Since we drive only one car, taking it to the shop involves getting a taxi, and up in San Antonio de Escazu, you are not going to find any legal taxis, only "piratas," or pirate cabs. Also, since we are one of the few families in Costa Rica using a car seat for their baby, I refuse to use pirate cabs, as they generally don't have working seatbelts. So this time, we stopped by the taxi parking in downtown Escazu and got a so-called "real" taxi to follow us up the hill, then take us back home to Ciudad Colon.
On the way back, this idiot of a cab driver began speeding like a bat out of hell through the narrow and sometimes barely navigable streets of Escazu. I had sat in the front seat, thinking this would avoid me getting carsick, but with his bad driving, that turned out to be a non-issue (I got carsick and had a raging migraine by the time we arrived home). When he asked esposo if he should take the highway, a little voice in my head said, "No! Take the back way!" but as usual, I didn't listen to it. And well I should have.
As this moron pulls on the on-ramp to the highway, I see we are behind a bus. No big deal, right? Oh, but no! No no no! We mustn't be slowed down by a bus! So moron taxi driver decides he will try to pass the bus ON THE ON RAMP, with oncoming traffic doing about 80-90kmh in the left lane! FREAK OUT TIME! The bus driver either does not see this idiot cab driver, or does not care to let him pass, so he keeps on trekkin' up the on ramp; meanwhile, the cab driver is still making an attempt to pass him. I have my 2-year-old in the car, for chrissakes! I am white-knuckling it, and at one point, the cab driver barely squeaks between the bus in the right lane and a Land Rover in the left lane. I have to put my hand in the car to avoid it being taken off by the side of the bus. All the while I am praying to the angels to please, please keep us from having an accident. We somehow manage to get by the bus, and does the taxi driver pull around sensibly, finally passing the bus as he so badly wanted to do? NOOOOO! But NO! Instead, he shouts at the bus driver, "I'm going to report you, idiot!" Who is the idiot here, I'm thinking, while muttering "Hijueputa" under my breath (yet loud enough for the cab driver to hear me). He then attempts to explain his insanity away by telling me how the bus driver was wrong, but all I can think of is my baby in the backseat, thankful that we have the carseat and wondering how in the HELL can this guy think that what he did was okay?
This is not the first time I've had a scary cab drive experience, and actually, any ride I've had in a cab has been scary at at least one point. So I avoid both cabs and busses like the black plague (which, by the way, I cursed the cab driver with -- "A plague upon both you and your taxi!").
The worst part of the whole thing is that we could not report the guy, because cab drivers are known to be jackasses who will take revenge (I had a cab driver throw money at me and threaten to kill me simply because I gave him some coins as a tip after a ride in downtown San Jose; honestly I still can't figure out what I did wrong -- is a small tip not better than no tip at all, particularly when one has nothing but coins?). Since he knew where we lived, we would not take a chance on having him come back and poison the dogs or something worse. (Dog poisoning is a favorite way for jacks to take out their anger on someone they dislike.)
So now we have new rules for taking taxis:
1. Always get the full fare up front, especially for long rides, and if they say, "Let's see how the meter goes," move on to the next cab in line.
2. Make sure the seat belts all work.
3. Tell the driver he must drive slow and carefully right up front. Tell him I have a weak stomach or that I am pregnant (that actually worked quite well when I was pregnant, to tell the truth).
According to the U.S. State Department's website:
Costa Rica has one of the highest vehicle accident rates in the world. Traffic laws and speed limits are often ignored, turns across one or two lanes of traffic are common, and pedestrians are not given the right of way. Roads are often in poor condition, and large potholes with the potential to cause significant damage to vehicles are common. Pedestrians, cyclists, and farm animals may use the main roads. Traffic signs, even on major highways, are inadequate and few roads are lined. Shoulders are narrow or consist of drainage ditches. All of the above, in addition to poor visibility due to heavy fog or rain, makes driving at night especially treacherous. Landslides are common in the rainy season. All types of motor vehicles are appropriate for the main highways and principal roads in the major cities. However, some roads to beaches and other rural locations are not paved, and many destinations are accessible only with high clearance, rugged suspension four-wheel drive vehicles.
I wholeheartedly agree with all of the above, though I wonder why the State Department does not warn travelers that they are putting their lives into the hands of idiots when they decide to use public transportation?