After twelve days at a spiritual retreat in Abadiania, Brazil I was looking forward to getting home to Buenos Aires. I hooked up with an Australian couple from the retreat to share a taxi into el Centro. When asked about the taxi situation in BsAs I assured them that in all my time here I have never had a bad experience with a taxi. But, this day, my street savvy had been dulled by a loving environment in the Brazilian countryside and I allowed the taxista to ‘take us for a ride’.
When he said the fare would be 129 pesos I questioned that – saying two weeks ago I had only paid 115. He said it was because we wanted two stops. My bullshit detector must’ve had a short circuit because I kept walking to his car – which I realized, once the mist of the belief in the good of all people began to lift, was not actually a taxi.
By the time I’d reached full city consciousness (mas o menos) we were on the autopista heading toward town, and I didn’t want to worry my companions, so I continued to hang onto my faltering belief in the good of all people. Even at the increased fare, we were still getting a good deal by sharing. We dropped them off at their hotel and headed to my apartment.
I handed over 130 pesos and prepared to disembark when he said it’s 129 – and showed me that I had given him two tens and a twenty. Surprised, I second guessed myself – but – I knew I’d given him a 100 peso note because I only had one in my wallet and it wasn’t there anymore. I proceeded to yell at him in English wishing I had paid better attention in my ‘Swearing in Spanish 101’ class. If I’d been really thinking I may have also reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out my 100 peso note – but we only think about all these things later – don’t we?
Next time I’ll take the bus.
Okay, so here’s a plan. When you get your bills from the bank machine check them all for the authentic watermark. Then, make a personal mark on all of them. Next time you’re ready to pay the taxista make sure that you know exactly how many 100s you have with you and give him one, making certain that he understands that you know that you’re giving him 100. Now, at this point, if he still tries to screw you – breathe, chill out, relax – don’t get upset. You can rest in the confident knowledge that he’s an idiot. If he comes back at you saying that you gave him a fake bill, you know you didn’t. Let him know that you know that he’s exchanged the one you gave him for a false one and stashed your bill. If he owes you money, relax and refuse to get out of his taxi. He can’t pick up another fare with you sitting there. What’s he going to do? Call the cops? Excellent!
If he exchanges the 100 you gave him for a 10 and he tells you that you made a mistake expecting you to cough up another 100 – you know you didn’t – don’t get flustered. If he doesn’t owe you money – just get out of the cab – not feeling obligated to pay for his next oil change.
Don’t worry if you can’t speak Spanish very well. I’m sure that he’ll understand dirty rotten bastard by your intonation even if he doesn’t quite understand your words.
If you have suitcases in the trunk – you may have a problem. Keep your suitcases inside the car with you. They usually want you to do this anyway so they don’t have to get out to open the trunk.
In reality, the majority of taxistas are very nice honest people. It only takes one to ruin your whole holiday and impression of them. Be smart, be careful and just relax – enjoy the ride they’re taking you on . . .