The world was introduced to Buddy the Elf when a film documenting his life was released in 2003. Men, women, and children around the globe came to love the man who mistakenly thought he was an elf. His innocence was endearing, making it utterly impossible to have any feelings against him.
I have come to discover that the man was a liar. Quoted frequently (and almost daily during the Christmas season), Buddy has instilled a sense of trust in popular culture. Even I was sucked into his charm when he exclaimed, "Watch out! The yellow ones don't stop!" He had been hit by a cab previously and was passing on his knowledge. An honorable thing to do.
I would like to set something straight: contrary to what Buddy said, the yellow ones DO stop.
Unless you have a car in Jordan, the main type of transportation is the yellow taxi. You cannot walk down a street without being honked at by several cab drivers wanting your business. It's a blessing when you need one; an annoyance when you don't. Cabs are fairly cheap with the meter starting at 25 piastres (around 30 cents). A ride across town will cost anywhere from one to two dinars.
If you look closely, you can see the pesky cabs in the photo below. They are the yellow dots.
Yesterday a group of us made a trip across town to CityMall, an uber-westernized megastore that rivals most American malls. The trip from Arjan: two and a half dinars. This is a hefty load to pay compared to most travel, but depending on the purpose of your trip, it may be worth it.
The cab to the mall took us for a ride. Either he was completely lost or completely taking advantage of Americans who don't know their way around. With some panic, and a little frustration, we finally made it to the mall.
That was the good part.
After making some purchases, we decided to grab yet another cab to take us home. My friend Amanda and I hopped in. Everything was going smoothly - so smoothly, in fact, that in my mind I was slugging the first cab driver in the face. Our pleasure was short-lived when our driver pushed on the brakes and came to a stop. "Sorry," he said as he jumped out of the cab. Sticking his head through the window of the now-closed door, he said, "Coffee. Coffee." For the next five minutes Amanda and I watched in disgust as he chatted up a storm with his other cab-driver friend. It was only after he noticed our disappointed glares that he moved...to get his coffee.
The numbers on the meter slowly raised. We were paying to not move. Am I missing something? Not only were we not moving, but our driver was not even in the cab with us. From what I understand, I pay cab drivers to take me from point A to point B as quickly as possible. I don't remember negotiating any pit stops or chitchat with friends.
We finally made it home. To top everything off we didn't have exact change, so we ended up giving him even more than what was on the meter.
What did I learn from this?
1. Don't come to Jordan unless you know some Arabic. And when I say "some Arabic" I mean you should at least know some scathing words to get upset with people. I was frustrated because he stopped for coffee, but even more so because I couldn't say a word.
2. The next time a driver stops for coffee, I'm stepping out. To me, that's a breach of verbal contract.
3. Jordanians are very good at never spilling their coffee. In all my cab rides I have never seen any sign of spills. It's amazing.
4. The yellow ones do, in fact, stop.
Despite the tone of this blog entry, I actually very much enjoy riding in cabs here. And I love Jordan. And Jordanians. It was just a funny experience, and I thought I would pass it on.