Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Santo Domingo Cab Rides: $10/mile

In a picturesque world, Christmas is a time for family joy, gift giving, carol singing, and general merriment. In the real world, my friends tell me it is the cause of most alcohol-related diseases in the Western Hemisphere. As a passive (read: lazy) Hindu, I have used this holiday season for precisely two purposes. Namely, watching overly aggressive soccer moms beat each other down at the local shopping mall, and catching up on 12-months worth of television.

Despite this productive use of time, my parents decided that we, as a family, should venture a relaxing vacation to get to know each other better. After a brainstorming session, we listed the collective requirements:

1. Must have beach access (dad)
2. Must be far away from beach (me)
3. Must be English speaking (mom)
4. Spanish speaking would be cool (brother)
5. Round-trip travel time must be less than 5 days (dad)
6. Let's go away for the month (mom)
7. What? (me)
8. Are we out of peanut butter? (brother)

Out of annoyance and a general desire to not hear us speak any more (yay family bonding!), my mother decided that the Dominican Republic would be our best bet. I volunteered to buy the tickets, but as my net worth is about $12, ended up calling the travel agent and impersonating my parents, and put us down for non-refundable tickets to Santo Domingo.

Christmas morning, millions of children around the country awoke to the joys of a winter wonderland, for it had been and continued to snow for 13 straight hours. My family, on the other hand, began our exploration of alcohol-related diseases. Our flight to Atlanta got canceled. After much deliberation, we decided to rent a car and make the long drive to Atlanta to catch the flight to Santo, which was unaffected. Then we decided not to go.

Finally, after a long drive overnight, we made it to Atlanta (we decided to go after all). Family bonding was great! I even saw my parents a few times! One such occasion was dinner the second night. A friend of a friend recommended a Spanish restaurant. So, we saddled up, paid twice as much as we should have for a cab ride there, and ate a fantastic paella in thankfully dim light that disguised how under dressed we all were.

On the way out, I noticed there was bowl containing free candy for all diners. Naturally, this kept me distracted for a solid fifteen minutes. Successfully covered in processed sugar, I came outside to see my brother, father, and some confused looking Dominican guy arguing about the cost of the cab ride home. Between my brother's intermediate Spanish and my sugar-coated French, we deduced the cost of the ride home contained the number "5," though the exact placement of this "5" was unknown. My brother thought the placement of the "5" meant the cost breakdown equaled to about $10/mile. Having lived in New York for more than two years, I knew this was a rip off, because if the cost of ANYTHING is more than it is in New York, you are getting screwed.

After another ten minutes of hand gestures, angry sighs, and gum drops, my father had the genius idea of giving confused Dominican guy a sheet of paper to write down the price. As it turned out, high school Spanish in the States failed again, and the placement of the "5" meant the cab ride would cost half of what it did on the way to the restaurant. So, we piled in the cab, all did a silent gasp as we saw a gun in the cup holder, and went back to the hotel. I believe this is why we average one family vacation every four years.