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Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Truth About Taxis II !!!

So I’m back, as promised, with my next post on the Truth About Taxis titled … guess … guess again … The Truth About Taxis II!!!

I know, I know, riveting. I can’t wait to see what I write and how you feel after you read it. Just so you know, this has taken years of observation and decades of research; so please, by all means try this at home, or on the street, whichever you prefer.

Now, almost everyone has sat in a taxi or at least seen a taxi either on the street or parked under a tree somewhere. But before I go on, I would like you all to note that this isn’t a lecture and this paper is not examinable. I’m simply to share the wisdom that comes ever so freely to me. As such, take this just as a few pointers to keep in mind when dealing with taxis: whether it is taking one or driving around one.

Point One – Always be ready to bargain. When you stop a taxi, describe your destination as well as you can, as fast as you can. This confuses the driver, if he’s wise, he’ll ask you again and then you would have to take it slowly. Thankfully, most taxi drivers will not be smart enough to know what game you are up to. So chances are, they’ll say they know and then quote a ridiculously high price, which you should drop down by at least ¢3. When they refuse, tell them that it is OK and that you’ll wait for another taxi. Step away from the vehicle and proceed to look towards oncoming traffic for another taxi. If you are lucky, he’ll signal you with his hand, flapping it gently towards himself gently, indicating you to hop in.

CAUTION: don’t look too excited by your victory, remain cool and sit in the car. If he drives away, try the same procedure with the next taxi. There’s a 90% chance of you getting away with this.

Point Two – If you have an accent lose it! Be as “local” as possible. Anything that might give you away as sounding, looking or being foreign has to go! If by any chance you are with an “obroni”/”oyibo”, it is best to keep them out of sight until you have bargained with the taxi driver on the fare he wishes to charge you. The slightest hint of “foreign-ticity” will result in a 100% increase in fare charges.

Point Three – Never hire a taxi that’s parked at a taxi rank. Most station based taxi drivers like to argue a lot and are generally “too-known”. They also charge at least 50% more than the usual fare.

Point Four (very important point) – If you have to go to a traffic prone area in a taxi, before you bargain with the taxi driver for a good fare, be emphatic that at that time of the day there’s no traffic. Proceed to indicate what times of the day and for what reasons traffic builds up in those places. Assure him that there will be no traffic at that time and pray that it is as you say. However, when you do meet a traffic jam, act surprised and start looking at your watch every second. Then tell the driver that you are absolutely shocked that there is so much traffic here. Talk endlessly about how it is impossible to predict traffic situations lately and how the government must construct more roads. You can also divert his attention to a policeman standing close by (assuming there is a policeman close by) and say how sad it is that they extort so much money from poor taxi drivers.

A suitable alternative is to talk about politics and how we need a president who will make the lives of every one better by reducing fuel prices. The purpose of this is to endear pity and to make him know that you are suffering in life just as much as he is even if you. He’ll forgive you and forget all about the traffic jam you’ve put him. In effect, sympathize with him. But be careful of those “experienced and hardened drivers” who know all these tricks. With them you may have to make a phone call to a close friend or relative and talk about the pressures of work over the phone. Darn if you don’t have credit on your phone that day!

Point Five – Never take a Tico if you have to go someplace important. Arriving in a Tico strips you of your status. Ticos are not the best choice if you want to make a good impression on people. For some reason, even the newest Tico taxi looks cheap, and as a result, charge cheaper than other taxis. Research into the Tico phenomenon is still ongoing. One thing I know however is that they are the preferred choice in the mountainous regions.

Point Six – Never stop a taxi that’s driving in the opposite direction from where you want to go. More often than not, the taxi drivers will charge you about 40% more than those going in the direction you are headed. I suppose the surcharge comes from turning the vehicle around.

Point Seven – If you are driving behind an empty taxi, chances are that you’ll be driving at no more than 30kmph. Reason is, they are on the look out for passengers and every pedestrian along the road way will receive a hoot and a honk.

Point Eight – For no apparent reason, a taxi driver will take out a duster and wipe his dashboard. Other times, he might simply buy sachet water from the nearest vendor and use it to wipe his windscreen. Don’t ask the obvious question that comes to your mind.


Point Nine – At night be prepared to be blinded by the highlights of the taxi driver. Several Taxi drivers have not firmly grasped the concept of when and how to use their highlights.

Point Ten – Make a taxi driver friend. It is as handy as a hammer in a toolbox. You’ll know when you get there.

There you have it, Ten (10) Truths about Taxis. This should keep you occupied for a while. Below, I have put together a 5 general tips for the inexperienced driver in town.

