Murphy Dome Diaries

A journalist observes life in the far north.

Kamikaze cab drivers

I thought the barely post-pubescent border guards in China, with their mild scoldings and wandering hands, were something else until arriving in Kathmandu today. The cab drivers here take all. I am convinced they are reincarnated Kamikaze pilots.

In cars barely bigger than a riding lawnmower, these cab drivers play chicken with buses, swerving out of the way at the last minute and swerving again to avoid hitting an elderly woman or a motorcycle.

The roads here are pure anarchy, with vehicles and pedestrains darting out at any given moment, elbowing their way into traffic whether there is an opening or not.

The cab drivers have learned to overcome their small size by driving with great daring, it seems.

The only way for me to cope with the terrifying ride from the airport was to suspend my concern for my own well-being. Fuck it, I decided. The only other option was to weep.

During my second cab ride, I went without Alec to the American embassy.

The concierge at the hotel recommended I pay no more than 100 rupees for the trip. The driver started the bartering at 600 rupees. I talked him down to 200.

This now seems silly to me because 600 rupees is only about $7. In a developing country where there are so many human needs, why can I not pay a guy seven bucks for a ride?

The problem is that when someone says the words “six hundred” with anything, well, that just seems like a lot to me and I desire to bring the price down.

In the end, I gave the guy 300 rupees for getting me back to the hotel in one piece.

At one point during the ride, in which I tried faking composure, I grabbed the dash board and yelled “Mercy!” to which the driver cracked up laughing.

Normally, I make small talk with cab drivers, especially in strange cities because cab drivers know everything. But not here. I am afraid to distract them.

In two days, we go to the country and I am feeling good about it because walking isn’t much better.

A well-dressed pre-pubescent boy with an earring in one of his ears followed Alec around the block, trying to hustle a free meal. He was the most non-kid like kid I have ever seen. He worked Alec like a seasoned pool shark works a dumb drunk.

I brushed my teeth with the tap water and now I am paranoid about getting sick.

Anxieties aside, everything here is a great adventure, even something as mundane as going around the block to buy a bottle of shampoo. I am loving it.

The view from the roof of our hotel, named Hotel Tibet.


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This entry was posted on March 31, 2009 by .
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