November 14, 2009

The JUTA Taxi and other ways to get around Kingston

(Note: this is a re-post from June 5, 2009)
Many people have warned me that, in Kingston, you are only supposed to take the JUTA taxis – the official ones operated by the Jamaican Urban Transit Authority. We took one from the airport to the hotel. They are safer than the unmarked taxis, but often pricier. Thursday night, I left the hotel at about 10:45 pm. Outside, a JUTA driver asked me if I needed a taxi. I said I did – to go the six blocks to my apartment. He said it would cost US $5.00. That struck me as a bit much. It's not that I mind paying the gringo tax, but there are limits.

I thanked him and kept on walking. I was not sure what I was going to do, but another man stopped me at the hotel gate and asked if I needed a taxi. I told him where I was going, and he said JA $200 – about US $2.50. I thought that was reasonable, so I asked him if he was a JUTA taxi. He said he wasn't, and that if I didn't feel comfortable, he didn't mind. I quickly sized him up. He was in his fifties, and looked like a nice gentleman. So, I asked him if he was sure he wouldn't kill me on they way home. He assured me he wouldn't, and I got in his taxi.

During the ride home, I told him I usually walk back home. He said that was fine during the day, but that I shouldn't at night. He pointed to the block just before mine, and said that it was frequented by crackheads. I found that believable, as the other day I woman who had all the signs of heavy crack abuse asked me for money. And, on the corner of my house, he pointed to several young woman and told me they were prostitutes. When we arrived at the gate of my apartment complex, I paid him and went into the house. Later, that driver, Ken, became one of our regular taxi drivers in Kingston. It turned out that he also was a regular for a few folks in our housing complex.

The next morning, I walked back to the conference at the Kingston Hilton the next day, there were two women who clean the street who asked me for money to buy some juice. I pointed out that they had a cooler of drink next to them. The women didn't understand me, however, so I just said I didn't have any change. I do think it might be a good idea to give them some change sometimes, as perhaps they would look out for me. However, I don't want to have to pay a tax for walking down the street. Perhaps next time I see them, I'll give them JA $50.

Parts of the conference were a bit dull at points, so I worked on my blog. I used to think that I could only write in the morning, in relatively uninterrupted settings, and with encouragement from others. However, with this blog, I find that I can write anywhere, anytime. Writing on it throughout the day helps me empty my “Psychic RAM” as Meggin McIntosh “The Ph.D. of Productivity” calls it. She has this neat idea that your mind has a RAM (Random Access Memory), like a computer does. When your computer's RAM is overloaded, it works slowly. The same goes for your psychic RAM. One way to clean out your psychic RAM is to write things down. I have always been a fan of to-do lists. However, writing down my random thoughts on this blog also helps me to keep a clear head by getting all of my thoughts (not just my plans) out of my head and onto the computer.

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