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Country mouse visits the city
It must be written on my forehead: "Small town." Trips to big cities always leave me feeling stupid.
It must be written on my forehead: "Small town." Trips to big cities always leave me feeling stupid. And on this day, with an 11 p.m. plane arrival and the last shuttle gone for the night, I found myself at the airport wondering how much it was going to cost Mr. Small Town for a taxi to the hotel.
The only driver in sight told me it would be $49 in some accent unfamiliar to my West Texas ears. Could that be right — 49 dollars? I could see downtown. Don't you think a $50 trip should at least be to somewhere you can't see? But it was late and I was tired, so I got in.
The minute the door closed, the driver started tweaking knobs and dials on a computerized box on the dashboard. Then he started up a conversation about how cold it was and something about his home country. I could barely understand a thing he said.
His first name was Mahoot, according to the name plate on the back of his seat. Turns out he was a new father. His baby was born yesterday. Wow, Mahoot Jr. was just 1 day old. No wonder the trip cost so much. Kids are expensive.
I told him I was a veterinarian going to a convention on horses. This seemed beyond his comprehension, so he quieted down and turned on some music that sounded like a cross between an out-of-tune guitar and the noise that spaceships make in old movies.
I decided to get out the cell phone and call home to check in. You'd think a cell phone would work in a town of 1 million people, but mine was spotty. I got through once, but I lost the signal.
When we arrived at the hotel, I didn't know what to tip. All I had were two $50 bills, so I gave him one and told him to keep the change. I figured that'd teach him for overcharging the "small-town guy."
The motel was nice, and sleep sounded wonderful. I had been in airports all day and needed to be at a 7 a.m. meeting. Unfortunately, as I unpacked, I realized my cell phone was gone. I figured it must have dropped out in Mahoot's cab. I dialed my cell phone from the motel room.
On the fourth ring, he answered: "Taxi cab service." This guy was answering my phone like it had suddenly become his personal pager.
"Hey, my phone must have dropped out in your cab. It's what you're talking on."
The reception was lousy. He kept saying, "Taxi cab service" over and over in that heavy accent.
Finally, the signal died, leaving me silently wishing I'd just given him both fifties. I finally got through to him again, and he said he'd bring the phone back in an hour. That meant he'd be back around 1 a.m.
I took a shower to kill some time and then went downstairs and sat in the lobby.
2 a.m. rolled around and still no Mahoot. It was a dilemma. If I went up to my room to call and he came, I might miss him.
At 3 a.m., I was still pacing the lobby, trying to stay awake. It was just me and a lady at the check-in counter who must have thought I was another idiot from a small town who'd been conned by a taxi driver. All I could think about were the roaming charges if he was calling his home country.
At 3:30 a.m., I decided to go back to the room and call him. "Taxi cab service," he answered. What do you say to a guy who has your phone and won't bring it back? I politely asked if he was still going to be able to get back to the motel. He said he'd be there in an hour. I asked if he knew how long an hour was. This seemed to make him mad, and I lost him again.
At 5:05 a.m., Mahoot pulled into the circle drive in front of the hotel. He rolled down the passenger window as I approached and asked, "How much phone worth to you?"
I rubbed my forehead, hoping that some of the "small town" would come off while I contemplated my reply. Before I could say anything, he started telling me how he had to drive all the way back from the airport just to deliver a phone. He suggested the phone was worth at least the price of another fare from the airport.
My pockets were empty as he pulled away from the hotel. I was so worked up I couldn't sleep, so I wound up just changing clothes and going to the meeting. At least I had my cell phone.
Dr. Brock owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.