Every trip I make, I pay a sucker tax, but only once. After that, I keep my wits about me – until my next trip, when I fall into the same old trap. I’ve done this so often that I am beginning to believe in things like mini-destiny, mini-attentiveness and mini-stupidity. It usually happens in a taxi, and most often in the one conveying me from the airport to my hotel. Either because I forget to make sure the driver turns on his meter or because I don’t know my way around, I often end up paying twice the going rate. For me, it’s actually quite a relief to find I’ve paid the sucker tax so early on – and so cheaply. Being cheated out of 20 or 30 dollars puts more of a dent in one’s dignity than in one’s wallet. But 100 dollars hurts, as I discovered once upon a time in Tel Aviv. I walked out of my hotel on my way to a disco. The taxi driver said “No problem, Klaus,” and kept that up for the entire journey because he thought I was the eccentric actor Klaus Kinski wishing to remain incognito. Not in his taxi! World fame has its price. We drove halfway around the city and even onto an expressway before he finally pulled up in front of the disco where I handed him 100 dollars without batting an eyelid, since the trip had really taken a long time. I only realized what an idiot I had been hours later, when I asked the bouncer to call me a cab. The Hilton, he told me, was just 100 meters down the street. I soon composed myself again, however, because what the taxi driver had really done was play on my pride, and pride is not only a great weakness, but also a sin, they say. In the realm of such failings, a 100-dollar penalty is surely not too much to pay. All’s well that ends well.
Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.