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Ser-vees to Hamra

July 10, 2011

Lebanese Cabs work on two calibers. Ser-vees (a lebanese accented “Service”) and Taxi.

Taxi. A private ride. Starting at about 10,000 L.L (about $6.80) to any number imaginable (yes you could end up paying like $80). The car is all yours till you reach your destination. Taxi companies work by phone; you call the call-center, schedule a pick-up, they send a car, or they are parked on corners and in front of malls/hotels etc.

Ser-vess. The economy ride. Average price 2,000 L.L ( about $1.36) per ride. The price is placed by the Taxi Driver’s Committee, with the freedom of the “ser-vees” driver to demand more as he sees fit. A typical method of getting a Ser-vees ride: Drivers maneuvering to stay on the right of the road to pick up possible clients, after a near death honking and park, Driver: where to? You: “Hamra” [if it’s not on the driver’s route, or he doesn’t plan on giong there] Driver: [shakes head]. [on the occasion that he is willing to take you there and feels like 2,000 are not enough/Scenario 1] Driver: Ser-vees-en [double the price]. You: “No thanks” [or simply gesture that you don’t agree and Ser-vees drives off/ Scenario 2]. Driver: “get in” [you get in, there maybe more passengers already in the vehicle, heading to an approximate destination on your route, or your route on theirs, if not, you will stop numerous times to pick up more passengers; a ser-vees hates having one passenger per destination/ Scenario 3]. Driver: “Taxi?” [rules of a taxi apply in payment and number of passengers/ Scenario 4] You can agree or not agree to take the ride. chances are if the destination is more than 3 ser-vees (6,000 L.L/ $4) away, you are likely to end up paying a taxi fee.

Taxi @ Hamra Street, Beirut

A Ser-vees ride is quite an experience. It may be a huge traffic dilemma (as the driver never drives in one lane, never abides by rules, considers honking a language and stops abruptly numerous times in the middle of the street) but it’s a transportation that has it’s advantages:
1. Economically: it’s cheaper than a taxi, but faster than a bus/mini-bus
2. Green: Ser-vees is a greener choice of transportation, instead of having 4 taxis heading to one destination, 1 ser-vees can cater 4 people to the same destination.
3. Community: Ser-vees drivers are a unique breed, highly entertaining [can be annoying sometimes], talking non-stop and opening up conversations about everything!  (and i mean everything!)
4. Community (II): A great window to the society, some conversations you can never hear except in a ser-vees, complaints, talks of protests, politics and public opinion, voices no one hears.
5. Parking: living in beirut? you do realize parking is hell! and you don’t have to worry about paying parking or “valet” fee
6. Petrol: If your using a car within Beirut, a Ser-vees is cheaper, because your saving on petrol, mechanic, and parking of the car. ( at least that’s what i’ve calculated so far). If you live in greater Beirut and further, a car can make a difference, and you can always car-pool with friends?

I do like my Ser-vees rides in the morning, heading to work. You never know what to expect, a quiet ride, a noisy radio, an intense political discussion .. or .. endless options.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2011 11:03 pm

    Loved reading this. I look forward to my Ser-vees ride every morning. It’s always interesting and entertaining. But the one in the picture you chose in unique!!! Usually they are so old you don’t know if you will actually make it or end up on the road as it collapses heheh 🙂

    • July 11, 2011 11:08 pm

      I love those cranky cabs!
      the ones that pull to a stop and the rings on their cars start to tinkle!!

      this one is a “Taxi” in Hamra, you know the cabs parked at the corner, bugging you as you pass… “Taxi? Taxi?”

  2. Lana permalink
    July 12, 2011 9:38 am

    Great article and funny observations on an even funnier daily social phenomenon!
    I must admit I prefer to drive to work in my own car (oh the joy of controlling the music and the smells) but that’s because I am not a morning person AT ALL, but I do take a ‘service’ on any other trips in the afternoon/ weekends. You never know what to expect each time and as I come out I find myself in a daze for a few seconds, trying to absorb what just happened in the car (sad, funny, offensive, hopeless, annoying, pathetic or just plain surreal!)

    • July 12, 2011 10:03 am

      Thank you!
      Cab stories are the best!

      I hate driving in Lebanon, for one reason, i can never park anywhere… so i concluded it’s safer to take a cab and never worry about what happens after i get to my destination! 😛

  3. July 12, 2011 10:43 am

    Never looked at them as being green cuz they used to work on diesel. But you got a point here.

    • July 12, 2011 10:54 am

      well they’re not very “green” in the sense that they are worn down, can’t carry themselves and have no efficient engines, but that’s the state of many cars in Lebanon, so i guess it’s a small matter of relativity … we could say they are “greener” than… 😀

  4. July 12, 2011 8:22 pm

    OMG an amazing post that made me LOL for about 5 minutes 🙂

    your post is a fact that we deal with every morning while heading to our jobs. i hate taxi drivers specially when they try to talk to you ( 7:30 am ) while you do not want to cause you are still so sleepy and can’t see in front of you or don’t want to talk neither.

    dunno what to say, but this is Lebanon 😀

  5. July 14, 2011 10:58 pm

    rashaaaa thats teitas house back there with the blue windows !! awww i even know this taxi driver !!! ahhahaa he dropped us once to the airport for $30


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