So, ever since we opened this blog, we've been threatening ourselves with the notion of writing long, cynical stories about taxi drivers in Bucharest. From our experience, this has been one of the worst things about the city. Everything from taxi drivers who slyly charge 7.90 ron/km (this is about 5 times the going rate), to getting blackmailed for a laptop we once forgot in a taxi, to consistent fights with taxi drivers over small arbitrary amounts of money they've added onto the final meter reading, to multiple physical confrontations (taxi drivers getting out of the cab for a possible fight), to drivers who circle the city just to add a few rons onto the bill, to taxi drivers claiming that they don't have appropriate change (in the hope you have to just give them a large bill) --- we've seen it all (we hope). And it's only accentuated when you're a foreigner (although stories like these also happen to Romanians). So, I thought I'd tell a good story, for once.
It all started at 4:45AM near Piata Romana. I was accompanying my French friend to the train station. The appropriate rate from Piata Romana to the train station is about 8 or 9 Ron (after tip). After being rejected by the first taxi driver (yes taxi drivers decide whether the distance is long enough or it is in their interest to take you), we then approached another taxi driver who said he'd take us for 20 Ron. I laughed and said no. Then he said he'd do it for 15. I laughed again and said we'd only pay 10 Ron but my French friend was very nervous about being late, so he quickly caved in and decided the 15 Ron rate was fair enough.
As I often try to do during the ride, I started to speak with the driver in my shitty Romanian. This is usually my tactic to demonstrate that I'm not a tourist here, hopefully limiting my risk of getting screwed. So, if you can imagine talking with a Romanian 4 year old, this is about how it sounds talking to me in Romanian.
After a bit of chat, the taxi driver learned I was coming back to Piata Romana after dropping my friend at the train station, so he offered to wait for me while I bought my friend's train ticket and escorted him to the train platform. I agreed, because I don't particularly like the train station, or the taxi freaks that target clients there.
After taking care of my friend, I returned to the taxi for the 10 minute ride back to my house. During the short ride, we touched on some nice subjects -- NATO, life, culture, other languages, respecting the culture that you visit, etc. As we pulled into my neighborhood, he made sure to take me as close to my house as he could (not all taxi drivers like to do this) ... and then assuming the previous rate of 15 Ron, I handed him my money, smiled and started to leave. He then returned the smile and gave me 5 Ron back. He told me to have a nice day, we shook hands and I got out.
As insignificant as this sounds, I really appreciated this fair gesture by the taxi driver. It's the kind of thing that leaves you with a good taste in your mouth about people and humanity and taxi drivers. So, thank you, to the taxi driver who has changed my outlook on taxi drivers in Bucharest.