hiring a driver

While a missionary in Belgium–particularly in the place in Liege–I discovered taxis. The taxis there were all Mercedes Benz. I’d never to that point ridden in a taxi, nor in a Mercedes Benz. In my dreams we found good reason one day to hire a taxi. But it may have been only in my dreams, because as I recall far too well even decades later is that missionaries–even young people in general–don’t really have the budget to hail a cab. But perhaps we did it anyway. Just once. I’m not entirely sure.

In June of 2015 I found myself soaking wet dragging a carry-on bag, a CPAP, and a backpack through the cobblestone streets by the Baltic Sea in Helsinki. I was trying desperately to scout out where I was supposed to meet my husband and the rest of his tour group to take the ferry to St. Petersburg (I found out later I didn’t even have the correct name of the pier where we were to meet). I was determined to locate it and estimate the time to get from there to the market and back again–as I hadn’t eaten since breakfast–when I stumbled into some other cruise ship’s port and bumped into another American. He was tall, dark, and friendly. And told me he was a tour operator, gave me directions to where he thought the correct dock would be found, and offered to drive me back to the market for about $20. At that point, it was so worth it. But as I followed him to the parking lot I realized his “tour bus” was simply a plain black unmarked sedan. And I had no way of knowing if he was legit. I asked for more information about his “company” at which point he dug out a flyer and then I dug deep into my gut to see how I felt about this man who seemed like the nicest guy and felt just fine about it, so got in the passenger seat and asked him all about how he had come to live in Finland as he drove me to the market where I ordered a hot crepe and watched the steam come off it while I ate. He had given me his number for a return trip to the dock, but I resorted to more public means of transportation and did a lot of running to catch what I hoped were the correct buses until I made my way there and found more Americans who, like me–but way less drenched like a drowned rat–were waiting to meet up with this group of educators from America.

In February of 2016 I found myself in Chicago, wanting to make the most of the hours until my late flight out that afternoon. I mailed off the batteries that were either too hot or too powerful to take on the plane and downloaded the uber app from my hotel lobby–despite the fact that I still had a rental car which I would later return at the airport. And there was my first uber. It was the first of two ubers I took that day–as I prefer to experience a new place afoot and I couldn’t get enough of feeling both buried and protected by the tallest buildings I’d ever seen in my entire life. What I enjoyed the most besides a relatively affordable ride where the driver came to me was meeting new people and getting tiny glimpse into their lives as they told me about their families and why thy drover strangers around for a living.

Just last week my experience with uber was not so positive. Our first two rides–which I and my colleague shared, back from the national mall and then to our meeting in the federal building at 7:30am, were just fine. But as I stood, in pain, on the steps of the Air & Space Museum and watch not one, but two uber drivers cancel my request because they couldn’t seem to make it to the correct side of the street (the second one driving right past me and then–just as I caught him after running to find him–pulled out).

And I was done with uber.

I hailed a cab.

It was worth paying twice the price.

[Day 172 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]