Taxi ride from...well, you know where

We had an unpleasant taxi ride the other day, really our first one since being in the country.

It's our own fault, really. We should have gotten out of the car when, first thing, he refused to put out his cigarette. But as we got going and I said the classic line, "meshan il-baby!" he finally took one long, last drag and then tossed the cigarette out the window.

But then he started singing praises of Hamas. I don't have any particular problem with Hamas per se, but when you're a taxi driver with foreign passengers, I consider it to be bad form to be extolling the virtues of that political party. I was already uneasy, and then he said he was from Gaza, which took things up a politically sensitive notch.

Meanwhile, he was driving like a maniac and playing aggressive "chicken" with the cars around us. When traffic slowed down and we were stopped for long periods of time, he started calling out random things to passers-by. One guy had a large belly and the taxi driver felt the need to yell out to him about it.

I was holding on to Miriam for dear life as he careened around the roads. She was getting fussy, so to keep her still I fed her a little biscuit cracker (one of those ubiquitous Petit Beurre things from Turkey). The ride was just too scary, and we didn't want Mr. Hamas'-number-one-fan to know where we lived, so Jeremy had him drop us a 5-minute walk from home. To make matters worse, when I got out of the car, I saw that Miriam's biscuit had left crumbs all over the backseat. The driver got pretty upset about that and ya haram-ed me up and down as he made quite the show of brushing the biscuit crumbs off the seat and out the door. I said I was sorry and tried to help, but he was determined to be upset.

We paid him what we owed and went on our way, but it took a few hours for the bad taste of that taxi ride to go away. Thankfully, those kinds of experiences are few and far between here.

Technical difficulties

Machaerus