I got a car today. This means I can now get lost in more places, in less time, than I could have dreamt of traveling just on foot. It also means I get to enjoy the full European gas price experience, and boy howdy, that is a meaningful emotional event. Filling up the tank cost just under 10,000 Icelandic krona (ISK) which is about $75 US dollars at today’s exchange rate. In other words – ow.
On the very, very bright side, I can now explore more of Reykjavik and more of Iceland. That means more adventures and more photos.
Now that the Taxi Age is (hopefully) drawing to an end, I wanted to share an observation about catching a cab in Iceland that I think would have amused Mark Twain.
Mark Twain was a very smart man who took on the customs and foibles of his era with deadly wit, dazzling insight, and an assumed name. Like I said: a very smart man.
One of his sharpest observations, a personal favorite of mine, was this: It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. Having lived and traveled abroad, I find that the most awkward moments seem to occur right when I’m sure I know what’s going on and what to expect next.
Hiking around Reykjavik on a sunny afternoon is really very pleasant. Hiking around Reykjavik in the rain, less so. Because the weather here is notoriously changeable, you can go from one to the other in a matter of minutes.
Fortunately, Reykjavik has taxis – quite a lot of them. I took a taxi to my apartment when I arrived in country, and after an unfortunate sojourn that ended with me looking at a lake where there should have been an office building, I waved down a taxi to get to the right address. So when I headed out to look for a car, I didn’t worry about the clouds roiling overhead. If it starts to rain, I told myself, I’ll just get a taxi.
I never really see any taxis unless I’m looking for one. I assume this is not some sort of quantum particle phenomenon, and the taxis are there even when I’m not looking. I just don’t notice them. But on my first attempt to go car shopping, I was looking and I saw many … as they went gliding effortlessly down the road without stopping. After the eleventh taxi passed by, it dawned on me* that this was one of those moments Mark Twain warned about and that my assumptions about taxi behavior (step to curb as taxi approaches, raise hand to signal driver, taxi stops) were wrong.
So I sent an email to the international admissions officer at the University:
Dear Verity, Do you happen to know of a good place to get a taxi? Standing in the rain near the Fossvogur Hospital trying to hail one has been invigorating, but thus far unsuccessful.
Best regards, Chris
She responded instantly: Call 588 5522 and order they will be there in a few minutes.
Verity is seemingly always available so long as I have my iPhone with me, and she always has the right answer. Think Siri with a British accent – I’ve told her she’s the University’s secret recruiting weapon. So I dialed the number, and a taxi materialized more or less instantly.
Standing at the curb and hailing a taxi is apparently the exception rather than the rule. There are some places (airports, bus terminals, tourist attractions, hotels) where you can usually find taxis waiting. If a cabbie driving along the road happens to be between fares, you might be able to flag them down. But the more common way of getting a cab is just to call. You don’t have to wait for long.
My first two experiences with cabs were exceptions, but based on that minuscule sample, I assumed I knew the rule. As a consequence, I wound up all wet physically as well as metaphorically. All this has happened before, and will happen again. And somewhere, Mark Twain is arching an eyebrow and smiling.
* I’m inordinately pleased to have figured this out before getting to a dozen. If I gave it much thought, I’d be annoyed with myself for taking so long. So I prefer not to give it that much thought.