Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In Which Guilt Wins Over Pain

Last thing’s first – we are never, ever moving to Jakarta. I know what I said the other day, but that was before my feet turned into the local fly-through McDonalds for all of the bugs in Indonesia.

If it weren’t for my world-famous self-restraint, I would have hit bone days ago in my quest to rid myself of this persistent itch. As it is, I am walking around with my arms and feet drenched in Off and reeking to high heaven of bug repellant, all in the vain hope that the mosquitoes (and all their other Satan loving, Typ0 devouring, evil friends) will stop nipping at me. The other people in the house keep talking about the lack of mosquitoes and reveling in their itch-free existences.

I hate them all.

Of course, they’re not being eaten alive – I’m here to protect them! Why settle for a Hubby snack when you can feast upon the wondrously tasty treat known as Typ0?!

But I am no longer allowed to feel self-pitying about my itchy (and I mean itchy) state. You see, without meaning to, I did a very bad thing yesterday. And worse, I actually feel really badly about it.

Let me preface this tale by telling you a short story. You see, in both Delhi and Nairobi, the primary sport of most businesses (be they taxis, touts, or simple hawkers), is to “screw the white guy.” The game doesn’t change whether you are gora or mzungu – you will be overcharged, double charged, or shortchanged. This is all part of being a “rich” person in a “poor” country.

Like most good games, this one is played by two people. You know you’re being charged twice as much so you haggle good naturedly and only overpay by a little rather than by a lot. You both win since you both feel that you got something over on the person and you each look forward to the next round of tournament play.

That’s the game. And those are the rules. Only, no one told me that taxis in Jakarta didn’t know about or even play the game.

So yesterday I called a Blue Bird taxi to take me to meet Hubby et al for a cup of coffee. After waiting the requisite 30 minutes for the darned thing to show up, I hopped in and told the cabbie where I wanted to go.

Upon arrival at the café, the meter read 18,500 Rupiahs so I gave the driver 20,000R and considered it all good. “No! No! Must pay,” he pointed at a sign beside me on the door. “You call?”

The sign stated that anyone who called ahead for a cab had to pay a 25,000R minimum. My Mzungu Meter immediately went off. We had never been ordered to pay a minimum on any of the other taxis we had ordered during the week. I threw my shoulders back, pulled out my patented uber-bitch voice, and gently explained that this was not my first trip to the circus. “I take taxis everyday and I always order ahead. I have never had to pay a minimum. I will pay what is on the meter!”

We back and forthed for a few minutes while I tried to explain that I wasn’t a stupid foreigner he could trick and he tried to urge me to pay the extra 5000R (or 50 cents). In the end he admitted defeat and I exited from the taxi as the victor.

Only it turns out that I am a stupid (and as it turns out mean and untrusting) foreigner. When I regaled the awaiting crowd at the café, Canuck Girl explained gently that Jakarta wasn’t like that. In fact, she continued, Blue Bird is famous for the being honest with foreigners. The 25,000R charge was valid and I should have paid.

I felt (and still feel) beyond horrible. I honestly thought the taxi driver had been trying to fleece me but it turns out he was just doing his job. Can you say GUILT? *sob*

Wherever you are, Mr. Taksi guy, I’m really sorry. I didn’t know. But that doesn’t excuse my bad manners. Sorry.


Aurenna said...

Holy crap, the comments box worked!!!

Firstly, ouch! I feel your pain! Excuse the look of extreme disfigurement (it was taken from a dodgy angle, lol), but this is me the last time I went to Italy. JUST Italy. The bugs love me:¤t=leg.jpg

Secondly, don't worry about the taxi driver. Tip the next one a touch more than you normally would if it makes you feel better. How were you supposed to know you were in the one country dealing with the one taxi firm that didn't take pleasure in screwing you over?

Aurenna said...

(Apparently you'll have to extend the window to see that link in full. Ghey.)

Anonymous said...

Re mosies: I had to take the visitor to the health clinic yesterday because he had scratched one of the many bites and it had gone septic.
Moral: don't scratch. Waiting in the clinic definitely isn't worth it. Try antihistamines.