Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Taxi Story

Although there are abundant lectures on the internet, workshops to attend, and numerous books on the subject of negotiation I’ve never taken advantage of them. And I never considered myself much of a bargainer. Recently, though, I realized that I couldn’t have navigated four decades of marriage and raised seven children without some aptitude for arbitration.

My new outlook was reinforced last month in, of all places, a taxi.
courtesy of
Despite the fact that I stated I would stick to buses (see Taken for a Ride, April 29th, 2015) I found myself at the Kotel with my two oldest grandchildren. We needed to get to a northwestern Jerusalem neighborhood to meet my husband and one of my sons who would take us back to Shilo. Going by public transportation meant two buses and with all the waiting time it would be close to an hour before we’d arrived at our destination.  I didn’t want them to wait for us so long and therefore hailed a taxi.

“Please put on the meter,” I instructed the driver as I told him the address we needed.

“No problem,” he answered and I relaxed somewhat. Many cab drivers try to bargain a price with their customers. Usually the customers lose on the deal and it’s illegal.

The driver was busy on his phone and I was busy with my grandchildren. Still, I kept a wary eye on his driving. It was a good thing I did so because he passed the street I needed and only by me crying out did he realize he needed to turn around. I wondered how much his detour was costing me on his meter but since it was placed between the left window and his steering wheel I couldn’t see to know.

Surely, he’ll take it off the price, I thought but I was wrong. We arrived at our destination and he announced, “Seventy-eight shekels!”

“Seventy-eight!” I exclaimed. “I thought it would be about fifty.”

“Not seventy-eight, sixty-eight,” the driver corrected me. “There was a lot of traffic.”

“Not that much,” I muttered. “I want to see the receipt.”

“I don’t have a receipt,” he told me smoothly. “The machine’s broken.”

“Why didn’t you tell me that when I got in?” I demanded.

“You’re right,” he half apologized. “It broke this morning. I haven’t had a chance to fix it.”

“I want my receipt,” I repeated stubbornly and made no move to pay or leave the taxi. 

“I’m in a hurry,” the driver said. “I need to get to Tel Aviv.” Did he sound anxious?

“I want a receipt,” I said again and pulled out my cell phone. I dialed my son and requested that he come to the taxi ASAP. He’s a CPA, his Hebrew is excellent, he has a few words of Arabic, and he knows how to talk to people.

My driver understood enough English to realize someone was coming to meet me. He had no way of knowing who it was but he was getting worried.

“How much do you want to pay?” he asked nervously.

“I thought it would be around fifty shekel,” I repeated.

“Give me fifty shekel.”

I did and as we got out of the taxi he cursed me as a thief and drove off, all before my son arrived.

Relieved to be out of the cab, safe and sound, I felt uneasy. Had I cheated the driver out of a full fare? Did I indeed deserve his curse? Was I guilty of desecrating HaShem’s name?

Different people had different opinions. One was certain the driver hadn’t even started the meter. Another told me that I’d gotten a great price. It was the third view that calmed me. I was told that a taxi driver is required by law to give out receipts. I could have refused to pay anything and he would have had no recourse.

I learned a lesson from the taxi driver. I learned that by not giving up I can negotiate to have a fair deal. Later, I realized it was a lesson I’d learned from none other than King David. His Psalm 27, the chapter that we say every day from the first day of Elul until Simchat Torah, ends with the line Hope to HaShem, strengthen yourself, He will instill courage into your heart, and hope to HaShem.

Our Sages teach that Hope to HaShem means to pray. Then strengthen yourself instructs me to check and make sure what I’m requesting is fair and right.  Hope to HaShem a second time tells me to pray again and again.  I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for something I’m sure is fair and right and it’s okay to make a nuisance of myself with my request.

I may stop reciting Psalm 27 when the holiday season ends but I won’t forget its lesson. I plan to hope to HaShem, to pray, to beg, and to plead for true peace. It’s a righteous desire and I won’t stop demanding it.



Batya Medad said...

There are also fake taxi drivers without meters. I once left mid-trip without paying since there was no meter. Without a meter the driver can't even prove you were there. Many of the drivers are hired by the taxi owner, so if the meter is off, the driver can cheat the owner. That is another reason to demand and check the meter. If you can't see it, then something is wrong.

Ariela ben-Eliezer said...