Crabby Cab

The pear-green chairs adorning the lobby of the Marriot were undoubtedly my favorite homework spot.  Its comfy escape from the instant comatose-state offered by my bedroom into the steady hustle and bustle of customers streaming in and out of the hotel was an incredible conductor for my work, most of the time, anyway.  This day was no exception. 

As I sank into the seat, notebook in hand, prepared to do my work, in stormed a man with a second one on his toes.  The first gentleman wore glasses, a nice sweater and really well polished shoes while the latter wore a grungy brown jacket, slacks, and worn loafers.  The duo had hardly reached the reception desk before the first gentleman began screaming at the fresh-faced pair of attendants standing idly behind the counter.  “I paid 30 roubles to take my friends and I to a nearby restaurant from this hotel” he screeched, “But for the exact same distance—from the restaurant to the hotel, this man demands 100 rubles!”  The man insisted that the pair talk the taxi driver to somehow fix this obvious discrepancy.  The staff members seemed to shrug with indifference. 

Perhaps this gentleman should have been schooled in this prevalent cultural norm of negotiating prices with the taxis before accepting a ride: In Russia, only in extremely rare cases will taxi drivers actually use a meter to compute the price.  Upon further prompting from the grisly gentleman, the staff began squabbling with the taxi driver in Russian, to see if anything can be done to resolve this conflict.  After realizing the taxi driver was unwilling to budge, the staff members told the gentleman that there was absolutely they could do.  He must pay the 70 ruble premium.  Who were they to interrupt the seams of Russian culture?  At this, the man nearly burned with anger.  “I AM YOUR CLIENT!” he barked. 

For emphasis, he added, “You RUSSIANS always stick together.  Because I am Italian, this happens.”  The staff blushed but remained remarkably calm.  The enangered Italian, with reluctance, finally paid the bill, demanding a receipt in return.  After he stomped off, I was certain I would never see the gentleman: I would have bet he would leave the hotel in a huff that evening, along with all of the other thirty Italians gracing the hotel for the week.  But a couple of days later, the same man strolled in the restaurant of the hotel content as can be.

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