Tuesday, October 8

A country of untamed cheats?

As I stepped outside of the gates, a man approached me quickly, asking whether I needed a taxi. I politely declined, as polite as one can be at 4am in the morning. It didn't take another minute when another driver approached me, quickly following with my space. I once again declined, but he pressed. And so I got into his cab. He said there is a meter in the car but when I heard him ask me how much I usually pay I knew there was something fishy. And fishy it was. The man wanted to charge me 30manat (approx. 30EUR) for a ride that costs half of that (I know because I have taken taxis from the airport home before). He then suggested I leave my suitcase in the car while I negotiate with the other taxis because "trust me sister" he said, "thats how much you are going to pay no matter what". My patience was slowly running out. For some reason he then suggested that I take a cab of another taxi driver (of the same company) but who already had a passenger. "So what there is a passenger, she is a woman, you can go together" (and that was after he suggested he takes another passenger). Angrily I crossed the street while the men continued shouting behind me (did I mention that it was raining?). I reached a London cabbie. The driver did not let me open the door- he first asked where I was going. Unhappy with the destination he then asked how much I would pay- to which I snapped and said "whatever your meter shows". He said 20manat, I said it costs 14 tops. He didn't give in but yelled at another London cabbie driver telling me its his turn anyway (but if I was to pay 20 it would have been his turn?)

By this point, I am angry. My "new" driver, says not to pay attention, which his attitude apparently to everything as I later learn in the car. 

We take off. He first asks me if I have local currency. I say yes, to which he asks a following question "do you have change?". I had few 1manat bills left from my last trip. I handed 1manat bill to him asking whether this is a new regulation- passengers paying for the parking too? To which he said no, it just he didn't have any change. 

We continue. I look at the meter, and its "flying". I ask the driver, whether this is normal. He says that its absolutely normal and that I should not worry (who said I was worried, contrary, I was FRUSTRATED). "I see you are not a fool" he says to which I simply start laughing. "No, I say, I am no fool, especially when I come back home and have to face situations like this and deal with people like your driver buddies". "You can call *9000 service and express your concern" he tells me as if hinting to something. "I will call tomorrow and make sure I complain about the other driver who wouldn't take me for what the meter was showing but for a set price". I think by this point he realized that I really was not a fool and decided to back his friend. "You know, you shouldn't, because we all are trying to earn money here". Aha! There we go- the essence of corruption and cheating has reached our veins, thank you dear Azerbaijani government for making sure of this. Its something you should be very proud of! 

Then comes the personal story- he was once hassled by a police officer. His driving license was taken, he had to pay bribes and so on and so forth. But then he decided to ask a "Russian speaking" friend (this is how he himself described him) "because you know, they know things and have read things" he says. His "Russian speaking" Gandalf the great tells him to complain. And so, the taxi driver finds himself at a police station (he recalls it was Nesimi but wasn't very sure) and tells the story. The prosecutor first asks him where the driver is from (because the prosecutor apparently senses the driver is a local, from Baku), the driver responds (he was from Baku). And so, here are the wise words of the prosecutor general who takes care of business "friend, these things- complaining as such- are not things for you to be doing, it doesn't suit it. These are 'cindir' (which literally means a piece of shred but when used in slang it basically means not worthy) actions". The funny thing is the prosecutor did help the driver and he did punish the police officer who harassed the driver in the first place but... 

Here is the morale (according to the driver)... Don't do "cindir" things like this, because its not nice. To which, of course, I immediately respond "protecting your rights and asking for what actually belongs to you and seeking justice is not "cindir". If you don't take care of yourself no one will". 

The man got quiet. I think he thought I was either a crazy woman saying weird things like rights, protection and etc.

He agreed surprisingly however. It was time for me to get off. The meter was showing 13,40. I gave me 15 (on top of that additional one). He didn't give me any change. I asked whether he was intending to. He said "I don't have any change". I kindly asked him to carry some smaller bills on him because not overcharging would make his next customer much happier when leaving the taxi. He said, this was a great ride. I also urged him to vote- the man had no idea (or so he pretended) about the upcoming elections. 

But there was something else he said that really got me. As I was telling him about the bills and all, he turned around and said to me "we haven't been tamed yet".

So where does that leave us friends? A country of untamed cheats?

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