The Taxi Drivers Of St. Maarten
St. Maarten/St. Martin is a great destination if you like your islands beautiful and full of fun outdoor adventures, shopping, night life, great seafood, and friendly people. If you dislike all these things you might as well save a couple of bucks and a little travel time and go to the Bahamas or Turks or other such culture-free ilk.
This unique destination offers two countries for the price of one. St. Maarten, the more party atmosphere Dutch side, and St. Martin, the laid back French side, possess completely separate identities and personalities. Which is handy when you have a group of people who enjoy different things or for people who are capable of displaying more than one mood or emotion. For example, everyone who isn't Channing Tatum. Both sides combine the feel of island life, while adding a bit of European flair. Including some of the most amazing French bakeries and cappuccino in the western hemisphere. My favorite La Sucriere.
So much to do and so much to see. And the best way to learn about the islands is from the ones who know it best. The taxi drivers. For sheer entertainment value it is hard to beat a taxi driver. And you can discover the entire pulse of a nation by getting in a taxi and starting a conversation. Island taxi drivers are an incredible resource of information. They live there; and as a general rule, they like to talk about their home.
It was a taxi driver that convinced me of the lack of necessity to worry about violent crime on St. Maarten by talking non stop about a recent murder. Recent being island speak for several months ago. By my standards if you're still talking about a murder from 4 months ago, you must not have a lot going on. Most places in the US a murder doesn't even make rhe evening news. In Detroit it doesn't even make a police report.
The minutes of another taxi driver meeting went something like this:
Me: So, how's business?
Him: Those lousy bastards are keeping us taxi drivers from (incoherent grumbling) But that's okay. We're not gonna take it anymore. We're going to (incoherent grumbling with fist pounding)
This second incoherent rant carried us through the end of the 20 minute drive.
The great thing about taxi drivers is that initial start to the conversation. Talking to a taxi driver is like opening up a Christmas present and anticipating what might be inside. Sometimes you get angry, ranting taxi driver, which makes for an entertaining ride. Sometimes you open up the taxi driver who can tell you everything to eat in every restaurant on the island.
Another time you might get the taxi with a prosthetic leg laying in the front seat. This seems odd enough, but the presence of a clutch in said vehicle adds a whole new dimension of weird. And a lot of questions. How is he driving with only one leg? If he has two legs, whose leg is that, and how did he come to possess it? Does he have two prosthetic legs; one for driving and this is his "dress-up, night on the town" leg? Did he get a fortune cookie predicting a limb loss, so he is just being proactive? It's like getting to take a ride in the Mystery Taxi. If you can solve the Mystery of the Prosthetic Leg before you reach your destination you get a 50% discount.
And then still other times you might get Junior.
Junior is my favorite taxi driver I ever got. Have you ever had a taxi driver loan you $100 dollars so you could eat because the place you went to only took cash? Afterwards, he gave the kind of tour that only a local could ever deliver. If you get a Junior, you get not only a great driver, but a great soul.
So don't be afraid to jump in the taxi, open up your present, and be enlightened and entertained. Every taxi ride represents a potential story to tell when you return. Some good, some educational, some just bizarre, and some just a little bit scary.
St. Maarten FIRQ - 89
PPSM - 22