Sherin and I caught a cab last night to go and meet our friends. We knew that it wasn’t too far, but we weren’t sure where the restaurant was. Turns out, it was within walking distance. On the meter, the fare was 3 pounds (fifty cents). However, the driver quickly turned off the meter after we stopped, putting it back to zero. I handed him 3 pounds, and he turned around and said “la, hamsa!” holding out his hand for two more pounds. I could not believe him. “Hamsa? Hamsa?” I said. “La, la. ithnaan, ithnaaan, ithnaan.” He told us we were being “haram,” insulting us for not giving him the amount he wanted. I started to reach for my purse, but thought better of it. He had hardly driven us any distance! We pay five pounds to go across Maadi to work! Why would we pay five to go down the street? He was trying to cheat us, telling us we had not read the meter correctly. I pointed at the meter, and said, “ithnaan” again, and then got out of the cab, slamming the door. I went around to Sherin’s side and pulled her out as he was shaming her for not giving him the extra pounds. I was so angry about what he was saying, especially since I knew that it was he that was in the wrong, not us. I slammed her door shut, cursed, and stomped off, pulling Sherin with me.
While the situation doesn’t seem so maddening today, I know why I got so upset last night. We take taxis several times a day, spending less than a dollar a ride, usually. If you do not give exact change, they will try and keep the money you give them. If the ride costs 5.5 pounds and you give them 10, they will hand 3 back, taking 1.5 extra pounds because they can. Faria took a cab two nights ago that cost her 6 pounds. She gave the driver a 20, and he gave her 5 back in change, keeping the 9 extra. She had to sit and yell at him until he gave her 5 more back, allowing him to keep 4 of them only after he went into a long story about how his wife and kids need to eat.
It’s this sort of petty everyday cheating that start to wear on you here. Even though paying an extra pound really means virtually nothing, it’s the fact that they try and cheat you out of it that is upsetting.