When I was 12 years old, my brother and I played a certain computer game all the time. Its name was Crazy Taxi. The premise is that you, as a taxi driver, must pick up customers and take them to their destination before the time runs out. The longer you take, the less money you get, as you have less time to pick up more customers. Due to this factor, the game is a lot less about driving and a lot more about money. I am willing to bet my next cab fare that Crazy Taxi was made by someone who had visited or lived in Jordan.
To better explain, I will share the profiles of Jordanian cab drivers. There are five types:
1. The Cheater-Cheater-Pumpkin-Eater
Unfortunately, this type is fairly frequent. They usually do one of three things: A. They act like they have no idea where you’re trying to go, and tell you they’ll “try and figure it out.” B. They refuse to start the meter. Or C. They turn off the meter as soon as you arrive at your destination and try to tell you the ride was worth 5 dinar. It wasn’t.
Example: A few weeks ago, I was on my way to meet some friends at the Citadel to take pictures. I left with plenty of time to get there; however, I hadn’t anticipated not being able to get a taxi. After about 40 minutes, an old man in a taxi picked me up. Now, it must be noted that I had tripled-checked with a friend on how to say the location. I felt ready. Of course, when I tell him, the driver goes “What? Where you want go? Straight??” I repeat again the location. He looks at me like I’m crazy and continues to say, in English, “Straight!!” I end up calling my host dad to have him tell the man where I want to go.
Faced with another Arab’s voice, my driver smiles and starts heading in the correct direction. I’m feeling pretty confident about life. The meter’s running, the driver is talking to himself, and I’m heading to the Citadel. Life is good. And then we arrive. I look at the meter. 2.4 Dinar. No problem. I pull out 3 Dinar and wait for him to give me my change. He starts yelling at me about how Americans are wealthy and how I don’t need the change. I tell him, “Bidii frata!!” (I want change!) He continues yelling at me until I finally give up and get out of the taxi. Once I get out, I realize he’s taken me to the wrong place and I will have to get in another taxi. I flag one down and tell him where I want to go. The driver says “Ok, 5 dinar.” Sigh. Cheater-Cheater-Pumpkin-Eaters.
2. The Creepy McCreeperson
The Creepy McCreeperson is the most feared in all the land. They are commonly known to be owners of large rounded rearview mirrors for “all the better to see you with, my dear.” This is also the type that either wishes to marry you off to a son, or marry you himself. Usually they’re good for a “You’re very beautiful” or two as well. This doesn’t sound too bad until they ask you the follow-up question of, “Are you a virgin?” It is not unusual to have the front seat offered to you by the McCreeperson, which is a big no-no. One must proceed with extreme caution when a cabbie is showing any of these signs.
Example: I have been extraordinarily fortunate in Amman by being able to travel most the time with my roommate, Saba. There is, indeed, strength in numbers. However, I have gotten used to the constant stares of the driver from the rearview mirror. There is nothing quite as unsettling as having a man watch you for an entire car ride, especially when you’d prefer he was staring at the road. The best way to handle the Creepy McCreeperson is to put on your “stank” face and ignore any and every of his comments. If you must respond, just tell him you’re already married or engaged.
3. The Calm and Silent
This type is my personal favourite. The Calm and Silent waits patiently for you to tell him where you’d like to go and then he turns on the meter. He watches the road ahead and there is a peaceful silence in the car, only disrupted if he decides he’d like to listen to some music. He doesn’t care why you’re learning Arabic or why you’re in Jordan. He just wants the exact money you owe him once you arrive at your destination. Much appreciated, sir.
Example: This is actually the type that is majority of my taxi rides. I love it and always keep my fingers crossed that I’ll get one every time.
4. The Chummy Chatter
Oh, The Chummy Chatter. You’re always in for a good time with this kind. This taxi driver usually has a lot of “important” information he wants to share with you. He’s usually an extremely effervescent personality type and positively thrilled you’re in his car. He most likely will share with you about his glorious past career before he decided to become a cabbie. He wants to know everything about you and most likely, by the end of the car ride, you’ll either have his card or be invited over for a meal. Quite possibly both.
Example: A week or so ago, I got into a cab. It looked like any other yellow taxi from the outside. How was I to know what would be inside? As soon as I sat down, the driver shouted out, “WELCOME TO JORDAN!!” followed by “WELCOME ALSO TO MY CAR!” A little taken aback, I responded, “Thanks?” Once I told him where I wanted to go, he took right off while asking me if I was learning Arabic. I explained that I was, indeed, and was headed to class right now. He smiled and told me I was very beautiful. I quickly became worried this man was heading into Creepy McCreeperson territory.
However, he then passed me a laminated newspaper clipping that looked like a very young him in a futball uniform. “Is this you?” I asked him. He responded, “You’re very lucky. My name is Omar, and you are being driven by the most famous man in Jordan!” I think college futball fame might have gone to his head a little bit, but I was glad he seemed so confident in himself. “I am very lucky indeed,” I said with a smile. He then said, “You know, after I stopped playing sports, I gave up many things. I gave up smoking, drinking, and hookah. But, girls, girls I will never give up.” And then we arrived at the university.
Oooookay. Thanks, Omar. “Masalama!!”
5. The Chivalrous Cabbie in Shining Armour
This is the most precious and rare of taxi drivers. The diamond in the rough. They are the kindest and sweetest of men who simply want to make sure you safely get to your destination. I imagine them as the one’s with wives and daughters they dearly care about. Most often, they ask you only necessary questions and make sure you know where you are headed. They never try to rip you off, and you never feel pressured by them. Of course, because they are so kind, I usually end up tipping them significantly.
Example: This past weekend, my roommate and I went out to dinner. We were not really sure about the location of the restaurant but figured we’d be able to find it no problem once we were in the right area. The taxi driver kindly and patiently took us to the area and when we began directing him he listened closely. Unfortunately, we were going the wrong direction, but he realized it before we did. He kept asking “Are you sure this is the way you want to go?” In the end, he helped us find the restaurant we needed and even told us he was a Christian. We tipped him a lot. I’m still beating myself up that I didn’t get his number for future cab rides.
There you have it. The Crazy Taxis of Amman. No worries, I’m releasing the computer game next year.