I yelled out “Holy Cow! What was that?” which in PP came out as “Holy Carne! Que was that?” The startled look from the driver reflected that what he’d heard was – “Blah BEEF! WHAT blah blah blah?” He must have resorted to telepathy, because he pointed at a speed camera in explanation. Then he dropped all eye contact, sped back up and seemed most relieved when we got out. However this kind of situation is reasonably rare, most PP conversations end in charitable amusement and in general, the drivers are quite encouraging.
So, not that we really have much of a choice, but the pros of the taxis outweigh the cons and who knows, maybe by the time we come back, my taxi-ist prejudices may have been overcome. I truly hope so, because of course the first thing we’ll be doing is catching one home.