ATHENS, 19 March 2018. The authentic Greek taxi ride is to be granted protected status alongside feta cheese and Kalamata olives, under government plans aimed at safeguarding what it being called “an essential part of our national heritage that is under attack.”
The government has launched the initiative under pressure from the powerful taxi drivers’ union which has been organising protests against the incursion of ride-sharing apps.
The Greek parliament is currently debating a transport bill that would force ride-booking platforms to hire full-time drivers on long-term contracts. Defending the traditional taxi sector in the debate, the president of the taxi driver’s union accused platforms like Uber and the home-grown Beat (formerly Taxibeat) of “using innovation to rip off not only professional drivers but our country.” Meanwhile, in an ongoing court case, drivers for Uber Hellas, who in a typically Greek exercise in rule-bending are actually employed by tour operators, are being tried for breaking the rules governing the leasing of private vehicles. Beat, which works with licensed taxi drivers, is being attacked primarily on the (very dubious) grounds of alleged tax evasion, with the Transport Minister suggesting that “SDOE (the financial crime agency) will have a lot of work on its hands.”
There are other aspects of ride-booking platforms that old-school cabbies appear to object to, including the ability of customers to rate their driver’s performance. On a previous occasion, a spokesman for the taxi drivers accused the founder of Beat, aka. “the man who enriched himself from the sweat of taxi drivers” (let that olfactory image sink in for a moment), of “putting drivers on display for the client to chose, as if they were whores in the windows of Amsterdam’s red light district.”
Meanwhile, the local chapter of the Travis Bickle Appreciation Society, whose members are not-so-affectionately known as “tarifes” (sing. tarifas, m.), complain that they are the victims of a black propaganda campaign sponsored by offshore multinationals. Galvanised by their battle against the troika‘s attempt to open up the profession, they see the protected designation as their best defence against the malign foreign forces bent on the destruction of the hard-working cabbie, guardian of the last remaining honourable profession, last bastion of true Greekness.
To qualify as an “authentic Greek taxi ride” under the terms of the proposed designation, the customer experience will need to include all of the following elements:
- passive smoking: driver may make a token offer to open the window and drive with his smoke dangling out – if you’re going to be such a stickler about it, you know the police should get after all those motorcyclists who cut between lanes, those guys are a real danger, smoking is a human right etc.
- talk radio, themed on sports, politics or religion, played at a loud volume with additional commentary from the driver, or loud skyladiko music with vocal accompaniment and/or wistful sighing.
- a sped-up meter and/or a “broken” (or genuinely non-functioning) receipt dispenser.
- a minimum of one (1) non-functioning seat belt.
- a request for directions to the passenger’s destination and/or unneccesary detour.
- an unsolicited educational lecture drawn from the Approved List of Private Transportation Drivers’ Topics of Discourse, including but not limited to: the evils of motorcyclists/delivery drivers/women drivers/immigrants/taxi platforms who employ all of the above,the miracles of Saint Paisios, why this country needs a junta, why Vladimir Putin’s patronage is the next best thing, the latest snake-oil miracle cure bought off the internet that “actually works”, doctors are all quacks they’re just after your money.
- a loud conversation on a mobile phone with a buddy/colleague/dispatch centre, liberally peppered with excess personal detail/obscenity/references to the incumbent customer in the third person.
- minimum of one (1) sexist comment, either in “appreciation” of a female pedestrian or in condemnation of a female driver.
- absence of means for the passenger to evaluate the ride, other than slamming the door on exit and yelling “I’ve got your registration number and I’m going to sue you,” as the vehicle speeds off belching black smoke.
Connoisseurs, meanwhile, bemoan the fact that many of the essential features of the Greek taxi ride have already been rendered obsolete by interventionist government policies and “those namby-pamby metropolitan killjoys who want to appear more ‘European'”. They point to the involuntary rideshare, once a staple of the Greek cab experience, which was all but eradicated by driver “re-education” programmes in the run-up to the 2004 Olympics.
“Look at what happened there,” rages Menios, a 30-year veteran tarifas. “They tell us ‘don’t do it, the foreigners don’t like it.’ Next thing you know, some smartass capitalist in America ‘invents’ the ‘ride-share’. Those capitalists, my friend, they come here and rip off our best inventions and make a fortune. Just like computers and space travel, which were invented by the ancient Greeks, but will you see that in any of the history books? That is why this country will never get ahead.”
DISCLAIMER: For the avoidance of doubt, the above is #fakenews, however all external links are 100% genuine.