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Maryam Hoballah 29 Jan 2016

Lessons Learned From Lebanese Taxis

UberPool is in the process of being launched around the world. It’s a cross between an Uber cab and a carpool, allowing you to share a ride with other passengers heading in a similar direction. What the rest of the world doesn’t know, though, is that, similar to ice cream cones, cars, and spaceships, the Lebanese invented this first and we call it a “service” (Pronounced: servees).

Here are a few tips I’d like to share on behalf of the Lebanese on what to expect on your journey because we have years of experiencing this form of transportation under our (seat)belts.

1. There is a high likelihood that you will share your ride with a man who stares at you for the entire journey. Get comfortable with that!

  • If you’re thinking about staring back until he looks away, that’s not a good idea. Staring back at him will easily turn into the most intimate, 20-minute staring contest you will ever participate in, after which you will turn away and he’ll continue to stare.
  • 2. Your driver will ensure that his customers are riding in style.

  • If you’re lucky, he will have decorated the outside of the cab with beautiful stickers describing his love for his mother, his pride for his country, and most importantly – threats to other drivers on the road. These threats range from telling other drivers to just get off the road, to challenging other cars to follow him if they dare. These stickers are essential to your safety.
  • Do you know what’s better than a Santa Claus hat on the back of the driver’s headrest? Well, it’s ANOTHER Santa Claus hat on the passenger’s side. All year long.
  • 3. Try not to speak in any language other than Arabic for the entirety of the journey.

  • A ride that costs 2,000 LL could easily shoot up to 15,000LL if the driver senses that you’re not a local. If you don’t speak Arabic, follow this golden rule: if the driver seems to be making a joke or asking a humorous question, just laugh at everything he says. If he’s talking about something more serious, memorize one phrase: “Allah yaalam”, which translates to, “God knows.” It works for almost everything he could possibly be saying to you.
  • 4. Try not to feel intimidated by your driver’s worldly experience.

  • Every once in a while you get really lucky and learn that your driver is a retired world-renowned lawyer, former German heart surgeon, or even an ex-Lebanese Minister that you’ve surprisingly never heard of. Act cool, calm, and collected in their presence.
  • 5. Expect slight delays.

  • A few different factors might delay your time of arrival at your destination. Your driver will honk his horn at every pedestrian he sees and slow down to see if they want to hop in. Although it may seem like the man getting into his own, parked car doesn’t need a ride (because he has one), never underestimate how persuasive a service driver’s beeps can be.
  • 6. Don’t miss out on the street view.

  • I’m not sure how this naturally comes about, since it looks like it takes a lot of effort BUT – there might be holes in the floor of your cab. Holes in the floor of your service are what glass floors are to yachts. I know what you’re thinking: “Perfect! I get to see the street below me.” Yes, true – it’s an experience you don’t want to miss, but just be careful of where you rest your feet and try not to drop anything into the holes. As you can see, there are some minor drawbacks to traveling in style.
  • 7. Try to hold back from panicking while your driver’s limbs hang outside the window.

  • Service drivers have a good sense of space and know just how far out they can hang their arms without getting hit. On a really windy day, they might stretch out their entire arm to feel the wind against their hand. It looks like an invigorating experience, until you realize your driver isn’t as experienced as most others, is not accustomed to the new length of his pinkie nail, and the scene might end badly.
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