Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Another Memorable Taxi Ride in Buenos Aires

We'd decided to leave around 6:00 p.m. for the airport, allowing us plenty of time to check in for our 10:00 p.m. flight. The Hilton doorman kindly arranged for a taxi that would hold all four of us for 100 pesos, probably our best deal yet and equivalent to about $30. It took awhile for the taxi to arrive but eventually he did and then the fun began.

The driver started to get on the motorway (the four-lane toll route to the airport) but pointed out that traffic was at a standstill. Since all he spoke was rapid-fire Spanish we had to draw our own conclusions but it was quite clear that the highway was stopped up.

He drove us as rapidly as he could along surface streets on a route parallel to the highway and we saw quite a bit of Buenos Aires over the next half hour. Every so often he'd check out the overpasses from an intersection and it was clear the highway was still a parking lot, whether because of an accident or simply rush-hour congestion.

He was one skillful driver and Kathy had to reprimand Brian, a back-seat driver at the best of times, for shutting his eyes and bracing himself against the front seat. In Argentina, at least, a stop sign, Pare, is considered a suggestion rather than a direction, and drivers play chicken at every intersection.

He eventually found an on-ramp and we entered the highway past the worst of the congestion, although it was still very slow going for awhile. Despite the terrible traffic, our driver delivered us to the airport more than an hour after we'd left the hotel but still with plenty of time to spare. Greg broke with local custom on behalf of all of us and tipped the driver handsomely. He in turn was very appreciative and shook hands with each of us.

While taxi travel in places like Vienna and Stockholm is quite sedate, we're definitely adding Argentina to our list of places (Shanghai, Istanbul, New York City) in which a taxi trip is a thrill ride.

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