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Tales from the Taxi

So another evening and another taxi ride home.  Traffic was horrible this evening.  And my taxi driver was certifiably crazy.  While I appreciated his interest in practicing English (the teacher in me is ever-present), I wasn’t really in the mood to speak in broken sentences, smile politely and uncomfortably and make nice.  It was a long day.  Yup – not really in the mood to talk to a crazy cab driver after my really “fun” 12+ hour day.

I am closer and closer to renting a motorbike because for ONCE I would just like to step into a taxi and…

  • not have it smell like super stinky sweaty something or rather (I am constantly reminded of the Seinfeld episode with the valet driver/car smell).  I also don’t love it when whatever the smell is in the car gets on my clothes and I can faintly smell that stench all day (I have a strong sense of smell).
  • have the driver actually, truly, really know where we are going
  • upon giving directions to a clueless driver, have them actually listen instead of argue with or ignore me
  • when pointing which direction to go, the driver doesn’t follow the line down my arm and finger to see the direction I’m pointing in
  • on excursions different from the home/work route, the driver doesn’t insist on taking the long way around, making that extra buck
  • the driver actually knows how to operate the vehicle – for example, understands that you cannot shift into 5th gear at 20MPH.  AND that you cannot take off from a red light in 3rd gear OR that the rumbling of the car means you are in too high a gear for 7MPH
  • the driver doesn’t answer his cell phone while driving, slowing down and nearly causing numerous accidents – driving in Hanoi requires your full attention.
  • the driver doesn’t madly beep his horn, flick his lights and tail the cars in front of him.  When this happens, all I can think is that he would be a casualty of road rage in Los Angeles. I have not yet gone numb to the horn honking.  Hope not to.
  • not wanting to use the passenger floor board as my imaginary brake pedal, and sometimes gas pedal too!
  • not quickly shut my eyes in fear that we are going to cream the lady and her kids on the motorbike
  • the driver doesn’t hit a motorbike and then get out, scream and yell at the woman, escaping blame for the incident simply because he’s yelling and she’s not because she probably slightly in shock and a bit banged up.
  • the driver “actually” has money in his wallet to make change.  I’m not that friggin’ generous to leave you double the fare.
  • step out of the taxi without getting dust, dirt or some sort of muck on my pants

And while we are on the topic of transportation, I just have to say here that the motorbike drivers here totally freak me out.  I feel like I’m being stalked when walking around.  It’s so creepy to be strolling down your street and hear from the shadows of darkness, “Moto?”  And this is all said in low voices with a boogey man in the voice.  Seriously – freaks me out.  I especially hate it when I am walking roadside and a motorbike driver approaches from behind and nearly whispers in my ear as he’s slowed his bike next to me, “Moto?”  We’re lucky I haven’t punched someone yet and instead have acquired the ability to give them the look of death which requires no words and they drive on.  Seriously.  Me no likey!!!

My buddy Pete has put me in touch with his friend who rents motorbikes.  So be prepared, my friends.  I may just take to the streets over the weekend.  The freedom of driving around whenever and wherever I want has become irresistible!

Motorbike Wars

Morning Commute – This is what my commute looks like in the morning.  And this is actually a good day.  This is not congested at all.


The day I get my own motorbike is growing near.  I need the freedom to come and go as I please and I am growing quite tired of relying on motorbike and taxi drivers.

I’m particularly surprised with how little English the cab drivers speak, and by how often I am instructing them which turns to make and where to go.  Because of their lack of English, when you show them and address and try to confirm if they know it or not, all you get is an “OK OK OK”.  And numerous times, the guy who says “OK” and seems to understand, makes a wrong turn or takes the long way around or has to pull over to consult a map – never mind that I am trying to tell him that I know where we are going!  But I could go on for hours about taxis in Hanoi.  Let’s stay on the topic of motorbikes…

I’ve talked about the Tang man before.  He’s my driver in the morning.  I send a text message at night for the time to pick me up in the morning like

3.20.09  8:00am ok?

And he replies with a simple “ok”.  Rudimentary, but it works. I don’t speak Vietnamese, he doesn’t speak English.  It’s a classic case of k.i.s.s.

But recently I found a motorbike driver who stays around my work area.  Mr. Ha speaks a little English, is a safe driver and can be at my work in five minutes.  So I developed a good system.  The Tang man takes me to work.  Mr. Ha takes me home.  Win-Win-Win.

Just before Berlin, Mr. Ha went out to the countryside to visit family.  He called to tell me he wouldn’t be available.  I told him I’d call him after Berlin.  Cool.

When I came back from Berlin, the Tang man picked me up the next morning.  I had the receptionist explain that I forgot to tell him I went out of town and that I apologize for not contacting him before my trip.  He said it was no problem, but asked why I never call him to pick me up at work. I had to remind him that he told me he’s busy at night taking my friends Anna or MJ to their gig at night.  He said to call him anyway and that if he’s busy, so be it, but if he’s free, he’d like to take me home.  Fair enough.

So, feeling a bit of jet lag in the first days back, I asked him to be at the office at 6pm.  And I did this for the past three nights because, frankly, I’m exhausted.  I can barely keep my eyes open at work and just need to ease back into the Vietnamese clock.  And I always thought I did pretty good with jet lag.  Whatever – anyway…

Well yesterday, I get a call during the day from Mr. Ha.  I missed the call and figured he was telling me that he was back from the countryside or on his way there and simply wanted to check in with me.  He’s a good salesman in that way.

After I got home and got cozy on the couch with my laptop, about 8:30pm.  I saw that Mr. Ha was calling again.  I didn’t want to deal, frankly.  An hour later, I was about to hit the sack and Mr. Ha called again.  Surely that would be the last time.  He can’t be that desperate for my business, nor that curious about my whereabouts.  Could he?

I drifted off into dreamland only to to be jolted awake, thinking my alarm was going off.  10:30pm.  I rolled over, I just want to get some sleep, people!!!

The last call came at 11:50pm.  Then I was angry.  And I didn’t pick up the phone because I didn’t want to yell profanity at the man.  But I was extremely bothered by this.  Was he drunk?  Why would a motorbike driver ever need to call me at 11:50pm. EVER???

The next day, I had one of my staff members, Mr. Nam help me.  I told him the situation.  He thought it also strange and unacceptable.  So he called Mr. Ha for me.  Mr. Ha apologized profusely but said that he was very concerned because he had asked around and heard from others that I had found a new motorbike driver.  He wanted to talk with me about this because he asked and who-knows-who told him they’d seen me with another driver.  Mr. Nam explained that if I needed his services, I would call him, but asked Mr. Ha not to call me again.


Like I need this.  Now I’m supposed to feel like I’m cheating every time I hop on the back of someone else’s motorbike?  He asked other people about my motorbike habits? WTF???

Mr. Ha needs to chill out and realize that the Tang man, who I met when I traveled here last year, is my main biker dude.  And Mr. Ha needs to figure out that the moment he called me more than once in a day, and at 11:50 at night – he lost my business for good.  What a ding dong.

Not only am I tired of relying on others to get around town, but I do not enjoy being made a pawn in some weirdo motorbike driver war.  I’ve got my heart set on a Honda Airblade, red, slick and automatic, and at this point I don’t think I can buy it quick enough.

On the Bright Side,



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