A Meditation on Taxi drivers

We’re in Dublin, having arrived via Baltic Air a little past midnight local time (around three a.m. Vilnius time.) I’ll share observations about the city itself in a subsequent post, but two experiences with cabbies are–in my opinion, at any rate–worth thinking about.

Yesterday we took a taxi from our hotel to the sole remaining synagogue in the city. (it was closed when we got there, but that’s a different issue.) The Lithuanian cabbie spoke halting English, and was surprised that we were from the US, because he could understand us–most Americans, he said, didn’t really speak English, but some confusing offshoot. (Given my undergraduate students’ written work, I had to agree.) when we got to our destination, he offered to wait for us, since it would be difficult on that street to get a taxi back. When I asked how much he would charge to wait a half-hour, he quoted us a ridiculously low amount; he was clearly genuinely worried how we’d get back.

Arriving late in Dublin, we took a cab from the airport. Our driver nearly talked our heads off, but–again–was a great ambassador for his city. When he found that this was our first trip to Ireland, he pointed to landmarks, took a couple of detours (which he didn’t charge for), and protested that we were tipping too much when we tried to compensate him with a generous tip.

My husband and I both remember when the Hudnut administration held regular “tourism training” sessions for cabdrivers and others who are the first face of the city–the people who give visitors their very first impression of the city. To my knowledge, Indianapolis no longer does these, and that’s a pity. Our experiences with these “road diplomats” left us with a very favorable impression of Vilnius and Dublin.

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