Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bombay cab

So, we've stopped being so generous with cab drivers. Mostly because we are confused. Our hotel had an airport car service that would have cost 900 rs, but our tour guide had told us it should cost 400-500.

Upon arrival in Mumbai (Bombay, whatever), we walked to the cab stand where the dude in charge said it would be 500 rupees. He directed us to a driver who said it would be 600. I took my bag out of the trunk and said never mind, someone else would take us for 500. Already, I thought I probably should have haggled the 500 down, and now the driver was going in the wrong direction.

He said, "OK, OK, 500 rupees."

Or, that's what I thought he said, because he threw a fit when we arrived at the hotel (after he stopped one time to ask a friend directions and another time to buy something from a roadside stand) when I handed him the 500 Rs note. He demanded 600 because it was so far. Dude, you'd have more sympathy if you'd brought us directly here.

I said, "We agreed on 500."

He stamped his foot and said no, we said 550. I'm flashing back and thinking, when he said "500 rupees" was he actually saying "five hundred fifty"?

Regardless, I only had 500 Rs notes handy so we held firm. In the lobby of our hotel, for all to see. Scaring the staff into submission, no doubt.

Next day, we took a cab to Gandhi's house. 100 rupees he said, which was way too much, so when he said he'd take us back to the hotel, or wherever we wanted to go, "same price," I figured that was a better deal. We had him take us to a Jain temple, a Hindu temple, some kind of sacred Hindu swimming pool and Thieves Market. He added the Hanging Gardens on and desperately wanted to take us to the Dhobi Ghats, but it was hard to get psyched about a giant outdoor manual laundromat. We'd seen people washing clothes in the Ganges in Varanasi already.

At Thieves Market, I meant to hand the driver another 100 note. Generously doubling the only fare he'd quoted. I accidentally handed him two 100 notes together, and still he practically spit at me. 600, he demanded. He took us all these places! (Uh, yeah, but one of them we didn't even ask to go to.) I asked Rob if he had any 100 notes, because I did think it would be fair to pay 400 or 500 if that's what he expected.

With 400 rupees in his hand (plus the 100 Rob gave him at Gandhi's house) he still wanted another 100. 500 was reasonable, we said. He still wanted 600. We gave him another 50, and I wound up feeling like we cheated him somehow. He was so nice and here we were stiffing him. Or did he drive away thinking, "Awesome, I got 550 out of those suckers. Nice haul."

Later I counted. Gandhi's house, two temples, the tank and the market. Five places. At 100 rupees each, that was totally fair. Let's call the 50 rupees a tip for suggesting the Hanging Gardens.

In the afternoon, we took another cab to Colaba Market (for 50 rupees, I think). The driver, wearing a white hat and beard that made me think he was Muslim, asked us why Americans have such big noses. I told him mine was long because I am a liar and Rob said his was broad because he got punched in the face. The driver asked about the scar on Rob's lip. Up front, this dude. Rob said he was a boxer, and the driver said "You don't look like a boxer. They should be big. And taller."

Still, he was our favorite so far.

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