Thursday, January 25, 2007

Where to, Ma'am?

So we've both driven José's new car around and about. We've both managed to back it out of its cozy little lair without, for the most part, hitting the concrete column. (*cough* wasn't me *cough*)

Alex has gotten a lot of little things fixed on it so, for instance, when one drives at night the dashboard lights now illuminate not only the little dials, but also--and this is key--the needles that point to specific spots on the little dials.

He also got copies of the key for all concerned, installed some plastic thingies at the tops of the windows so the rain won't drip in (not an issue now, but a mighty good thing to have starting about next April), and helped José pick out a new set of tires.

Oh, and he also got the engine block repaired because of this ka-CHUNK sound we kept hearing when stopping, starting, accelerating, braking or turning the car. And this ka-CHUNK kind of thuddy feeling I was getting under my feet on the passenger side. But that's all fixed now (and fortunately the engine didn't fall out on the roadside) and things are looking good.

This frees us up to focus on just how much this car still looks like a taxi. For one thing, Costa Rican taxis are red, and this car is cherry red. For another, it still has a triangular shape on the door where the official taxi insignia was taken off when it stopped being a taxi. But if you don't look too closely, all your eye really registers is, "Yep, there's the triangle. Flag it down!"

And, of course, the illicit "pirate" taxi business is a thriving one in Costa Rica, so any car in any shade of red (up to and including deep burgundy) is potentially a taxi in the mind of the public.

I have not been flagged down, myself. Me, I get the double takes. " that a woman driving that thing? Hold the phone. A gringa woman? Wha...huh?" Yeah, not a lot of female taxi drivers around these parts.

Being neither a woman nor a foreigner, Alex is perfectly believable as a Costa Rican taxi driver, so he gets a lot of what a friend of mine used to call the "dinky wave." When you want a taxi or a bus to stop in Costa Rica, you stand on the side of the road and extend your arm, palm down, and make kind of a beckoning motion with just your fingers. (Try it. There's no manly way to do that. Not that that's a bad thing, it's just kind of surprising in a machista culture such as this.)

You know, too, that people expect a certain kind of behavior from a taxi. As a driver in this country, I know for a fact that a red car is more likely to cut me off, or pull out abruptly, or pull over in a no parking zone, or jump the red light, or any number of other things that taxis habitually do. Alex claims not to respond to this - or even to feel it - and I'm not saying I'm a less careful driver in the not-quite-a-taxi, but it does kind of color your responses, knowing that folks are, subconsciously at least, expecting you to be a pushy driver.

Anyway. I wasn't looking forward to driving it at first. Not because of any of the things I've said here, but simply because it's not what I'm used to driving. The Montero is so high off the ground that I feel like I'm sitting right down on the pavement when I'm in the red car. You have to reach up to rest your elbow on the window frame, for crying out loud. And the clutch is less sensitive than the one I'm used to, so I ended up revving the engine at every gear shift and stop sign the first day (of course this fit right in with the whole taxi thing).

But I'm used to it now. And I can appreciate its good qualities, like how it's sleek and sporty and more powerful than a diesel Montero. Even? Maybe? Just a little sexy? A 13 year old Hyundai Elantra with cracked hubcaps? No? OK, forget I said anything.


Krystle January 26, 2007 7:08 AM  

I found your blog a while back... Anyway, had to laugh at your Taxi talk. We were in Puerto Vallarta last April, and well... I've never seen taxi and bus drivers - drive like that. Or, any other driver for that matter. So dang fast! And, crazy...!! :) All of your pictures, make me miss Mexico!

Julie January 26, 2007 7:08 AM  

Speaking of the Dukes of Hazzard . . . (our conversation spans blogs!) maybe you could paint the confederate flag on the top, fuse the doors shut so you'll have to enter through the windows, and shout "yee-HAW" at each rev. Just a suggestion.

Jennifer January 26, 2007 7:20 AM  

Hmm. Considering that just last night I saw "WooHoo!" translated as "Wuu-Juu!" on a movie subtitle, I have to wonder if Central America is really ready for yee-HAW...

(Conversation began here .)

lisa January 26, 2007 2:23 PM  

lli-JA !!!

Jennifer January 26, 2007 4:00 PM  

I regret to inform you, ladies and gentlemen, that Lisa has nailed it.

lisa January 27, 2007 7:50 AM  

Okay, had to catch up on the Dukes of Hazard from the link to Juliloquy. But no, no, no. You forget! He would succeed in making his way to the other side of the room and on to what he was doing. It was when there were exactly three minutes left in the show, the storylines and plot twists had all been resolved, and he would say This is where I came in and walk away as if nothing had ever happened. As if!!

Dad January 28, 2007 5:53 AM  

Hmmm. I may have missed something before Lisa's comment, but I'm just wondering, do I have any idea who "He" is???

And if I do, would "he" not at least have stayed around until Daisy Duke was no longer on the screen?

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