Posted by: Jena Davison | January 13, 2010

Negotiating in All the Right Places

Living in Quito, I have quickly learned that you ALWAYS have to negotiate with cab drivers before you get in the cab or else you will get ripped off. Before sundown, taxis are supposed to use meters by law, but most will not use them unless you ask. And even when you do, they will most likely say they don´t have one or it is magically broken for the time being. I have almost always knocked at least a dollar off of their proposed fare; and if at first they persist, usually saying ¨OK, I´ll find another cab then,¨ while opening the door as if to leave will convince them to comply. A dollar a day definitely adds up, especially in a place where fixed-price lunches or almuerzos cost between $1.25-2.50 and a cerveza grande (large beer) costs $0.75 at the local market.

Cab drivers here also love to make conversation…perhaps hoping it will lead to making love? It´s almost like they have a formulated list of questions to ask in order (do they have a cab academy where they teach them all this stuff?):

Where are you from? What part of the United States? What are you doing in Quito? How long have you been here? How long are you staying? Are you single?! (just get to the point, you don´t need to warm me up with generic questions, simply ask me what your getting at because you will ask me eventually–you want to know if I´m single, right?)

I was asked this last question on a taxi ride home one of my first nights out in the Mariscal, a clusterfuck of bars and clubs and bar-club hybrids where gringos flock and locals follow (to get on the gringos), and replied no. I don´t know where it came from, seeing as though I am not in any sort of relationship whatsoever, but I guess I wanted to subconsciously avoid the potential harassment that could follow. I have been warned about the persistence of Ecuadorian men and I probably chose to avert a potential crisis.

He then responded with,¨Are you married?¨which I quickly replied with a sour face and a no.

¨So you’re single,¨ he said, not at all kidding. (So, if I´m not married, the only other option is that I’m single? What about that vast space in between called relationships–you know, which men and women all over the world pore over every minute of every day?)

¨No,¨ I lied. ¨I have a boyfriend.¨

¨Where does he live?¨and ¨Is he coming to visit?¨ came next (and are now the expected follow-up questions).

Where he lives and when he is coming to visit (he is always coming to visit) are when I trade in my yes and no responses for some more creative banter. My made-up boyfriend has lived in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Chicago and California. He misses me so much and will probably visit soon. This is getting to be fun. I’ve never been asked his name, though I suppose he could be a Jimmy, Mark or Benjamin. OK, you get the point.

I wish this was one isolated incident but it happens almost every time I get into a cab, especially at night. I don’t find it harmful at all, but rather a bit annoying and utterly rehearsed; and I don’t take it to be flattering at all a) knowing that this conversation happens with probably every lone gringa girl that flags them down and b) because I am not particularly aspiring to get with a taxi driver. But for the time being, I do think I have effectively learned to negotiate truth for lie and dime for nickle in these scenarios, though I suppose they are just getting started.

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Responses

  1. cuídate, chica
    i love you jena and i’ll be your boyfriend!

  2. Hi Jena!,

    It looks and sounds like you are having an amazing trip and experience! You are a really talented writer and I very much enjoy following your blog and checking out your photos.

    stay well,
    Adam


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