Ser-vees to Hamra
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.
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.