Taxi drivers know the city best. They know its streets, its people, its visitors, and also its murky dark corners. They have inspired Scorcese’s film Taxi Driver, and Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth, both well worth seeing.
Layne Mosler, from Taxi Gourmet, has got to know them well during her adventures in which she asks taxi drivers to take her to their favourite restaurants, and her stories are documented on her blog.
We also love the case of Mike Harvey, a New York Taxi driver, who likes to photograph his passengers.
Taxi drivers are city charms and sometimes a nightmare, and in Buenos Aires they give the city a special flavor due to their unique character. So much so, that they even have a monument on Avenida de los Italianos and Macacha Güemes in Puerto Madero. We’ve tried to classify these quirky fellows. These are the 5 types of taxi drivers in Buenos Aires that we’ve hailed down.
1. The Chatterbox
(Photo by Kyle M Lease)
Argentine culture is very extroverted and verbal. It is not uncommon for strangers to start chatting, specially amongst older generations. Some people love this, some people really don’t, and then there is the chatterbox taxista. In five, ten, or twenty minutes, you will find out everything about his life including name of mistress, what his children do for a living, and what he cooked for dinner last night. Many times, this character is far from politically correct, and will be happy to bring up political opinions and other uncomfortable topics of conversation. Usually, they also have some element of identity hanging from the mirror, generally related to their football team, or maybe a teddy bear.
2. The Silent Grump
On the other end of the spectrum is the mute cab driver who may sigh fastidiously at the most, or perhaps let out a grunt. These taxi drivers in Buenos Aires might be tired after working a full shift or just plain moody. These guys won’t even acknowledge they know the address of where you’ve asked to go. Don’t expect eye contact either. If you want to know how much you owe them, just look at the taxi meter, that’s what it’s there for, right?
3. The European
The taxi heritage in Buenos Aires dates back to the immigration days in which Italians, Spaniards, Germans, Brits and other Europeans flocked to Argentina in post war contexts and had to find a living. The European immigrant cab driver is a rarity these days, as they belong to a group that is way past retirement age, but, sometimes they show up, and if they don’t, often, their already Argie descendents still take to heart their European heritage and speak to you in every language but Spanish assuring you that they are in fact not Porteño at all and maybe even that they’re from whatever country that you’re from….sort of.
4. The Road Rager
Porteños are not exactly known for being the most rule ready drivers, and amongst the maddened traffic, the road rager taxista is an expert at yellow lights and swerving. These taxi drivers in Buenos Aires are in a rush to get anywhere you’re going and it doesn’t matter what part of the city you’re in or if it’s a Sunday morning at 9am. Expect skidding, honking, speeding, and if you survive…a quick journey because you’ll get there fast.
5. The Unskilled Flirt
Locally known as chamuyeros (sweet talkers), these taxistas believe they have the seduction powers of a superstar and will try and persuade you to go to a club, drop you off at a club so that they can come with you, or get your phone number and Facebook contact. Don’t flatter yourself, they do it to every woman who gets in their cab. Best to smile and pretend not to understand.