A Fare For Fools

It is the night rate.

There wasn’t much of a line at that hour. The Policia even opened the door for me.

“Let me give you a map, here, we are here at the airport and your hotel is there,” said the enthusiastic cabbie in Lisbon as he drew huge mutli-layered circles with his blue pen. At one point, the pen poked through the map where the hump between the seats failed to double as a table. I hate that, when the pen goes through the map. It is a phenomenon how often that happens. “Now sit back and enjoy the ride, no traffic now.” He had a bald spot on the back of his head, but dark curly curtains draped over his ears.

Now we were talking! Enthusiasm and visibility (okay, dare I say transparency?) on an unknown route was welcomed after the delayed late night trip from London. We chatted about football, my previous trip to his favorite place in the world, and exactly where my office was in the Industrial Zone. Clearly, I had no idea what I was talking about, but it passed the time. It was pleasant, until we pulled up to the three-star hotel.

Not only was the meter not on, there was no meter. Shit, I don’t deserve this, it’s midnight, I thought. Yet, I knew it was my fault. I’d get a beer and forget about what was to come if the bar was still open. I did get my beer, but I have not forgotten about the son-of-a-bitch in Portugal who ripped me off.

He reached across into the passenger side visor and pulled out the “night rates.”

“Really? C’mon man, I have been here before,” I pleaded.

“How much did you pay last time?” He was getting cheeky.

“Not that.” I tried to be cheeky.

“Do you need a receipt?”

“C’mon man, be reasonable. My fault I didn’t look for a meter, okay. But that is at least twice if not more than what it should be.”

“This is the night rate.” His English started to wane, the Portuguese accent deepened.

“Yea, I know you said that. But that isn’t right.”

“It is the night rate, see?” I was afraid he’d start to circle again with his blue pen, and God forbid he poke another hole in the night rate sheet. I would lose it.

“Here,” I handed him his booty.

“Here,” he handed me a receipt. It was in Portuguese, but I could tell there was no name on it. It was as passable as my Colorado driver’s license in 1996. He didn’t even bother with the contact paper and liquid paper.

Did I want to pick a fight? Yes. Did I? Not really.

I paid the S-O-B and wrote down his cab number and vowed to call him in. I stepped out of the cab, and he leaned back into the rear of the car and reached out towards me. “Don’t forget your map.”

I took it from him.

“Yea, I paid for it.”

“No you didn’t pay for it, I gave it to you.” His accent seemed to soften now that I had paid over the unfair fare.

“Yes I did.” Slam.

The beer tasted bitter and I was allergic to the pillow in my room. I sat through a 7 hour meeting the next day and paid 1/3 of the price to get back to the airport only to find that London still had small pockets of riots.

I expensed it all today; yet I still feel battered. My only comfort is Karma is a bitch, and that dude’s radiator is on a short leash.

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Categories: Confession, Rant, Travel

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