Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Bridge

We are a good 20 minutes walk below Santa Elena, sometimes it's nice to take a taxi. Getting a taxi here is quite a process and relies on the machismo of Tico men. There's a bridge which must be crossed and on the phone you can hear the office asking the drivers who will do it. Inevitably a voice will ring out after pauses and low muttering "I will do it, I will cross the bridge". Fifteen minutes later we hear the taxi struggling up the hill and the driver gallantly opens the door for us. Crossing the bridge can be done several ways - some creep across, some speed, others pause - one driver edges backwards. Their heads are always held slightly higher once across as we make the climb to town.
I'm trying to make friends with the taxi drivers. No one has a street address here, my address for instance is often 'across the road from casa de Maestra Gina'. It pays to be known. So in terribly broken Spanish I introduce myself, say what I do and where I work and ask as much "Como se dice . . ." as I can get in. And it has other benefits too: my fare is usually half the price of what the gringos pay.
Becoming a local is important. A cafe which puts on a great Caribbean evening every Thursday with thumping reggae, mango on the menu and Cuba Libre - a heavy on the rum cocktail, has two prices: local and tourist. It's the difference between paying $4 for dinner and $1.60. So we introduce ourselves to the waitress (who comes from Santa Rosa) and the cooks and the DJ. On the way home the taxi pauses before crossing the bridge. I offer to get out and walk the rest, it's really fine, you don't have to cross. But the machismo kicks in - no, no, of course I'll cross.