To the Editor:
Thank you for the viewpoint article, For Greece’s Taxi Drivers It’s Time to Switch Lanes, which appeared in the July 6 issue. The writer pointed out that “the driver told us how he had been waiting on line outside of that bar for 40 minutes and that he felt fundamentally cheated that he was getting such a short trip out of it,” and that is understandable, but it is also his job.
Driving a taxi is not an easy job by any means, and it can be dangerous picking up a stranger in the middle of the night, you don’t know who is getting in the car with you or even if the passenger will pay you at the end of the ride, you hope so, but there is no guarantee they will. They might decide to stiff you, not tip you, or even worse, assault you. We have all seen the news stories of cab drivers who have been beaten or even murdered and all they are doing is trying to make ends meet for their families. In the troubled financial situation many find themselves today, it can be difficult to mask the desperation, to keep things bottled up especially when the passenger engages in conversation, perhaps even out of genuine concern for the driver, so they will end up getting an earful.
I am sure there are many Greek-Americans who have Greek taxi driver stories, positive and negative, just like everyone in New York City has a taxi driver story as well. Personally, I have been overcharged several times because I’m just a tourist like any other when I’m in Greece. We would like to think as members of the diaspora that we have some edge or inside information, but I expect the locals will take advantage of me because I’m unfamiliar with what a ride from the airport to the center of Athens costs, for example. It’s one of the unwritten rules of travel. If you don’t do your homework before you go anywhere, you will probably get taken, like those tourists who paid $300 to ride the Staten Island Ferry, which, by the way, is free. The internet can help a lot in this respect since you can look things up to find out what things cost before you go there. And if you feel like speaking up, go ahead, it’s free country, everyone can complain as much as they want. In the end, however, we should all probably try to take it easy and cut each other some slack.