  1. Never drive behind or on the side of a cargo truck. You never know when their brakes will fail or the cargo their carrying will decide to tip over.
  2. Before you decide to jump a red light, look left, look right and look before you for any amber clothed individual. There just might be some “baby/zoom lion police” waiting to hop into your car and take your last penny.
  3. Watch out for young ladies in posh cars, their driving skills are generally worse than taxi drivers.
  4. For reasons I can’t explain on this here blog, just don’t drive at Circle or Kaneshie if you’ve been driving for less than 6 months!
  5. Expect to be cut-off by reckless drivers on the road trying to change to the faster lanes. You’ll be lucky to have a wave of the hand or a flash of the hazard light as a way of asking for forgiveness. If you honk your horn at them, you’ll get more than a wave. One of these days, I will dedicate a blog post to the illustrate road-hand-signs they don’t teach you in driving school.

While you guys chew on this, I shall be patiently waiting for the day that we will ride limo-cabs in Ghana and have suited-up chauffeurs for drivers.

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Posted by on February 16, 2010 in Ghanaian Lifestyle, Life, Social Life

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT TAXIS I

Does anyone know how taxis came to be? And why they are called taxis in the first place? Do we know why they chose to identify taxis with those multicoloured patches instead of going for a monotone? Why do we wait until cars are completely run down before we convert them into taxis and why do they have all these “poetic”, often misspelled and misunderstood writings on them? All these we may never know. However, there are a few things that we do know about taxis and I am here to share them with you.

Let’s start with the word “Taxi” itself: what does it mean? I’ve done some research and it turns out that the word taxi is short for taxicab, which in itself is a contraction of “taximeter cabriolet”. (Cabriolet is a type of a horse-drawn carriage). The word, as the brilliant ones amongst you may have figured out already, is originally French. But I won’t bore you anymore with the etymology of the word taxi.

New York Taxi

New York Taxi

The use of taxis started way back in Rome, in the 1800s. Then it moved into the US, Canada and it trickled to downtown Ghana, Africa. And that’s where the story gets interesting.

By the way, did you know that the colour yellow is the colour most easily seen from a distance? So says Wikipedia.

Let’s come to Ghana where taxis are coloured in combinations of blue+yellow+black or orange+brown+green and several other intriguing combinations. Besides the colour codes they come in, there is a lot to learn about them.

Take for instance the writings on them. The other day I drove past a parked taxi, which proclaimed in bold lettering; “GOD IS MY SEATBELT”. Frankly, that statement left me dazed for a minute, maybe two. Did it mean that because God was his seatbelt, he wasn’t going to wear any; or was that statement to day that whether or not he wore a seatbelt God would keep him safe from any accidents? What about your passengers? Is God their seatbelt too? There are many ways you can debate on this statement. I could write a whole thesis on this. Trust me. Does anyone know whether these “taxi quotes” are the mantras of the car owners or the philosophies by which taxi drivers live? Imagine being crossed by a taxi with the quote “NO HURRY IN LIFE” written across it. Yeah, I know.

taxi

taxi

There’s a certain culture with taxi drivers.  They spend almost all their time on the road that they believe they live on the road corridor and as such everyone else must bow in their presence and give them way. You know what I mean: zigzagging across lanes, stopping abruptly to pick up passengers, slowing down at junctions to peering down to sight potential passengers…the list could go on.

I sat in a taxi the other day and the driver went no more than 50kmph the whole time. I promise! So I asked him in Twi, “can’t your car go any faster? He replied, saying that if he went any faster, he would burn more fuel. Like hell you will. With that reply, I couldn’t ask any further questions. I didn’t want his car to jerk itself to a stop in the middle of the journey and be stranded along the side of the road.  So I sat in there quietly like a good girl until I got to my destination 20 minutes late for my appointment.

a typical taxi rank

When it comes to taxi traffic talk (language), taxi drivers have a complete set of unique gestures; there’s one for when you don’t give them the chance to cut in front of you in a logjam; there’s one for when you honk at them to drive faster (this is when they are on the prowl for passengers); there’s another one for when they meet a fellow taxi driver; there are also a few gestures that you would rather not have them make at you. I have no doubt that you get this often. They cross you in traffic unexpectedly and when you honk your horn at them, they simply throw their hand out of the window as though you were a fly they were trying to swat. It is, if nothing at all, the most annoying hand movement in traffic.

I pray, I sincerely do pray that the next time a taxi driver throws out his hand out his window after a display of ignorance of traffic rules, oh I pray, that his hand gets chopped off! I’m serious.

The gesture is slightly different with most private car drivers. They simply wave at you as though that is enough to have prevented a near accident.

I will be back with my next post with some more info on a few things to note when dealing with taxis; either as a driver or passenger in a taxi.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2010 in Ghanaian Lifestyle, Life, Social Life