We look in the taxi. If there is a meter: fine.
If there is not: ‘do you have a meter?’
‘No – it’s a hundred dram a kilometer, we’ll go by the odometer.’
‘Well how much is it to point B from here?’
If he says: ‘I don’t know, we’ll go by the odometer’ – find another taxi. If he says: ‘Well, we’ll go by the odometer, but I don’t think it will be over 600’ – this is your taxi.
A short conversation usually follows: ‘Sorry, I don’t think you’re a bad person, but so often taxi drivers see we are foreigners and they cheat us, charge us 1300 dram for a ride that should be 700 – we realized later of course and got angry, but what can we do?’; ‘Fair enough, folks will cheat if they can’ – and that’s the end of it; we sit our twelve minutes and arrive at our destination.1
This last time, though, the driver kept talking, and he said something that I keep coming back to: ‘They’re hungry you see – not like really hungry, but they are in the habit of hunger – they can’t stop themselves: they have to take and take even when it’s wrong, even when they don’t need it. They’re hungry.’2
And so they are.
- Which is usually not accessible by public transport, or not when weighted down with any sort of luggage. [↩]
- The word սոված (sovats) is one of the several Armenian words that means ‘hungry’, and that is the word this entry takes its title from. There’s something about the way he said it that brought to mind the image of starving wolves, drawn, with sharp eyes. The conversation took a more amusing turn, as it turned out the driver was from a village near the city where we live. In less than five minutes after meeting a complete stranger, we have placed each other in the cosmos and know, to a certain extent, everything we need to know about each other. Had we been Armenian, we would have found a common relative. [↩]