Thursday, June 13, 2013

A bad taxi driver in Paris



Like many big cities, Paris has its share of good taxi drivers and bad ones.

The risk of getting into a taxi with a bad driver is one of the main reasons I prefer to hire hotel cars when abroad, even if they cost more.

Or to rent a car, if I'm traveling with someone. I don't like driving abroad but I'm very good at navigating and getting directions right in practically any city, so a rental car is a real option.



TO THE OTHER END.
AND THEN NOT QUITE BACK.

We have a rental car on this trip to France.

But for some reason, we decided to leave it with valet parking at our hotel, the lovely Shangri-la Paris, on the afternoon we went all the way to the end of Paris to board a private boat to take us around the city by water.

Everything proceeded as planned until the time we'd finished our boat cruise and it was time to go home. We got a taxi and told the driver to take us back to the Shangri-la Paris.

NO SMAL TALK, PLEASE.



As soon as we'd gotten in, the taxi driver tried to make small talk with us.

Call me jaded (which I almost never am, by the way), but I really look with suspicion at taxi drivers in Europe who try to make small talk with me by asking my nationality, my city, or how long I'm staying in their city.

Some of them may simply want to practice English. Or maybe they just want to be friendly.



But the few times I've had this kind of driver in a big tourist city like Paris or Madrid have not been happy.

I find that they usually want to distract you from something -- such as the fact that they've not put the meter on, or the fact that they're taking you on a really long and way more expensive route to your destination because you're a tourist.

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STRAIGHT OUT OF PARIS

So in Paris a few days ago, the minute our taxi driver started asking us all kinds of questions in simple English, I said to the Travel Companion in the vernacular: "Don't continue this conversation please."

Fortunately, he knows better than to question a Travelife when I talk like this.

Sure enough, we'd boarded the taxi just outside the marina, and this taxi driver was driving us straight out of the city instead of back into Paris, as he asked us all these typical questions for tourists.

PLANS FOR A U-TURN?

Finally, after he'd passed a second possible U-turn place, I spoke up and asked him in French: "When are you planning to make a U-turn to take us back into central Paris?"



I said this rather nicely still, but I was as firm as could be.

Unfortunately, not a few taxi drivers take tourists for a ride because they think tourists know nothing about the place they're in. And the Shangri-la Paris is in a location as central as you can get.

While driving, he turned his head around to give me a what-are-you-talking-about look that was supposed to make me feel like I was the stupidest person in the world. I guess this was supposed to intimidate me.

Then, in French the driver replied, "But that is Paris straight ahead. We're going in the right direction."



PARIS BLINDFOLDED IS NO BIG DEAL

I think I've already blogged here about how Paris is one of the cities in the world that I can get around in blindfolded. I even know which streets are one-way.

Plus, I have a great sense of direction.

The suburbs of La Defense

So there was no way that we were headed back into Paris on that road. I could even see the suburbs of La Defense and its skyscrapers in the distance.

So I retorted: "That's impossible. I can see La Defense in the distance."

CHANGING STRATEGIES

Our taxi driver took us way out of this grid...


Upon realizing that he had a tourist who knew her Paris well enough, he changed tack.

He replied: "This is the quickest way back to Paris. Go straight to La Defense and then take the main road back to Charles de Gaulle Etoile and the Champs Elysees from there."

That was the most circuitous story I'd ever heard of.

Bois du Boulogne
So I forced him to make a right turn at the next intersection and cut through the Bois du Boulogne.

This park is basically as big as a forest next to the 16th arrondisement of Paris, and back to the center of town.

All while he swore heavily while driving.

THANK GOODNESS HE DOESN'T KNOW FRENCH



Thank goodness the Travel Companion didn't understand French, or he might have hit the taxi driver on the head for his verbal abuse.

As for me, I simply decided to put up with it, as we were driving through Paris' biggest park, and this was most certainly not the place to lose a taxi or taxi driver. We would never get another one here by chance again.

AVOIDING THE DOORMEN

The beautiful Shangri-la Paris

The other sign of a bad (and guilty) taxi driver is when they take you to your hotel, but they don't drop you off right at the front of the entrance where the doormen stand.

They're too scared because the doormen of good hotels can spot a bad taxi driver in 30 seconds.

And this really makes me angry.



So this taxi driver did the same routine.

He dropped us off on the main road instead of entering the driveway of the Shangri-la Paris. And this was when I gave him my strongest ribbing ever on how he shouldn't literally take tourists for one very long ride.

Then, of course, I called the doorman over anyway to take his details down and report him to his taxi company employer for unethical operations.

Sigh. Never a dull day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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