I am taking language classes, as you do when you move to a foreign country and want to know what is happening around you. I go twice a week in the afternoons and its not near my house so I need to take a taxi. It’s hot. Otherwise I would walk. But mostly I don’t have the patience to walk to there and I only want to walk back from there when my head is full of Darija. When its not hot. Which is not in April. That ship has sailed for the summer months.
So I have a little routine that keeps me on track. I leave my house at a pre-set time and walk to a little cafe that has nice things to eat for lunch. I buy myself a sandwich and enjoy the sun and the passersby and review my notes. Then I walk about a block further along and cross a main street to catch a taxi going in my direction. I know the hand signals for the taxis now so I indicate that in several metres I’m blowing straight through the roundabout to continue straight. Then they let me off about a 4 minute walk from my destination and Bob is my Uncle. Safi. (Done). Costs me about 10 dirham for the taxi which works out to about $1.40 Canadian or $1.00 US.
So today I follow my routine. Everyone’s happy. Sunny day. Tuna sandwich. Up the street. I’m in position for a taxi. A few blow past but whatever, their loss. No hard feelings. Then one stops. I lean towards the opening in the passenger side window so I can announce my destination and we can discuss if that is suitable to him. No point getting in if he’s not going that direction.
So I lean and say “Afek, heada McDonalds, Route de Casa. Now I have said 3 things on purpose to alert the man that I am not your average tourist. I said afek and heada which means, please and near and I said route de Casa – not Route de Casablanca. “Dude, I live here. Don’t be a dick.” He takes one look at me and says “50 dirham”
WHAAAAAATTTTTTTTT ? I will not pay you FIVE TIMES the going rate. “Off with you” I said. I’m white. I’m not crazy.
So I walk up the road. No taxis are coming. Its getting to be close to start time. I hate being late. A few taxis drive past me and don’t stop. I keep walking. I try again. One finally, FINALLY stops for me. I stick my head in and have at ‘er again with my whole speil. I even throw in a “sheel?” which means “how much” in Darija.
He takes one look at me and says “50 dirham”. COME ON. Seriously. Do I look that dumb to you. Dude. OFF WITH YOU. “Shuma” (May shame reign down upon your head).
Now I’m mad, hot and potentially late. Many things run through my mind. How will I get there? I can’t walk, it’s too far and no time. It’s hot. If I walk I will be 20 minutes at LEAST. I’m not wearing the right shoes to walk – at all. Who can I call for a ride? Don’t be daft. I don’t know anyone with a car. Can I buy a car? No. The only dealership on the way is Volvo and I don’t want a Volvo. I keep walking. Cursing the taxi drivers out to rip me off. I will not succumb to this treatment. I think of people who have MUCH, much, MUCH bigger problems and feel better. I let a few van taxi’s go by. (Too expensive). A few don’t stop. Some are full and keep going. I persevere for lack of choice.
Then I see it.
A green grande taxi circa 1947. Taxi’s in Marrakech are yellow. This one is green. And it’s the old Oldsmobile model of grande taxi which means it (used to) go outside the city back in its heyday. Which was not this millenium. It’s a beater. But I’ll take it. I’m late. Let’s go. Pronto-saurus buddy.
I lean in the window and I say – “McDonalds, sheel?” I’ve lost all sense of adventure. The old man just looks at me and laughs “Sheel?” Hahaha. And he motions for me to get in. Alright. I don’t get it, but I can argue when we get there, let’s just go.
“Labaas” he says to me as we get underway. I pull out my most perfect Darija (because we just covered greetings last class). “Labaas, lHamdullleelah. Oo nta?” That means, I’m fine and you?” He smiles. This is not tourist talk. He says “B’heil” Which means something. Good maybe. I don’t know. Moroccan greetings (thankfully) can take an entire taxi ride because they are long and drawn out. We exchange some words. I say “mstrfeen” which means nice to meet you. (Don’t judge me, I’m tossing out everything in my workbook.) He is just so completely amused (and dare I say enchanted?) by my knowledge and use of Darija that he just keeps talking and I in return, keep talking too.
We approach the big roundabout and I’m so late I decide to push my luck and say “leemon” which means to the right. He goes right. I say “leemon” again and he turns into the street I want. I say “lessor” (left) and he pulls up RIGHT in front of my school. I’m thrilled with this little interaction. It’s like real life roll play and I’m WINNING.
Then I say “sheel?” and he REFUSES TO TAKE MY MONEY. Won’t have it. Will hear nothing of it! Free taxi ride! What? Woot, woot! Ya me. Then he says something about “telephone” and I wag my finger and say “La, la. Raajelee.” That means no way dude, I have a husband. And he very politely shrugs it off and says “Sorry, sorry.” Finally I give him 10 dirham – “PLEASE” I say. “You must” and he puts it on the dashboard.
So take that you creepy predecessors and your 50 dirham nonsense. I got a free taxi ride! Even though I gave him 10 dirhams.