Thursday, July 30, 2015

Taxi Cab Wars in Amman

One of the things you have to put up with when you are an expat is the battle against the Taxi Cabs. Cab drivers around the world can be your ambassador to the country or city and sometimes they can really turn you off from a city. In Amsterdam, the taxi guys who worked the Centraal Train Station were crooks. I learned to direct them to the police station that shared an address with my house if they were refusing to use the meter there. In DC, it was so bad, they made a movie about it starring Mr. T

In Bangkok, we all have stories of the crazy cab drivers... refusing to take you places, dumping you off on the side of the highwayrefusing to use their meters, charging $25 to go two blocks, discrimination, clipping toenails and snorting weird substances and if you aren't lucky, murdering their customers.
I thought at first that Amman, Jordan might be a bit easier than Thailand. My first three months went okay aside from loud "bellydancer" music and the non stop smoking in the cabs. But last night was apparently the beginning of the end of my honeymoon period. 

After stopping three times on my normally 20 minute ride home last night (for water for himself, to check the oil in the car, to add more oil to the car), the taxi cab pulled over four times to ask for directions to the very famous shopping mall (Taj Mall) I gave him as a landmark. He managed to get himself lost in the valleys around Abdoun. We went under the bridge four times. Finally, he got another taxi driver to lead him to where we were going. At this point, I had been in the taxi about an hour and he had had 10 cigarettes and the sun had set.

We finally arrive at our destination and the meter says 3.75. I had him a 5 and wait with my hand outstretched for my change. He makes a lame attempt to look in his pocket and says no change. We're in front of several restaurants, a 7-11 type place and a liquor store. So I say, i only have 5 or 2 JD. No change! No change! So I throw the 2 JD at him and get out of the cab. I walk into the liquor store to avoid him. He starts complaining to the myriad Jordanian men who hang out in front of liquor stores about me. They come in and say "Miss, he says you only paid him 2JD and he took you here all the way from Khalda". My dander gets up "He stopped three times, got lost, took an hour and then tried to cheat me! " I said - "Ignore him, he knows what he did." The liqour store advocate agrees with me and goes out and yells at the taxi driver. The incompetent taxi man keeps going around and complaining about me to all the other men hanging in front of the liquor store.

Another one comes in to complain for him to me. "YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS!" I said with a fiery face. They all looked frightened. I came outside - yelled at the taxi driver some more and then went into the restaurant to meet my friend. The valet parker comes over to talk to the maitre d while I'm waiting to be seated to say what the taxi driver said. "DO NOT GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS!" I shouted, "He tried to cheat me, he was incompetent and I am not going to pay him a penny more." At this point, I was ready to give him 5 JD just to get rid of him but I really hated the idea of being bullied and cheated. I went into the ladies room. A Jordanian-American woman asked me what was wrong, I told her. She agreed with me. She said, "IF anyone gives you any trouble, I will help you. You just call me." I went back outside and asked for a table for two. Everyone looked at each other, shrugged, and that was the end of that.

I, however, needed three beers to calm down.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

An ode from 2011 to a former love

I have fallen head over heels with a Swedish peacekeeper. He smells of sunshine and herring. We talk about curry and war and when he makes love to me, he sounds like a seal pup. I want to cling to him like a starfish on a rock but he went back to Sweden after a perfect day of sunshine and scallops.

First time I was published

For those of you who know about my love life travails, here's something that might point out some patterns I've been in for a long time! In 1999, I wrote a letter to Garrison Keillor who was writing an advice column for at the time.

Dear Mr. Blue,

I've fallen in love! He plays me Joni Mitchell CDs, sends me poetry, feeds me Cherry Garcia. We talk for hours at a time. He is teaching me how to zydeco dance and I'm teaching him about social justice in Guatemala. He makes me laugh and I'm not afraid to sing around him. After seven years of numbness brought on by a terrible relationship, the death of my mother and a bout with clinical depression, I feel alive again and happy and ready to trust and open up my heart. I'm writing again and finally feel like a whole person. I feel calm and giddy at the same time.

There is one problem: He has a girlfriend of almost three years and didn't tell me that until after we had begun dating. Yes, that's a big problem. He has told me that he loves her and will not leave her right now but he is falling in love with me. I am afraid that when the hurt comes, it will numb me for another seven years. I want him in my life. Should I trust my heart and open up and love and deal with the pain later? Or should I trust my women friends who tell me not to have anything to do with a man who is deceiving his girlfriend? It is hard to think of turning my back on this happiness after having been miserable for so long.

Swept Away

Dear Swept,

It's too bad that, underneath all the singing and zydeco and poetry and Cherry Garcia, there is a lie sticking up like a post. He started dating you while he was still with a girlfriend whom he loves. The man is confused, at best, and you need to clarify the situation for him by creating some distance here. Stop sleeping with him, for one thing. If you want to rescue the relationship, you need to ease back to the beginning and rebuild on honest foundations. And he needs to deal with the girlfriend, whom he is still lying to, apparently. You're not going to slip back into seven years of depression -- you already did that, and it's over. You may get angry at him for seducing you so well, but that's different. This man is not the cause of your happiness; he is only the vehicle. He's the actor you choose to play opposite you in scenes that you yourself create out of the lavish abundance of your heart, and if the vehicle crashes, if the actor walks out, you still have that abundance to take elsewhere. You won't crash if he drops you, because you're not a puppet. You can sing anywhere you like.