Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Maybe later" - lessons in non-sequiturs from cabbies

The taxi touts in Moscow's Sheremetevo are infamous. I had read all about them. They swarm like flies and they are quite insistent, and never wanting to take "no" for a final answer on being told that you are not interested in their services, they always ask "Maybe later?".

I went through Sheremetevo back in March 2007 on my way to and from the Siberian town of Kemerevo. I have a rather nice video of my take-off from Kemerevo over at you tube and it's actually one of the most popular videos I have released (go figure!). This is important right now not to serve as a reminder of unfulfilled promises of blogging from various locations, but to place my first exposure to this curious retort: "Maybe later?".

It had me almost in laughter, because it was always phrased as a question, rather than a statement. And it was always an earnest question, one which expected an answer.

What answer can someone give? "Err, yes. OK then, I don't want a cab right now, but, maybe later, I will have made up my mind to use your services, so stick around! No, really, don't take another fare, because I have said that maybe later I'll need you." I mean, like WTF?

When you are offering some fruit, a drink, a guided tour of the arrivals lounge, the question "Maybe later?" makes sense. When you are offering a potentially unlicensed, certainly dodgy-looking taxi service where the driver will have minimal command of about 4 words of English, if the customer does not want to ride with you now, trust me, there is very little chance that he will want to do so later. I mean, barring a zombie outbreak in the terminal.

So here we were in Otopeni airport (Bucharest) this morning, surrounded by taxi touts, again, (because the imbecile driver who is meant to pick me up is late, again, but that's a different story) and I explain to the guy that, no I do not want a taxi because someone is coming to get me - I actually say this - Taxi is coming for me. And what does the guy say?

You guessed it - in his most straight-faced non-rhetorical pleading question intonation: "Maybe later?". "Yes," I tell him, "maybe."

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