The worst taxi driver in Denmark
I have travelled a lot in the past 10 years and have used various forms of transport in getting from one place to another. Taxis are one such form of transport, but have never been my first choice. There are multiple reasons for this:
- Most times you have to take the first taxi at the front of the queue, as taxi drivers have some weird code of ethics. However, there’s no disputing the fact that some taxis are better than others and even though you might like the look of the second or third taxi in line, such delights are denied you because of the code of ethics and being forced to take the first taxi in line. I suppose one could be churlish and let someone else take the first taxi, but usually there are supervisors overseeing the allocation of taxis and you run the risk of getting thrown off the taxi line. Of course if you come up with a plausible excuse such as: “Sorry, but I’m allergic to Toyota taxis. My condition demands a Mercedes.” Whether they would buy that excuse or not would be another matter. In the Philippines, some taxis are so old and decrepit that they look as though they are being held together by chewing gum and religious decals sporting the face of the Blessed Virgin. Thankfully the majority do have aircon that actually works.
- Travelling is one of the few times when I don’t have to engage in conversation with other human beings if I don’t feel like it, which I often don’t, preferring my own company. However, some taxi drivers are just downright needy and look for conversation any way they can. I try my best not to engage in conversation with taxi drivers, but if they are the needy kind then I tend to take pity on them and reply to some of their general questions, but even this can lead to trouble. Before you know it, you could embroiled in an in-depth conversations about their family, the politics of the country or worse – racism. The latter conversation typically ensues after the driver has seen me rejecting the taxi at the front of the queue in favour of the one I find myself in. Such a conversation happened in Dublin on a trip from the airport into South Dublin, which is a good half hour drive. One moment the driver was asking me what music I liked and the next was blasting Jumpin’ Jack Flash at top volume, having identified me as a fellow music lover. I had failed the opening gambit of ‘What’s the best rock band in the world?’, which was a terrifying question in itself. I was worried that if I gave the wrong answer I would be dumped by the side of the road. So I replied ‘ABBA’, but found out that the correct answer was: the Rolling Stones. Since we were in Ireland I ventured a punt into the conversation by mentioning U2 and Bono. If I had said I had had sexual relations with his mother I couldn’t have caused more offence. “Dat feckin’ Bono!!” he exploded. “What has he done for dis country? NOTHIN’!! He could help the poor people in the city, but he avoids taxes….” and so the rant continued until we reached South Dublin despite my attempts to deflect the conversation in the direction of the Irish pop group Westlife.
- Taxi drivers vary in their driving speed. Some, as in Germany, favour the Michael Schumacher approach – full speed ahead regardless of the traffic on the road at the time. Weaving in and out of the lanes of the motorway traffic seems to be their modus operandi. Then you have those drivers who will drive as slowly as possible in order to allow the meter to clock up some more time.
- The final amount to be paid is always an unknown quantity and hitting rush-hour traffic is never good for passengers in metered taxis. There was a time that I took a taxi in Denmark at off-peak time down the motorway to Roskilde. It was a 20-minute drive at top speed, but it still cost a baffling €60! I imagine I would have felt the same after the journey if the driver had pulled a gun on me and taken my wallet.
Given all these reasons why I should not take a taxi, and I can think of more, there are obvious advantages to taking a taxi, one of which is convenience and being delivered to your front door rather than having to lug an overweight suitcase down a cobbled street to your front door. Such was the case last night when I flew into Copenhagen airport. I was in two minds about taking a taxi, as I knew it would cost me in the region of €20 compared to the alternative of €1.60 on the Metro. My apartment is a 10 minute walk from the nearest Metro station, but with lots of snow on the ground, a long cobbled street and freezing air, I decided to opt for the more luxurious option. I made my way to the taxi queue where I was directed to ‘the yellow one’ by a burly Dane in a high visibility jacket. I wasn’t about to argue with him or use my allergy excuse. It was late and I was tired and irritable. The tall turbaned driver of the yellow and black Mercedes estate taxi leapt out to assist me with my suitcase. However, when he saw the destination that I had scrawled on a scrap of paper for his convenience, he became noticeably annoyed and shouted something angry in an Eastern language while gesticulating wildly to a fellow taxi driver. I could discern the words ‘English’ and the name of the Metro station. He continued muttering and cursing as he folded himself into the driver seat. As we pulled away, I asked: “Is there a problem?” To which he replied tersely: “No, no problem, but this address is near the Metro station.”
I was confused. I had experienced all types of taxi driver, but never one that was all but refusing to take me to my destination because I could rather take the train! So, as we stopped at the first traffic light, still in the airport, I opened the door as if to get out. “OK, fine. If you don’t want to take me there, then don’t. I’ll get another taxi that will”. “NO, I will take you”, he replied “but I say to you is easier for Metro”. By this time I had realised that he had hoped for a more distant destination that would make his turn at the front of the queue worth waiting for, but it was too late for both of us. I was unhappy at being treated like a leper and he was unhappy at drawing the short straw from the bag. Through my broken Danish I was able to make him understand that I was aware of the Metro, but that I lived ten minutes’ walk from the station itself. Slowly he began to comprehend my situation and we both calmed down somewhat. Again thinking he knew everything, he ignored the route that his satnav was showing him and navigated towards the Metro station, probably hoping to drop me there, but I wasn’t having it. After bumbling his way through the backroads around the station he finally managed to arrive in a cul-de-sac that would cause me to walk another few minutes to my front door dragging my non-cooperative suitcase through the snow behind me. By that time he was more than apologetic. Soft soul that I am, I still gave him a tip. Next time I’ll take the Metro.
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