Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Best. Cabbie. Ever.

Manaus, Brazil

When we left the jungle camp, our guide, Frank, told us that we would be met at the bus station in Manaus by Manuel - a man who would be readily identified by his large hat. Sure enough, when we stepped off the bus, there was a smiling older gentleman in a cowboy-ish chapeau there to receive us. We hopped in his surprisingly nice car and headed into town to the tour agency office where our bags were stored. Along the way we treated us to a bit of Julio Eglesias on tape.

The plan was to stop at the agency so Jason and I could repack our bags and have a shower before going to the airport. Manuel was not keen to wait around while we got our shit in order. He suggested that we stop instead at his house (apparently on the way to the airport) to shower. Suarez (sp? - the tour agency boss) agreed that this was a good idea, so we went along quietly.

Ten minutes later we were driving through a minor ghetto and I was beginning to have second thoughts. Although Manuel did not seem the type, he could have driven us just about anywhere, ditched his ungainly extra cargo of two gringoes, and taken off with our cash and equipments. In retrospect, this idea seems very silly. And it was. We parked outside of Manuel's suburban home some minutes later and popped in baggage in hand.

We proceeded to make a mess of the living room with the disgorged contents of our stinky backpacker bags while Manuel set about prepping the household. Shirt dispensed with, he quickly handed over a clean towel and got Momma hopping in the kitchen on an as yet unnamed project. It was not long before we were clean, happy, and tucking into the first home-cooked meal in recent OC memory. Manuel did not join in the feast - preferring instead to slap his full belly, ask questions here and there, and generally be one jolly mofo. The level of joy kicked up to 11 when Manuel's granddaughter arrived and he switched gears from happy host to doting grandfather.

We ate everything on offer and then prepared to leave. Just before departure, Manuel lined up his wife and teenaged daughter so that they could wish us bonne voyage and shake our hands. It was only another 15 minutes or so on to the airport. I tipped the man something like five dollars on a 25 dollar fare. It seemed that the gratitude would runneth over. Manuel called down the blessings of God and good luck on our travels and parted our company with another round of firm, friendly handshakes.

I do not know about you, but I have never had a cabbie invite me over to his house to wash and have a free meal. In the past, taxi drivers have been particularly prone to scamola, so both Jason and I were on guard for the other shoe, but it remained securely fastened in the pre-drop position. We must have accumulated some good karma somewhere.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, if some cab driver was all, "Come over to MY house. You can shower THERE," I'd be shitting my pants and trying to bust open the cab door.

I saw Hostel, man. I know what kind of crazy shit can happen.

2/20/2006 9:18 PM gmt


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