Post 52: More of On The Road To Romania
Taxi – Bucharest Style
I woke early to Dr. G talking on the phone in a mix of Romanian and English. I gathered it was his wife. “Beeal, my wife not happy with me,” he told me as he hung up. “I forget to tell her I take ze money out of the checking account. She say bank called her, checks were bouncing and she not know why till they tell her I take eighteen thousand out. Oh well, she transfer money and everything OK now, but she not very happy at first.”
What was I supposed to say? Funny how wives are like that? Actually, I was more flabbergasted by the fact someone had that much money in their checking account to begin with. I couldn’t remember ever having such an amount in my checking account! And did she know Dr. G intended to buy two cars? Obviously she knew about the one for her brother, but after overhearing bits of their conversation, I wondered if she really knew the whole plan. Or if anyone did.
We left the hotel early in the morning. Dr. G said he had some legal and/or registration business related to the car to take care of. Our hotel bill was $125 for less than five hours, but at least we still had a car.
I wandered around the hotel area, changed some money at a tiny hole-in-the-wall currency exchange, bought a bottle of fruit juice and some type of bakery roll from a street vendor, and then people-watched. Bucharest felt similar to any large downtown business area. People scurried to work, did business or shopped, with lots of traffic screeching and honking. But it also seemed different, grayer with less color. I noticed more worried looks, less pizzazz and hype than say, Chicago’s Michigan Avenue. Worn out, tired, suspicious feelings seemed to permeate everyone’s demeanor.
Most of the vehicles I saw were older. Dated electric street cars threaded through the streets with their loading stops in the middle of the street. While waiting, I called the Bucharest SOS Children’s Village to confirm a visit for later in the morning, which I prearranged through their international office. I worked for SOS Children’s Villages (as one of the Village Directors in the two Villages in the United States) and felt excited to visit one in Eastern Europe.
Dr. G returned from his errands and, rather than driving ourselves to the SOS Children’s Village, we hailed a taxi. We jumped in, gave the address to the driver, and were thrown back in the seat as he rocketed off and started weaving through traffic, horn blowing as we whipped around corners. Our grins dropped when, at the sight of a large group of people waving signs and marching across six lanes of traffic, the driver suddenly careened into a U-turn. It was a street demonstration, the driver explained to Dr. G, and we would take a different route.
Another sharp turn and we were on a wide street with streetcar tracks down the middle of the brick street with three lanes of traffic going each way. The streetcar rails were level with the street, so traffic could drive over them. Traffic started to back up so the driver jerked the taxi into the streetcar lane and started passing the slowed autos at a high rate of speed.
From the back seat, I saw a streetcar loading platform, set about eight inches above the street level, filled with people, and a streetcar fast approaching. Not to worry, with a quick twist of the wheel, some screeching brakes and horns blaring, we merged back into the traffic in the auto lanes. Once we were past the platform and the loading streetcar, we jerked back into our seemingly own express lane and sped onward. Until the next platform or street car appeared. About a half hour later we arrived at the Children’s Village safe and sound. By then, I totally adjusted to Bucharest traffic. And both of us were smiling to prove it.
Next week: More Reviews of Face Your Fears