Wednesday, February 6, 2008

San Jose

We stuffed our four backpacks into the back of a taxi and directed our driver to the hostel. His appearance screamed ‘shifty’ but he agreed to take us for a good price. As his silver ringed fingers wheeled us around town, a ‘helpful’ suggestion dribbled from below his thick black moustache; “Let’s just ring them first and make sure they’re not full”. We pulled over, and his hairy sausages mashed in the number. “Not working” he said after putting the phone up to his ear. He ‘tried’ the number again; this time there was someone on the other end. “Pangea Hostel?” he asked, then handed the mobile to Paul, so Paul could ask about a room- and so we could know he wasn’t just going to lie and tell us they were full. Taxi drivers earn commissions by taking tourists to certain hotels, and this was a show of honesty on his part so that we could be sure he wasn’t trying to scam us into staying to his Cousin’s Crappy Hostel. “We’re full” came the answer, followed by a round of raised eyebrows on our part- just a feeling we all got. Paul checked the last dialled numbers, and noting that the number he had just been talking to be different to the advertised one of our hostel, tried the hostel number again. This time he got a new person on the other end, and it turned out that there were plenty of beds available. The driver had someone, somewhere, who he called and would then pose as staff, regretfully informing the caller that their chosen hotel was full- maybe your taxi driver knows somewhere? (and changing the destination of the cab means hiking up the price, too). Realising he had been caught, our driver turned up the stereo, stared straight ahead and didn’t make any other ‘helpful’ suggestions, or indeed, say another word for the entire trip.

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