Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cabs and Christmas

The other night, just as we were falling asleep, Robert and I were startled into wakefulness by a loud banging sound. Like a gun. And then we heard it again. Then silence. Eventually we decided it was nothing to worry about (I mean really, what else can you do??) and went back to bed.

Later it occurred to us that we might've been hearing fireworks. It was about midnight, and the day was turning to Christmas. Why a primarily Hindu nation would shoot off fireworks on Christmas was an open question, but after we heard fireworks a couple more times on the 25th and 26th we decided that was probably what we'd heard. Surprising how heart-pounding those things can be when you're not expecting them!

Yesterday, when we were having lunch at Nesara, Liel said, "Mama, there's a star of David!". I looked, and yes, nestled among the Christmas decorations was a star of David, made of red and green tinsel. I'd never seen anything quite like it, so I took a crappy iPhone picture for posterity.

On a wholly other note, we've hired a cab for tomorrow. Virtually every mode of transportation in Bangalore (aside from owning a car and having a driver) seems fraught with irritation and inconvenience. We are told that the auto rickshaws, which are plentiful, have a strong tendency towards dishonesty and unpleasantness. "Insist that they use the meter!" our local friends tell us. "Don't get in if the driver won't turn the meter on!" Instead, various friends have recommended various cab companies, which will rent you a car and driver for 4 or 8 hours. The trouble is, all of them, every last one, has horrible reviews! And I don't mean just one horrible review- I mean nearly half of all reviews (or more) are 1 star. Complaints range from late cabs to non-existent cabs, bookings canceled at the last minute, drivers who demand more than the agreed upon price, or take longer than necessary routes (of course we'd have no idea about this, but the rental only includes a certain amount of kilometers so we'd be easy prey!), drive like maniacs, and indifferent customer service. So what's a family who doesn't own a car in Bangalore to do?

I felt totally paralyzed by all of this. Which recommended but terribly reviewed cab company would be most likely to deliver us a car with an honest driver? I had no idea.

In the end we booked a cab with a company that no one had recommended (save one internet review that was so glowing as to raise the suspicion that the owner of the company had written it). We chose them because they didn't require that we pay a portion of the fee upfront. Less risk in case the cab is late or doesn't show, plus we don't have to pay the rather unreasonable fees our bank and credit card charge for overseas use. We're hoping to spend half the day out tomorrow, going to the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technical Museum. Wish us luck! I will, of course, report back :)

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