Here at CC we’re no strangers to the world of taxi drivers. Both Kevin Martin and Paul had their share of driving large yellow cars, ferrying people every which way. They know all about what happens inside the world of cab drivers. I’ve never driven a cab and, with what you’re about to read, I probably never will. I value my life.
Before my family had more than one car, mother and I were forced to use public transport while my dad used the car for his job. When I was on school holiday she’d take me to her office where I’d be allowed to muck about and get in the middle of other people’s jobs for eight hours, or until someone gave me a PC or a book.
When it was time to leave we’d have to get a cab to get us closer to home. Usually the process went like this: walk until you find a taxi stand, sit on a bench for forty minutes while you have a smelly man on your left and a long-sufferring woman with a crying baby to your right. Proceed to slide very slowly across the bench while a man stuffs people in groups of five in every cab that arrives (not counting the driver), get in the cab, and then proceed to question the existence of benevolence in the universe as the 1983 Corolla without a single working dial but with Reggaeton blasting at a million decibels through a tinny sound system takes you through the gridlocked city streets.
Observant readers will have noticed that I used the phrase “closer to home”. That’s because we used “Collective” taxis, which go from point to point rather than taking you exactly where you want to go. Direct Taxis—for people that didn’t want to stuff themselves with other four random strangers, and want to be dropped off exactly where they want to go—are also available and considerably more expensive. How much more expensive? Well it depends on where you’re going, who you are, and who your driver is.
You see, unlike the U.S or Europe where you have boring things like a taximeter and universal fees, Honduran taxis rely on the haggle system. You hail the cab and you discuss with the driver how much he’ll charge you to get you where you’re going; if you reach an agreement you get in. While this is happening I’m stuck behind, swearing, promising I’ll vote for anyone who makes it legal to just ram them to the shoulder. Or at least I would, but we’ll get to that in a bit. If you happen to hail an airport cab, the cab driver WILL charge you $25 regardless of your destination. Your best bet would be to go to a mall and take one of the cabs that they provide, as they’re a mix of a point (fixed rates, you can only get them at one place) and direct (you don’t share it with other people, it actually gets you where you want to go)
Regulation is spotty at best; taxi owners don’t deal in actual cabs, rather, they deal in cab numbers. The state puts out a certain amount of numbers for each area (four digits for the bigger urban areas usually) and it’s up to the buyers to decide on what to put it on. The only regulations are that the taxi must be white (with a stripe on certain areas) and that the numbers must be of a certain colors on a rectangle on a certain color. Apart from that, everything goes.
Utopian? Nah. number hoarding is widespread. It also means that most taxis are the cheapest things you can get on the market are very old and cheap. Up until parts became hard to find the Datsun 210 was a favorite. But like everything in Tegucigalpa, the taxi driver world has been taken over by the gospel of Toyota.
It used to be around 10 years ago that the average cab was either a 210 or an E70 corolla, but time has passed and nowadays chances are that your cab will be a well-worn E90 or E100 Corolla. That’s not to say there isn’t variety, as there’s still a compilation of ‘80s and ‘90s Japanese metal roaming the streets. One particular point owner, perhaps in the hope to shed the image of collective cabs being the rejects of post-apocalyptic movies, decided to spruce up his fleet with some art in metal by designo Pininfarina.
Unfortunately, that art in metal was the Hyundai Matrix, still orders of magnitude better than whatever he had before. It was on a Hyundai Matrix that we had our worst cab ride ever. There were a couple of nominations. The Hyundai Stellar that leaked exhaust fumes into the interior just after I had just read about the effects of having exhaust fumes leak into a cabin; the Corolla with half a turn of steering play; endless rides with horrible music or worse people. But the one that takes the cake was the one we had a couple of years ago. It was the middle of winter (which meant 22°C instead of 30) and we needed to go to pick up my sister from a friends and we had to hail a cab. Enter this Hyundai Matrix from hell.
At first it didn’t seem that bad at first, the car was clean and the driver seemed friendly while haggling. But once we went on the road, disaster. I would’ve never thought that a diesel Hyundai Matrix could be that fast. Common lore will tell you that the fastest car in the world is a rental car; common lore is dead wrong. We were driven on the ragged edge while this man transformed from a driver Jekyll to a Christian Hyde. I say Christian because while he attempted to kill us he’d also started playing what I can only call “Christian Salsa” and singing. Unfortunately I was far too distracted with my own communications with the lord to notice how well was he singing. We made it to our destination, paid the driver and left. The cab driver moved on to the next victim fare. How bad was it? We purchased a second car not too long afterwards.
Another very popular cab, as you’ve been able to see throughout this article is the Isuzu I-Mark. The GM J-cars were not particularly popular here when badged through normal GM brands, but stick a clattery diesel engine and an Isuzu badge, and it’ll live to this day as a cab with more than a quarter million miles on it. Although I have to mention my mother did have a Chevrolet Chevette that is still going as a cab to this very day.
Go outside of the city and you won’t find many normal taxis, instead there’s an ever-growing number of tuk-tuks or “Mototaxis” as they’re called around here, having never been to India, I can only speculate that they’re as terrifying there as they are here.
I mentioned at the beginning of the article that I would never be a cab driver. Why? Well, there’s this little problem with being a cab driver here: You will positively get murdered. Between 2012 and 2013 there were 153 taxi drivers murdered in Honduras; crime is the scythe that destroys all that’s good around here and it causes nothing but grief and fear. It’s not like it’s not known either, this year a congressman shot a cab driver execution style. Due process is still being followed. 32 passengers were killed too. Think about that next time you get picked in a slightly dirty Crown Victoria.