Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Princess & The Pea Petite Taxi

I am quite certain that in my many postings, I have presented myself as a bit of a princess. I don't think I am but who am I to judge? - that's what we have family for. So although I don't routinely wake up black & blue from an excrutiating night's sleep atop my pea, I have complained and grumbled and whined and pointed the odd paw menacingly at things that irritate me. For about 7 months now. Why anyone bothers to read this blog still eludes me. In fact, my theory is that eventually, I will run out of things to say. Surely these petty pea-like pains-in-the-butt that plague my days are finite in number? Right? When that time comes, I'll have to haul my princess-ass off to another country and start griping afresh.

But I am still here and summer is now upon us. As such, I am reminded of a curious practice that has been gnawing away at me for months but which I had put on the back shelf during the winter. I mentioned many posts ago that Morocco's petite taxis can be numbered among the things I like best about Rabat. These miniscule blue Fiats (they are colour-coded for each city - they are red in Casa) dart about town, taking up to 3 passengers pretty much anywhere within city limits. In spite of the fact that I will probably meet my end (or at least Life # 2), squished in the back seat of one, I make tremendous use of them because they are cheap and ubiquitous. And for the most part, their meters even work - at least in Rabat - although sometimes you may have to "remind" the odd driver to turn it on.

But summer is here. It is hot, but not as hot as the mercury would lead you to believe. Morocco has no concept of the humidex - that clever innovation created by Canadians (we invent things too Mr. N) and used in the Great White North for some 40 years now. In a nutshell the humidex:

... was devised by Canadian meteorologists to describe how hot, humid weather feels to the average person. The humidex combines the temperature and humidity into one number to reflect the perceived temperature. Because it takes into account the two most important factors that affect summer comfort, it can be a better measure of how stifling the air feels than either temperature or humidity alone.

Now, speaking strictly as an amateur, I would hazard an educated guess and raise Rabat's temperatures by about 10 degrees celcius - at least for the past few weeks. I know heat and, I am sorry to say, I know humidity and there's no way that 22-25 degrees accurately reflects the conditions here.

So having said all of this, I must ask why the freaking cab drivers in Rabat practically hermetically seal their cabs? In 99.9% of taxis I have ridden in, not only were the back windows closed but the handles removed. I feel like a hostage each time I crawl into the back of a taxi - the only things missing are the electrical tape & the blindfold. Imagine zipping about town - or worse still, sitting in traffic - in the dizzying (humidex-adjusted) temperatures of a stifling, airless cab? In the summer? In many cases, the front passenger's & driver's windows are themselves only a quarter-way open, and sometimes, god help us all, they are closed. Oh, I can feel the mindnumbingly enervating inertia undulate throughout my body as I type ... I am swooning .... succumbing to Morocco's spin on auto erotic asphyxiation ...

Sometimes the driver will you give you the window crank if you ask nicely - and you have the French to accommodate your request. As he narrowly avoids colliding with another vehicle, he will pass it back for you to screw in. Other times, he won't have it (or says as much). Enjoy the slow death - I wonder if dying of heat prostration is like dying of hypothermia. Note to self: don't fall asleep in the back of a Rabatian Taxi.

So why? Why do drivers seek to deprive their passengers of much needed oxygen under the sweltering skies of Morocco? Perhaps there is a belief that in our oxygen-reduced states, we will tip better. I have heard that there is a pervasive belief that djins and other evil spirits travel on the wind and that our drivers are, in fact, protecting us from harm. Are djins able to enter my body when it is prostrate and lifeless in the back seat of a taxi? Is there a lesser of two evils here?

With the sultry dog days of summer wagging their tails around the corner, I am mindful of two things:

1) that if we are considerate/humane/caring enough to leave car windows partially open for dogs, then perhaps we can do the same for nice paying passengers (it's not like I'm asking for a bowl of fresh water too); and

2) I am walking everywhere until early November.

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