Last weekend, I step out of a mall loaded with packages and groceries, and am immediately approached by an autorickshaw driver.
He tries to haggle, but I'm determined not to pay more than a taxi (which is faster and more comfortable), so he reluctantly agrees. I get in and we set off.Madam – I take you to another shop?
No thank you.
Just five minutes.
Which country you are from?
But I like U.S.! He glances slyly at me in the mirror.
That’s nice. And I like India. Now take me home! He continues to cajole as we drive.
Five minutes you shop, I get pay.
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I scream, and even as I’m screaming, I realize how stupidly screechy I sound. Mr. autorickshaw driver is obviously not used to screechy women, because he seems momentarily taken aback. Then he fights back.
Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! he screeches back, mimicking me perfectly. I am not amused. I glare my best glare at him. I am ready to jump out of the rickshaw, into traffic, and walk the rest of the way home, if need be. (Autorickshaw drivers in Chennai are not known for their hospitable behavior toward passengers. There is currently a training program in effect to teach them some basic principles of courteous behavior.)
He’s not so stupid that he can’t see he’s really pissed me off now. He changes tactics.
Madam - I have 3 children, two boys and a girl. I need money.
I want to shoot back--WHY do you keep having children if you have no money?--but my Tamil is not good enough to get that concept across, his English is not good enough to understand mine, and I don’t really want to sound like a pompous, judgemental American bitch. But he must read the sentiment on my face.
But no more, I stop. No more children. Cut, cut, cut.
He pantomimes snipping with scissors. I’m guessing he’s telling me he’s had a vasectomy, which is really more than I need to know about my rickshaw driver that I’ve known for all of 10 minutes. But this is India after all, and I can’t help but stifle a laugh.
I pick you up every day, ok? You call me, mobile phone, I pick you up.
Right. I would sooner walk 20 miles than sit in this dude's vehicle again.
I driving 10 years, never accident, he boasts, as he narrowly misses a two-wheeler with a baby on it.
I don't really want this guy to know where I live, so I have him drop me off a few blocks from my house. But instead of turning around and leaving, he follows me down the street, watches me go into the building. He parks the vehicle at the end of my building, a dead end street. I have no idea what he's up to, but I go straight upstairs and lock the door securely.
I'm relieved that Chennai has thousands of other autorickshaw drivers. I've never yet had the same driver twice, so I'm not likely to ever see this guy again.
This morning, I take Clare to the mall. As we step outside with our packages, we are approached by...you guessed it. Spencer. Thousands of people in the mall, hundreds of autorickshaws waiting outside of it. What are the chances?!
Why you no call me? I give you card. You no call.
I'm amused that he's acting insulted, like we had a one-night stand or something, and then I blew him off. He seems more subdued on this trip.
Maybe he graduated from that autorickshaw driver hospitality training?