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May 21, 2006

Adventures in Cabbing

I arrived in Mountain View last night, kicking off the start to another summer in sunny California (it's actually raining quite hard as I type this). I'm living with Stephanie Leung, the twin sister of my roommate from last summer, Jessica. Stephanie actually worked at Apple last year. Since I was supposed to work at Apple before I made the last minute switch to intern at Sandia, I might have lived with Stephanie last summer instead of Jessica. Such a small world. Anyways, I guess they are sort of celebrities at Berkeley for being female engineering twins, so I have a claim to fame by association.

Fast forward to this morning. I reserved a rental car at an Enterprise in Stanford, but needed a way to get to the rental office since they didn't do pickups on Sunday. I was originally going to do some combination of walking, bussing, and CalTraining to get there, but I decided a cab would probably be an easier option for just slightly more money. I called YellowCab and asked the operator how much it would cost, he said around $20, so I made a reservation to get picked up at 9:45 in the morning; this would leave me plenty of time to get there for my 10:00am-12:00pm appointment. The clock strikes 10:00am with no word from the cab, so I call to make sure someone is coming. The phone operator says that the driver already left, so I wait a bit longer. He finally shows up at 10:15am. No problem, we still have plenty of time.

The driver asks where we are going, I give him the address, and we head out of my apartment complex. He tells me that he just started yesterday as a taxi driver and doesn't know the area and will need help from me. I told him that this is my first time in Mountain View, so his one day of experience was 24 hours more than I had. After 3 miles going in the wrong direction, the driver realizes he made a mistake, and turns around. We pass my apartment complex entrance a short while later with $12 on the meter, but this time going in the right direction! The driver made three other wrong turns and finally just gave me the map to tell him where to turn. Now, after making multiple incorrect turns, I'd think he would try to pay close attention to the road, but he was still insistent on making small talk. I told him I was in California for the summer, from Chicago, living with a friend, etc. The conversation proceeded:

Driver: "Oh, you are here for the summer. Where are you working?"
Parisa: "Google."
Driver: "Who's Google?"
Parisa: "It's a company. Have you ever heard of them?"
Driver: "No. What do they do?"
Parisa: "Well, they have a search engine for the web?"
Driver: "What is the web?"
Parisa: "Oh, the web is the Internet. Do you know what the Internet is?"
Driver: "No, what is that?"
Parisa: "Oh. Hmmm. Well, people write emails on the Internet. Do you know what email is?"
Driver: "No. What is that? I don't use computers."
Parisa: "Oh, well it has to do with computers."
Driver: "So what do you do with computers?"
Parisa: "I write programs for computers."
Driver: "What are programs?"
Parisa: "I make games for computers."
Driver: "Oh, OK. That's nice."

Well, it was probably as close as I was going to get with the small talk. So we missed another turn at that point, passed the $50 meter mark, it's 11:05, and still no Enterprise in site. I knew that Enterprise was only open until noon, so I was getting a bit annoyed and nervous that we wouldn't make it. This whole time, he is also trying to sell me his van for the summer, offering to charge half of what Enterprise is charging me for the car. I kept changing the subject and eventually told him to pull over at a gas station to ask for directions, but he didn't like that idea. Instead, he called the operator to get the phone number for Enterprise, threw his cell phone head piece at me in the back, and told me to try and get directions. It didn't connect, so he took the piece back and had me punch in the Enterprise number in his phone. After three call attempts, we finally got the local branch to give us directions. We circled around this parking garage three times before I finally saw the Enterprise rental office door and told him to stop the car. The meter was up to $93 at this point, but I told him I would pay him $20 since that's what the YellowCab phone operator told me it should cost. He didn't really respond, so I gave him the money and left. He was kind of a small guy, so I was less afraid of him coming after me for the difference in pay, but there was also no way I was going to pay nearly $100 for that sad excuse of a cab ride. It took me a full 8 minutes to drive back to my apartment, all of which was done at or below the speed limit since I wasn't completely sure where I was going.

Yay, I have a car!
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