Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The DOs and DON'Ts of Riding a Taxi in Cairo, Egypt

As an avid taxi rider, I have notices some peculiar behavior from cabbies. I shouldn't be surprised. Cabbies' actions are a reflection of the continuum of descent we face in every facet of life in Egypt. Each group simply descends in a manner congruent with their perception of acceptable behavior, not taking into consideration the affect of their actions on others. Not only do they neglect to acknowledge their impact, they simply do not care.

As someone who works in change management, I have found it frivolous to try and change the behavior of Egyptians. A carrot never works, only a stick. Even so, punishment must be consistent and continuous. The moment you remove the stick, people revert back to their original state. They are willing to chance termination in order to be lazy, careless, and do as little as possible. The other alternative is to change the people all together and start with a clean crop of employees, while constantly weeding out bad elements. Do not delude yourself and think that harmful weed will not grow in your organization. The only way to combat mediocrity, is to constantly remove negative influences from their roots. If once, only once, you rest on your laurels, harmful weed will infest your entire garden. So, in conclusion, Egyptians are impervious to change.

As a result I don not go into a long diatribe with cabbies, or try to lecture them on customer service, or explain to them how they are role models to future generations of taxi drivers and how their constant presence in the streets of Cairo has a harmful effect, far more penetrating than civilian drivers, yet they can also be a positive change, that is, if they wanted to. It is a fruitless debate that will render me breathless. That being said, it is not in my nature to passively stand by. If I cannot eradicate taxi behavior, the least I can do is not condone it. I own a carrot, the fare. I control my choice of cabbie, and thus have become quite selective and very aware of my own behavior as a rider of taxis.

Here is my list of DOs and DO NOTs:
1) When hailing a cab, select a proper area to wait. Take into consideration that when the taxi stops to let you in, he doesn't disrupt the flow of traffic. Avoid the corner of narrow busy streets and double parked cars.

2) Be courteous to your follow taxi riders and stand after those already waiting for a cab.

3) Make sure that you have enough change before getting into a cab. If not, let the cabbie know in advance so he can stop at a gas station and break a 200 pound note.

4) Know where you are going and don't rely on the cabbie to know how to get there. Some of them are clueless and may not work in the area regularly. Identify the various routes that you are comfortable with and make sure that the cabbie does not detour.

5) Put down your phone and pay attention. If the cabbie takes a detour you are unfamiliar with, ask him where he is going. You can also ask him to take another route. Be polite but unyielding.

6) Commercial license plates are ORANGE. The blue ones are for civilian cars. Ask yourself, why is a civilian driver masquerading as a cabbie. Least of all, there will not be a meter.

7) You are not obligated to shout out your destination from across the street because a cabbie doesn't want to pull over. Wait from another taxi who values his job and does it properly.

8) A cabbie who cuts across from the left lane ahead of another taxi to beat him to a customer, is a person who will not think twice about cutting in line at the supermarket. If this behavior irritates you, then wait for the other cab who kept to the right.

9) If you are crossing the street, in order to wait for a taxi from a better vantage point, and notice that a cabbie pulls over and waits for you, don't get in. This means that he noticed you standing on the other side of the road. If he's truly keen on picking up a customer, he would have been paying attention to the sidewalk to his right, where normal people wait to hail taxis, not the opposite direction.

10) If you are happy with the service rendered, don't forget to thank the cab driver and tip him accordingly. They have a terrible job and the worse work environment possible. 

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