Posted by Cris on August 4, 2007
We only now realize how priviliged we were. We moved houses last weekend, for several reasons that are better not revealed here. Our trip from work to home used to be a seamless 20 minute jaunt, involving some walking and one “small taxi” ride, small taxis being regular 4 passenger taxis shared between 4 people, and everyone pays one birr. This is in contrast to the minibus taxis with12 people, and contract taxis with only you or your party.
Our commute now can last anywhere between 40 minutes and an hour, and involve as many as 3 minibus taxis. The reason it is so variable is because the taxidrivers and wayalas (the guys who shout out the taxi’s destination and take money while hustling people in and out of the taxi) decide their own routes, which means there is nothing close to even distribution of taxis. An example: yesterday Amy was trying to go to Piazza. She and a crowd of people were at the taxi stop waiting, and three taxis pull up. Everyone rushed forward (see ‘taxi riot’ later in the post), and all three taxis said they were going to Marcato, a different area of town. Nobody in the big crowd got in, everyone fell back to wait to go to Piazza. But all three empty taxis stood there empty, their wayalas determined to go to Marcato. Had one of them decided to change to Piazza he wouldve had not only a full taxi immediately, but people fighting to get seats. But no, Marcato it was, come hell or high water.
Taxi Riot: Coming home from work is a different story all together. We can get partway no problem, but there is a bottle neck where everyone waits for taxis to our new area, Tor Hailotch. And of course, there is also a lack of taxis. So this causes everyone, when a taxi pulls up, to crowd around it jostling for position in hopes that its a taxi to Tor Hailotch and that theyll be able to get in. People run along the taxi as it pulls in, trying to be in position when it stops, and some are even coordinated enough to jump in while it is still driving. The rest of us, who harbor the healthy fear of being run over, stand back and do our best to shove in once the doors open. Amy is good at this, being naturally feisty and small so she can sneak in. The problem is her feistyness turns to bad competitiveness, which the other night almost caused a problem when she got shoved out of the way by a big guy and retaliated by punching him in the back of the neck and screaming, “You f***er!”
Taxi karma: the only problem with this jostling is that you always always end up sitting next to the person you just elbowed in the nose. This happened to Amy and the guy she punched, and they had a mildly entertaining exchange in Amharic consiting of Amy telling him to be careful, because she was small, and him saying a lot of things we couldnt understand.