I rushed out of the Cuenca airport terminal on an overcast March morning to take a taxi back to my apartment. The first taxi in line belonged to Marco, a well-groomed young man, who drove a clean compact sized yellow cab. I joined him in the front seat, storing my backpack on the floor mat.
“Oh, Lord! Please help me get back in time for our flight!” I silently prayed as we exited to the west into crowded one lane Avenida Espana.
Marco and I introduced ourselves as I explained how to locate the apartment building where my wife and I had naively left our documents. TAME, Ecuador’s national airline, requires a passport to check in baggage for its flight to the capital, Quito. We had presented only laminated copies of the national ID, our treasured “cedula,” along with travel ticket printouts.
Marco used the taxi’s meter which provided me assurance that I would pay the meter amount. I had too much to worry about without having to haggle over the fare with a contrary driver.
The trip back to the apartment measured about three miles, south of El Centro, Cuenca’s historic downtown. The Spanish colonial city is in the midst of citywide monorail construction, creating traffic detours in the vicinity of the low profile airport. Perhaps as few as a dozen daily departures occur, with no international flights.
“I am sorry for your inconvenience,” sympathized the kind chauffeur when informed of the nature of our roundtrip. I hoped to accomplish it within forty five minutes for the flight was scheduled to depart in an hour.
At the crack of dawn, as light filtered through clouds over mountains to the east, we prepared to meet our original driver at the entrance to the condominium. We greeted German in his yellow taxi at 7:15am. In rush hour traffic, we had made good time, arriving for our 8:40 flight at 7:35.
“It certainly didn’t help that we both only had a few hours’ sleep last night,” I shared with Marco. “We must have travel anxiety. Our Christmas shopping at Otavalo’s Mercado Sabado resulted in a pickpocket’s theft of my wallet with my original cedula, bank cards, bus pass and $95 cash. Today will be our first time back.”
“Ah! I see. What a shame!” Marco grimaced as he slowly proceeded past construction activity before turning south along Avenida Huayna Capac, named for Cuenca’s native born sixteenth century ruler, when the Incan city was called “Tomebamba.”
Yellow metal barriers traced the center of the roadway. Marco proceeded cautiously beyond the hazard, and we resumed travel in widened streets about one mile from the airport. Under looming skies we crossed over Rio Tomebamba to new Cuenca.
The goal of making our flight on time inched nearer as we merged with traffic headed in the direction of the city stadium and the north and south artery, Avenida Solano. I felt grateful to the “travel gods” to be traveling roundtrip with Marco. I calmed my nerves….
This completes the first 500 words of “Taxi!”
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