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September 03, 2010

Searching for the truth at a Bucharest taxistand

Mr. A and I are leaving Bucharest today. We were in town for a few days, for some work and some play. Our flight leaves at 5:45 from an airport that's about 10 miles out of town.

"You should leave at 1:30," one of his friends told us. "There's horrible traffic and on a Friday afternoon, you never know. You could end up stuck at the same intersection for an hour."

"Seriously...?"Mr. A wondered.

"If you leave any later you'll miss your flight."

1:30?? What about strolling through the city, picking up a few souvenirs, taking some final photographs? It's an intriguing place and this trip has been way too short.

"I think we need a second opinion," I told Mr. A, who didn't object.

First I called a taxi company and asked what time a cab should pick us up for arrival at the airport at 3:45. The operator told me she doesn't know and can't find out.

"But how do I know what time to call the taxi to pick us up?" I persisted.

"Call 15 minutes before you want to be picked up." Click.

I went downstairs, to the taxi stand, and asked the first cabdriver I saw: "How long will it take to get from here to the airport at rush hour?"

"20 minutes." He sounded impertinent, like that's the name of a special move he knows that drives all the ladies wild.

"Reeeally. Because someone else told me it will take at least 3 hours with the traffic."

"Nah. 20 minutes is all you need. Trust me."

"Would you be willing to risk my flight? I just want to know what time to leave, so I don't miss my plane. It took 20 minutes into the city with zero traffic, at midnight. It's really the same on a Friday?"

"Exactly the same. They opened up a new road and now the traffic problems are all over."

I thanked him (for nothing) and left.

I stopped in a convenience store and tried to get the cashier's opinion.

"I have no clue," she said, apologetic. "It depends on the day, the time, the season."

"What about today? for an afternoon flight?" I repeated.

"It depends," she answered, and turned to the customer behind me.

Next, I walked up to a cab waiting a few blocks away.

"Hello. How long will it take to get from here to the airport? I have to catch a flight at 5:45, so I should be there at 3:45. When should I leave from here?"

"To be there at 3:45? I'd say 45 minutes."

"On a Friday afternoon, with traffic?"

"With 45 minutes you should be fine."

"There's no risk I'd miss my flight?"

"If you call me, I guarantee I'll get you there on time."

I thanked him and picked up his business card before leaving.

Last stop: One more cab driver on the way back, to see if he could settle this tie.

Same question, and at last, a similar answer.

"It should take between 45 minutes and an hour, miss. If you leave at 3 or 3:30 max, you'll be more than fine."


"My pleasure. Have a great day."

And now, at 2:21 Bucharest time, we're preparing to take the bags down because Mr. A's friend called to say he'll take us -- at 2:30. Just to play it safe.

...Then why am I still nervous?
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