Friday, November 14, 2008

Portrait #61: Overattentive taxi driver

Last night we were going to check out the European Film Festival here in Amman. It runs for a few weeks and every night shows a film from a different European country. Last night was Bulgaria.

My friend gave me directions for the taxi driver, and when I got into the taxi and read out the directions, he said he knew exactly where that was. No problem.

Amman is a city of hills, so we drove down our Jabal (mountain), up the next Jabal, then down the other side of that. We zoomed along a highway for a few moments then the driver stopped. "Here we are," he announced. "I think... right?"

I replied, "This is it? I've actually never been to the place before, but I know it's in this area."

"Yes, this is it." he affirmed. "I think. But where's the entrance..."

Now it just so happens that this theatre is the median strip of a somewhat major highway, so we were all the way on the left side, right by the fastest-moving traffic. This did not stop the driver from putting the taxi in reverse and driving backwards past the theatre to look for an entrance.

"I'm sure this is fine," I said, reaching for the door handle. "Just stop here and we'll walk."

"No, I need to make sure this is the right place" was his reply.

"No, really, we'd be happy to walk."

"I can't just leave you in the middle of the highway!" he protested, as if driving backwards in the middle of the highway was better.

"Please!" I pleaded. "Let us get out and we'll figure it out. If this isn't it, we can't be too far."

Keep in mind that we were slowly driving backwards this whole time with cars zipping by on our right.

The driver glanced again at the building and declared, "Look, there's a guard. I'll just back up a bit further to ask him."

"We really can figure it out on our own," I tried weakly.

"Don't be scared. I'm just looking out for you."

"I'm not scared," I sighed. "I just want to get out. Please, can you stop here?"

Meanwhile my friend, who was patiently watching the interchange without understanding our heated Arabic, started counting out change to pay the fare. So as the driver set his focus on the guard, I turned to my friend and told her to just go ahead and pay.

But the driver wouldn't accept the money. He was too busy driving backwards, and now he had the added task of trying to get the attention of said guard. He pulled into the driveway where the guard stood, and asks the guard where we were supposed to be. The guard obviously knew about the European Film Festival, so he immediately gave walking instructions for how to get into the facility from there. As the guard talked, the car finally came to a complete stop, so we pushed the cash into the driver's hand and got out.

The driver told the guard, "I just wanted to make sure I brought them to the right place."

Then he drove away, and I told the guard, "That driver is crazy. He wouldn't let us get off!"

The guard chuckled and nodded and pointed us to the elevators.

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