Back from a weekend in the city, I needed a way to get from the bus to my car, which I had parked in front of a friend's restaurant about a mile from the bus station.
Having noticed over the last couple of years that there were many cabs circulating in the small town where the bus left me, I had no doubt that it would be very easy to catch a ride to my car.
But surprisingly, it was not the case.
Three different taxi drivers turned me down with an odd look on their faces when I asked them, in my best Spanish if they could give me a ride. "Puede darme un ride, por favor?" I asked my head halfway inside their car.
A pause. A look. A shake of the head, a swift departure.
I could not figure it out.
When a fourth cab pulled up and I asked my question once more and got the same "no" answer once more, I wanted to understand what was going on.
"But, why?" I asked.
"Because this is my work," came the answer.
This left me even more puzzled.
Noticing my confusion, the man was kind enough to gesture for me to get in, which I quickly did.
"You want me to take you somewhere, right?" he turned to me and asked.
"Yes, por favor," I responded. "Just a little bit up the road, to get my car."
"And you are going to pay me for this, right?"
"Of course," I replied.
"Very good," he said, starting his car. "Let's go."
"But why did you say no at first?" I asked.
"Did you ask other cab drivers the same question?" came the response. "I sure did," was my answer.
"And what happened?" asked my new friend, with a strangely big smile on his face." "They ran away," I admitted, feeling as though there was some common joke I was not aware of, some kind of taxi code I was yet to learn, even though I can now speak Construction, Car Repair and a bit of Legalese.
Stopped at a red light, I get my answer.
I had heard the word "un ride," a casual/slang take on the English word "ride" many times. When a friend and I wanted to get in another friend's car to make it to the next town, we asked her for "un ride." When one of the guys working on my house wanted me to take them to town to buy lunch, they asked me for "un ride." I had caught on and had now asked four taxi drivers for "un ride." Three had refused and peeled away, while the fourth one had enough curiosity to let me in and find out what the heck it was that I wanted - besides A FREE RIDE.
"Un ride," you see, it is a free ride. A favor, NOT something you ask a cab to give you.
Once I understood the distinction, I understood the confusion. And I was able to laugh along with the guy driving the cab. Lesson learned.
Of course, being in Mexico, the cab driver asked me if I was married, and suggested that since I wasn't and neither was he, we could always make some new arrangement and indeed, get me "mi ride."
As I walked out, I made sure to include the price of the important Spanish lesson in the tip.
SCARED OF THE SACRED