Asia markets fall as energy stocks come under pressure    Dollar pauses vs yen after getting lift from US yields    Oil lingers around $50 over doubts OPEC can coordinate output cut    LG Electronics says third-quarter profit down 3.7 percent vs. year earlier    US election: What Trump interviews with biographer tell us    US election daily dig: Clinton's Death Row chic    No pain, no gain    Terror's shifting battleground    Trump losing big    Cairo and Tehran: What's in a picture?    Some hope, but not much    Not good enough    The best of both    Star is selected    MUSIC AND DANCE    Work on the GEM continues    A flamenco master    Collapsed legitimacy of the Brotherhood    Cheesy potato gratin    Cute winter hairstyles    Acting against harassment    Parliament and religious IDs    GCC countries score high in quality of life    Editorial: Good, but more needed    Sisi forms committee to revise cases of young activists in detention    National Youth Conference kicks off today in Egypt's Sharm El Sheikh    Police officers suspected to be behind Ismailia jail break    UK tries to make up for burying explosives in Egypt's western desert    Egyptian fishermen detained near Tunisian port of Sfax    EU, UNDP inaugurate artificial limbs centre in Egypt's north west coast    Egypt, Japan to sign two financing deals in final week of October    Prominent Egyptian poet Farouq Shousha dies at 80    Bob Dylan wins Nobel Literature Prize first time for songwriter    Serena Williams speaks out against police killings: 'I won't be silent'    Supercar maker McLaren says not in talks with Apple    Sherif Osman Secures Egypt's First Gold Medal at Rio Paralympic Games    تغريدة - هكذا كانت تهنئة نجوم وفرق العالم للمسلمين بعيد الأضحى    صورة- ذا روك يعلن عن بطلة فيلمه الجديد Jumanji 2    Court sentences Geneina to 1 year in prison    Egypt will always remain an oasis of security: Sisi    Egyptian Exchange gains EGP 2 billion on Thursday    Obama Passes Torch to Clinton, Slams Trump    Egypt in the international media    Azhar rejects Egypt govt decision to standardise Friday sermons    British delegation agreed MB designation as a terrorist group, MPs    Egypt in the international media    Egyptian Lebanese House to release Shahawy's new book next month    Antiquities Min. to extend Archaeological Transcripts& Books Fair    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

The black and the white
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 13 - 09 - 2012

That the driver of a black-and-white Cairo taxi used the meter must surely be mentioned in a publication that should be entitled the Guinness Book of Strange and Unusual Occurrences. In the dark days of 1983, a colleague and I hailed a taxi from the wilds of Ard el-Golf, Heliopolis, to the urbane High Dam Street in Mohandiseen.
Without hesitation or the oft-asked question that frequently sounded more like a challenge than a request for information ‘Btidfa3 kam?' (How much you gonna pay for this privilege?), the driver bade us board his vehicle and, no sooner were the doors slammed shut a few times (their catches did not quite catch), we were whisked as if on an albeit clunky magic carpet ride to our destination, where there was the promise of a barbecue by Brits.
What jostles for attention among the recollections of burnt meat tasting of paraffin, salads that had died of heatstroke and conversation competing with the cacophony of late 1970s ‘sounds' was the deft twist of a switch to activate the meter in the taxi that had conveyed us to the aforementioned marvels. Indeed, the fare was only two Egyptian pounds – eighty piastres more than a packet of Cleopatra cigarettes in the white floppy pack.
In fact, two pounds was a great sum in those days: you could buy a ten-course meal, see three films at the Metro cinema downtown, and still have change to treat your friends to a banquet at the Mena House Hotel in the shadow of the Pyramids of Giza. Despite the slight exaggeration, the price of a bottle of Stella (when it actually contained one whole litre – yes, a litre of the light yellow nectar) was a mere ‘inteen gineeh, ya bey'.
Those days are gone forever, alas. Just as vehicles with suicide doors will eventually have their date with destiny in a crusher in the suburbs. Remember the Mercedes that probably dated from the days of ‘Mein Kampf' and Bratwurst with Ersatz mustard?
They plied the streets majestically with their Germanic charm under the black-and-white livery peculiar to the greatest city in Africa. Recall their steering column with the gear-change facility under the wheel? Even after decades of wear, tear, tears and the occasional dent, those taxis offered comfort and a whiff of luxury of an age that lives on in monochrome spy thrillers with a bespectacled Michael Kane and a thoroughly wrinkled John Hurt.
What about the Peugeot 508, eh? This workhorse of taxi transport had shock absorbers that threatened the potholes – not vice-versa. For at least 20 years, the Gallic ‘P' was the prime private person mover. When you got it, your head did not hit the ceiling as you settled into the passenger seat.
That dubious pleasure was the feature of the Pony and other models that looked as if they had begun life much larger when they came off the assembly line, but shrunk alarmingly after the first wash.
Just because the driver agreed to take you somewhere did not mean that you had exclusive right over the conveyance. A wizened harridan laden with a tonne of wrinkly carrots might bawl out her desired port of call into the open window. The driver would stop. The creature would pick up her wares and hobble to the back door, which would not be opened from the inside. As for winding the window down back there, ask the driver for the handle.
‘I'm taking this gent to Mohandiseen,' the driver warns.
‘Werl, couldn't you tike me to Ismailiyya, mister?' she inquires.
“Sawright if we tike ‘er to Ismailiyya, inni, mate?" the driver asks you.
Accommodating as ever, you agree, even though you will six hours late for your appointment. There follows an endless monologue from the harridan in the back about not being able to keep carrots unwrinkled ‘speshally in this heat an' all'.
The taxi driver might ask for your blessing on his trip to the nearest petrol station. You cannot say ‘no', unless you want to spend a few hours pushing a taxi along Salah Salem to the next filling station, which could be the one by the Central Agency for Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) building and you are currently near the Police Academy. Besides, such detours may afford an opportunity for impromptu mirth.
On pulling into a petrol station, your writer noticed a line of orange cones in front of the doorway of the adjoining shop.
‘You know why they've put those cones in front of that doorway, don't you?' I ventured.
The driver said ‘no'.
‘So that a Saidi doesn't drive his car into the shop,' I said.
‘I'm a Saidi,' my chauffeur informed me.
‘In that case, putting those orange cones there has the desired effect.'
‘Ho-ho-ho,' he guffawed – sort of.
It was a long walk from the CAPMAS building to the Police Academy that day.
And the ingenuity of those old school taxi drivers! For example, if there is no ignition key, hot wire the taxi. Key? Pshaw! For cissies! Windscreen wipers on the blink and it suddenly decides to rain? Drive on regardless, while flicking a rag over the windscreen from the inside. For my money, the screwdriver in lieu of an indicator light arm is a classic.
Seatbelts? What seatbelts? I remember riding with what felt like a wide piece of black elastic across my chest as an excuse for a seatbelt when the law for such was enforced for the second time in January 2001. A few weeks later, no one cared about these in-car refinements.
Do you experience such adventures with the white taxis, for all their chequered trim, air fresheners, seatbelts de rigeur and flawless bodywork? How long will all that last, anyway?

Clic here to read the story from its source.