Drachmas

“The fixed price to JFK is 28 dollars” said the taxi driver; “toll and tips not included, and I want the two dollars and seventy five cents for the toll upfront.” I reached to my wallet, dug eleven quarters and handed them to him. He carefully checked the quarters and said: “If you’re wondering why I want the toll money here, it is all because of the Drachmas.” “The Drachmas?” I asked. “Yes” said the driver. “They want to take me to trial for putting drachmas instead of quarters in the toll machine.” Apparently, using 100 Greek Drachma coins, which are almost of no value, instead of US quarters became quite a problem. “No matter how much I tell them that I put whatever the clients give me in the machine they still do not believe me, and want to bring me to trial. Therefore I now check the quarters the clients give me here in New York, in the light.” “I see” I said. I felt sorry for him. He was getting into serious trouble because of greedy, heartless passengers. 

We started talking. The driver told me about his old country back in Asia and how he came to the United States to start a new life. He is working hard driving the taxi, and makes a good living. And he has some plans and dreams. I told him about my country. We talked about family far away and about friends from the old country here in the States. His Drachmas story and the injustice done to him instantaneously connected us.   

By the time we reached the toll machines we felt like old friends and he was ready to share his secrets with me. “Look what I am doing” my new friend told me. He took my eleven quarters and put them in his right pocket, then pulled eleven drachma coins from his left pocket, showed them to me, and threw them to the basket. The gates opened and shortly afterwards we arrived at JFK. 

 

  

 

 

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6 Responses to Drachmas

  1. shmuel says:

    And your tip was? denominated in?

  2. Gil says:

    Dear Shmuel, to the best of my memory, I just gave the standard tip. (No deduction for my share of the Drachma profits, and no addition for soul-friends taxi drivers…). Sometimes, I wonder what the appropriate tip should have been.

  3. Erel Avineri says:

    And what if one will meet the same taxi driver in a similiar situation? One may lose empathy, and become either (i) aggressive or (ii) cooperative player (and suggest to split the ‘profit’) – following the assumption of egalitarianism…

  4. anon says:

    very very nice “real” short story. In the Anton Chekov, Saki and RK Narayan class………

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