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The Taxi Diaries

The Taxi Diaries

Meghna Pant, features editor of Gulf Business, gives a spin to Dubai’s comeback by way of its taxis.

Living in a reasonably-sized city that is quite well connected, one would imagine that it’s easy getting around. At least that’s what I thought when I moved to Dubai less than three years ago. I’d heard horror stories from the well-heeled gentry who’d survived 2008 – a time when a person could supposedly spend close to an hour or two to find an empty taxi.

But these sounded like folklore tales to my dismissive ears even as I hailed a cab without having to wait for more than a minute or two. I snubbed all advice to buy a car and relived my New York public transport days by making do – and proudly so – with the metro and taxis.

Then came 2013. I entered the year without realising that Dubai’s supposed comeback would pinch me (aside from the rising rent I had to pay) where it hurt most. Finding a taxi.

Jumeirah Lake Towers where I live and love, is always so wonderfully dug up. The roads change on an almost daily basis making it quite a thrill to work my way in and out of the area. What better way to spend my time? But the one thing I really did love about JLT was that every morning, while rushing to work at my office in Media City, the least of my worries was finding a taxi. So I took risks (I hope my boss is not reading this), sometimes waking up at 8:15 am, just to see if I could still get to work on time by 8:30. I was never late (boss, please note).

But my fantasy life has now come to an end, as have my experimental mornings. Finding a taxi in Dubai now is akin to getting a UAE driving license (I’m Indian). I first realised this a month ago when I left home at 8:20 am and could not find a taxi for over thirty minutes. I trolled the streets in disbelief and finally – after waiting in a long line of disgruntled taxi seekers near the metro – my turn came. But I was late to work. This was the first of many long waits.

My mornings are now spent frantically searching for an empty taxi near my building, walking around the roads with my neck craning in all directions, and inevitably ending up in that serpentine queue near Almas Tower or the metro. I’ve used my charm – or whatever I can gather of it in the mornings – and suggested cab sharing to many waiting fellow-taxi-seekers, only to be met with the I-did-not-hear-that snub or being told ‘no’ by offended taxi drivers.

As a result, I’ve developed such a strong taxi radar that I can spot an empty one from miles away and have no qualms sprinting across traffic-heavy roads to catch one and then wave wickedly to the long line of the still-waiting.

While I write this I’ve been told that there are many services one can use to address the problem, from pre-booking a taxi to using a new car service called Careem.  But the thrill of the chase is so ingrained in me now, that my kick in the morning is no longer that freshly brewed cup of coffee but a chase for the next empty taxi.

 

 

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