Never do I feel like more of a guest in this country than when I have a run in with a taxi driver and need to have someone else speak for me.
Taxi drivers are the bane of my existence. I could list for you the multitude of reasons why I usually hate them, but I won’t.
Instead I will tell you the most recent reason that I hate them…and how I ended up an indignant, quivering and slightly ashamed mess.I called down to the reception of my building for them to hail me a cab, as always they ask me what the destination is. I was heading to a particular house, but having been there 4 times before, knew that I should just tell them the general area.
I got in and confirmed with the taxi driver that we were heading to Magallanes MRT near Alphaland Mall. I explained that I needed to go to an appointment at a house in Ecology Village, but that it would only take 15 minutes and could he please wait with the meter running and then bring me back to Rockwell.
He agreed. (This will become a pertinent fact in my tale.)
I have been to this place before, so am certain that I have my directions and pronunciation pretty spot on. (Sometimes my pronunciation is found drastically wanting, but I was confident this time.)
My first clue that this was not going to be a happy journey was when I looked up from sending a text message and realised he was taking me the wrong way. I reiterated the directions and asked him to confirm that he knew where we were going and that he was to wait and bring me back home. One of my biggest issues is that often taxi drivers will not understand or will misinterpret where you want to go and instead of clarifiying will instead take you to where they think you wanted to go.
After a slight detour, and me instructing where to go the entire way, we arrived. And this is where the wheels fell off the wagon.
When I opened the door to get out, I told him that I would be no longer than 15 minutes, and would probably only be 5 minutes. He said that 15 minutes was a very long time to wait and that it was a waste of his time. I argued that he agreed to wait with the meter on when he picked me up. He said he would have to charge me extra for the waiting time.
This was when I saw red.
There is literally nothing I hate more than unscrupulous taxi drivers who try and fleece foreigners. I understand I am a foreigner, and happily pay more at markets and in tips, and am also a generous tipper to taxi drivers. I have NEVER asked for change when I pay for a taxi. (Not that he knew this, I’m just merely giving you the necessary background information to excuse my poor behaviour).
I said that he was being unfair, that he agreed to wait and that I would not be paying him anything extra when he agreed to the meter price.
He told me to pay him and get out.
I told him that he was stupid because I would have given him a generous tip. “I would have paid you 300 pesos for the whole trip if you had waited for me.” (There is no way the fare would have been more than 200 pesos in total including waiting time, so it was a generous tip.) I also told him that I live in Manila and have no patience with people who try to rip you off. I told him to stop the meter and that I would just find another taxi home.
But suddenly he changed his mind and said that he would wait.
I said he was too late. That I didn’t want him to wait any more. The meter said 67.50 pesos so I paid him 70 pesos. Clearly unhappy with me, he then turned off the meter and tried to tell me that the fare was 75 pesos. I insisted that it was 67.50 and in a fit of childish spite told him that he owed me 2.50 pesos in change.
I was quibbling over 7 cents…not my finest moment…but such was my sense of righteous indignation that I would not let this taxi driver get away with one single cent of my money.
Finally he gave me my change and I got out of the car. Just in case he didn’t realise how mad I was I shut the door forcefully (PR speak for slammed it) and stalked inside.
What I didn’t take into account was his sense of righteous indignation, and he got out of the car, coming towards me and screaming “Fuck you! Fuck you ma’am!” (The irony of him calling me ma’am at a time like this is not lost on me.)
It was at this point that I got scared and rushed inside. I realised that I had overstepped some invisible line and that I had well and truly incensed him. At this point, it didn’t matter that I was right, all that mattered was that he was angry and possibly dangerous (people have been attacked by taxi drivers for much less over here and I made the stupid mistake of forgetting where I was and that I was not in Australia).
Luckily there was a locked screen door between him and me, and even luckier was that the dressmaker had heard all the commotion and had come to investigate. I quickly explained what happened and asked her to tell him to go away.
When I asked her what he was shouting about in Tagalog, she explained that he wanted more money, adding, “they always want more money here. Taxi drivers are very dangerous ma’am, you must be careful”. I know this, I have been told stories on more than one occassion how taxi drivers have turned on passengers and have been continually cautioned on taking taxis alone, stupidly, I thought I was somehow different.
I cowered inside for 5 minutes (willing myself not to cry) until I was sure he had gone and then asked her to call me another taxi. I was pretty shaken, and frustrated that I couldn’t defend myself or take on the taxi driver myself. I hated that someone else had to do it for me.
It’s so easy to forget yourself, especially when you have a temper like mine. And while I am outraged at the way he treated me and tried to fleece me of more money, I am even more appalled at myself for behaving so badly.
And besides, the high road is a much safer place to be sometimes.