Up to last week, I had a taxi driver to take me to work, named Elvis. He was a jolly fellow and I enjoyed chatting with him and formed something of a good friendship with him. I met him by chance and put my faith in him, which you have to do with all taxi drivers here to be fair. Yep. Elvis never really died at all. He just had a career change, became a taxi driver and went to live in Colonia Kennedy in Tegucigalpa. Where Mr E Presley left Earth getting a bit over weight, Elvis Martinez has kind of carried on the high carbohydrate diet in quiet a religious way. He would boast about buying slabs of meat and told me where I could sample the best gringas in town (by gringa I mean a yummy tortilla dish; not female North American prostitutes, in case you’re wondering). He was a devout Christian, Evangelical to be even more precise, and I noted his Bible in the side door of his car every time I entered. And every time I phoned him, his ring tone would tell me that I’m blessed by God and He is always with me. On some of the journeys, he would talk about how we are all administrators to God and the days he went to church. Like with the children at Casa Alianza, I always knew in a conversation about religion, they would turn to me hopefully and ask, “Nick, crees en Dios?” (Nick, do you believe in God?) at which I always felt a bit awkward. I once said that “I don’t know” but I got the 3rd degree about my doubts in the Almighty (they grab them young here!). I asked how they could believe in a God who has left Honduras on its knees. They always said it was humans who did that (and the yanks).
Enough about that. Anyway, one morning he put the song on a bit louder than was necessary and had a wide smile on his face. It was 6.45 in the morning. No one deserves that in the morning. And I could feel the question coming. It felt like the Jaws theme. And it came out. To save the trouble, I just said Catholic. If I had said Protestant, he would have asked me to come to his church, which he did anyway, but I said my parents would be upset because they are strict Catholics, which they are not by the way. Apart from Celtic and my girlfriend (who IS Catholic), I don’t really have much faith in the faith. I don’t particularly like the Pope, the Bible doesn’t really interest me and I think the best thing about the church is sitting down, having a peaceful nap and talking to my own God (Noel Gallagher)…..Back to Elvis, he looked a bit gutted. But I think he got the message. So there you have it. Catholicism is good for something: Actually getting out of going to church. How about that! The irony of it all. If I’d said I was atheist though, I think he would have put a gun to my head.
He would beep his horn loudly for a laugh to wake people up, and laugh at what I had to say. He kept telling me that I shop at Dispensa Familia, which is a cheap supermarket in Kennedy, supposedly. I would remind him that I had a perfectly good pulperia to buy my essentials and it wouldn’t mean me getting a taxi and being charged. He looked a bit disappointed. But I think the funniest thing he told me to do was write to the radio/tv show, Habla Como Habla, to be a journalist. I had no idea what this show was, so I asked Pamela, who had a horrified face. It is apparently a station where many people from, Libre party mainly, phone in to complain about whatever. Pam hates it. I now blackmail her by saying if she doesn’t do what I want, I’m going to get a job there and talk about her on-air. But seriously, when I told her, her face was priceless.
Another time, he wanted me to give him an English pound coin. I only had one left and I didn’t want to part with it for sentimental reasons. So I gave him a 2 pence piece. The pound I keep safe.
Elvis was my taxi driver for about four weeks. But the more we became friends, the more his punctuality began to slip and I felt that he was taking me for a ride (excuse the pun). Some people were telling me that I should expect that from Latin American taxi drivers, especially those in Tegucigalpa with the traffic. But fuck it, if you have to rely on them, you need them to be there when they said. I would call him to come about 6:15, he would come at 6:30. I would tell him to come at 6:30, he would come at 6:45. I would tell him to come at 6:00, he would come at 6:45 still. There was no logic to his pattern. I would call him, he would say he was nearly there. So nearly there. I did my best to give him benefit of the doubt and say it was the traffic, but it became too frequent and being on time for classes was dicey. I then had to accept that he was prioritising other clients over me, which is fine, after all, it’s his job and he has to make as much money as he can, but he wouldn’t call me to say he was running late. Sometimes he would say that he was so nearly there and just to hold on, and then call, 20 minutes before a class, to say he couldn’t make it. The funny thing was, he would apologise on the next taxi journey, or if he was very late, by buying me a fruit juice. And being a fool, I fell for it. But then he would be very late the next day and leave me foaming at the mouth. Mr Nice Guy gets shat on again. Other times, I would tell him not to pick me up at the normal meeting time of, for example 1:30, but come a bit later. I don’t know if was out of pure cheek, but he decided to turn up on the dot at that time. Another time he said he forgot that he had to pick me up at 1:30. Other times he would be 20 minutes late but come by with other passengers, doing both rides at the same time. I told him that, environmentally, it’s a great. Customer service wise, he’s taking the piss. When I offered to pay him 13 lempiras, the price of a collectivo, the smile soon fell away from his mouth.
But then last Thursday, I finally had enough. I had to get to work for 7. I called him 6:35, he should have been there 6:30, only for him to say he was asleep. There was no apology, just advice that I should catch another taxi and that I should call him later to collect me. He had no intention to call me to say he wasn’t coming. He had no care in the world if I was late. His punctuality was shite. Dog shite. I knew then that I would never see him again. I knew I would never call him. I felt betrayed, cheated on. My love affair with Elvis had ended. The cheeky sod still had the balls to send me a message on Sunday night, the usual time I called him to confirm that he should pick me up the next morning, to see if he could still pick me up. I responded with a white lie that I had a free lift to work and that I would call him only if I needed him.
I have a new taxi driver now. He’s Christian too. He likes he’s Christian songs in the morning, he likes his Partido Libre and he smiles a lot. The main differences are he talks a whole lot less but he’s on time. Oh yeah, he also eats less.
Even though I think he took the piss quite a bit, I do kind of miss him. I feel I let him take the piss because I quite enjoyed the taxi rides with him. He made me laugh. But anyway, it’s over.
That was my experience with Elvis, the Tegucigalpa taxi driver. Here, I dedicate this song to him. Of course, it can only be, the man he was carnated from.