My relationship with cab drivers has traditionally been rocky. I simply can't stand anyone that wakes up in the morning and asks themselves, "I wonder how many people I can knowingly rip off today?" And this is an absolute embellishment, of course. But within, I would say, 80% of the cabies I have stepped into, they have tried to rip me off. These cabies span across California, New York, D.C., Italy, France, London, Thailand and Mexico (the absolute worst). Frankly, I've seen 'em all.
My buddy Jeff used to say that my bad rapport was a direct result of me calling taxi driver's, cabies. He may be correct, but I know for a fact, many people can relate to my backseated hostility.
And then there is Korea. Ahh, the splendid nature of people being well paid, trustworthy, complimentary but sometimes indifferent to politeness.
The country is not poor and capitalism is thriving. Business for taxis? Check. All people here trust their neighbors immediately. Trustworthy taxi divers? Check. All people also constantly comment on your appearance. Rear-view mirroring taxi drivers? Check. And, because of a very long war with their northern neighbors, all people here are slightly edgy when the situation calls for it. Somewhat grumpy taxi drivers? Check.
Taxi's are also relatively cheap here, so I take them often. Many rides happen in silence. Other times they work on their English (these are annoying because I am paying for their English lesson). But sometimes, every few weeks, I will get an overly complimentary driver.
Example: This is a conversation with a middle-aged taxi driver in Busan last weekend. (Notice I did not call him cabi.)
"Hello. You American?"
"Ohh, wow, you are very handsome. Very handsome, yes."
"Ha, thank you."
"Oh, wow, very handsome...yes."
This went on for 20 minutes. How can you not enjoy getting into the back of that taxi?
Example 2: Thanksgiving night in Seoul and I'm late meeting friends for dinner because he made a wrong turn. I know this because his GPS keeps chirping at him.
"I am sorry. I made mistake."
"No problem," I say back.
"No, big mistake. No charge," he relents.
"No no, that's OK. It's not a problem."
"OK discount. Big discount," he says nervously.
"Thank you but really, it's no problem," I say.
He was not buying it. He kept insisting I take a discount. Once we stopped at the restaurant I shoveled him the fare and said, "Thank very much. I paid because appreciated your honesty." He said thanks but actually looked sorrowful when receiving the money.
Considering my history with cabies, this event felt miraculous. But that moment did not last long.
That same weekend my wife and I were scolded for talking to loudly and like little kids. We giggled it off, making him more upset. He was grumpy. We all are. But, I must mention that to his credit, he had no intention of ripping us off.
And to be honest, I would take a scolding over a crooked cabi ride any day.
....Get Lost my friends.