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Conversations with Taxi drivers in Central America

Dallas Boyd
Dallas Boyd

The thing I love about taxis in Nicaragua is that they are the shittiest, most blinged out vehicles I have ever seen in my life. They’re like a cross between a chicken bus, ghetto boy racer, and cartoon from Wacky Races. The picture I´ve uploaded here does not do justice. When you go for a ride, you never know if you will make it to your destination in one piece. Yet magically, they navigate through city traffic and bony horses drawing carts like a hot knife through butter. Amazing!

I needed a ride from the capital of Managua to the Spanish colonial town of Granada. About 45 minutes driving time. I could have taken a private car with chauffeur from the Incae Business School, a “Harvard South” university. But my new buddy Carlos said he’d take me for half the price. Leaving the Intercontinental Hotel, I got a few odd looks from the upper crust and bell boys as I plonked my white butt next to Carlos in the passenger seat, and we spluttered off in a cloud of black smoke, the vehicle making a putty chainsaw sound. My luggage crammed next to my feet on the floor, as the boot of the taxi wouldn’t shut. And the A/C was broke. The radio too.

As we whizzed along the highway, against a backdrop of perfect triangular volcano peaks, Carlos told me about his 12 children. (I tested him by asking him to rattle off all their names. Was tempted to add “now say them all again, 10 times fast, GO!”) But not to worry, Carlos clarified. “I only had them to 4 different women.” “That’s excellent!” I told Carlos. “Only four??” I hope I sounded impressed at his calculated constraint not to impregnate more. “Just the four” he confirmed with a slight nod. “Are you friends with the mothers of your children Carlos?” I asked. “God no!” and he shivered, or shuddered, despite the hot, sweaty day.

When Carlos asked me if I had children, and I answered no, there followed an awkward silence in the car, which usually happens when a Latino father of 12 thinks to himself “what a miserable waste of those wide child bearing hips.” I mumbled something into the floor about trying to pursue an education and not knowing whether I could have both a family and a career. He looked at me as if to say “I’m glad we could have this little talk.

Carlos only speaks to his kids when they call to ask him for money. He lives alone and gets a sore back from long hours driving a taxi. He doesn’t even like to drive.

We reach our destination, right on beer´o clock, as fate would have it. We say adieu.

Back in Costa Rica, a leg stretch was in order, so I walked to the bank this afternoon, passing a line of taxis along the way. Tony (another taxi driver buddy) called me:

I just saw you walking by Dallas.”

“Thanks Tony, but I don’t need a ride.”

“It’s not that Dallas. I have to tell you something very important, that you should know.”

“Ok… what????”

“You are looking smoking hot.”

  • Taxi drivers. Get to know them. Never a dull moment.  

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