In February a couple of my friends came to visit me. We went to the mountains for a couple of days to ride horses and tour a coffee factory. To get back from the gorgeous little hostel in the mountains, we had to take a taxi, a bus, a taxi, a bus, and then walk four blocks. Once we got off of the first bus, a man asked if we needed a taxi, loaded up our bags on a cart, waited while we went to the bathroom, led us outside, unloaded our bags, and then walked away leaving us without a taxi. So we were standing outside in the sun with all of our stuff and the promise of a taxi, yet no taxi. There were five of us and our bags so we were looking for something a little bigger than the car we finally piled into.
Once the taxi driver heard where we were going (another bus station), he offered, as they always do, to take us all the way to our final destination. I said, as I always do, “No thank you, just to the bus station please.” He asked again, assuring me that it would be for a good price and that he could take me right to the door! No more post-bus taxis! I was sitting up front because I’m the biggest and I knew (roughly) where we were going. Plus I have the Spanish skills. My four friends were crammed in the back of this non-air-conditioned car piled up with all of our stuff. And yet this taxi driver was determined to convince us to let him drive us all the way to San Pedro (an hour drive) like this.
After a couple more tries from the driver I finally said, “I do not have the patience or energy to discuss this with you. We are going to the bus station. Do not ask me again.”
When we arrived at the bus station I had my friend pay the driver what I have paid in the past to go from one bus station to the next. I knew it was a little low because there were so many of us and so much stuff, but I also knew that the ride was uncomfortable and the car was without air-conditioning. The driver demanded almost five times as much as we gave – a super unreasonable price. He claimed that since he did the work of a van (transporting five people and their luggage) that he should get paid the same as a van.
This is interesting because when we got into the taxi at the first bus stop he mentioned something about us needing a van and how he would do the job of a van for us. At the time I said said, “Yeah, but you’re not a van.” I guess he had forgotten my response because, insulted, he shouted at me, “I told you that I was doing the work of a van and should get paid the same as a van!”
So I shouted back, on a busy street in Santo Domingo in front of my friends and a few bus drivers, “And I told you that we were not going to pay you the same as a van because you are not a van!”
The bus drivers, clearly amused, told me to just give him 100 more pesos than what we had offered and just never take that driver again. We did and we were on our way.
Two of my coworkers and friends have been roommates in the Dominican Republic for five years. They are great friends and very comfortable speaking Dominican Spanish. The one was talking about the other, saying that it was like she had a Dominican alter ego. That her English-speaking-self was much more soft spoken and reserved but her Dominican-speaking-self wasn’t afraid to let you have it.
After my yelling-in-the-street scene, I realized I may have a bit of a Dominican alter ego myself. I certainly have never yelled at a stranger in the United States. At times my tenacity and Spanish sass can be chalked up to a limited vocabulary. I don’t possess the words necessary to beat around the bush or spend time insinuating. But I think there’s more to it than that. I think there’s a desire to prove people wrong. I’m not a lost American you can take advantage of. I know what I’m doing (kind of sometimes.) I’m not a woman you can push around with your words and assumptions. I know what you’re saying (usually) and I’m not flattered (except for when I am).
There’s also just something about the Dominican spirit. Dominican spirit is life and spunk. Dominican spirit tells it like it is, tells the truth even when it’s ugly. Dominican spirit stands up for what’s right, even when it’s as small as an unfair taxi price.
Any other multiple language speakers have an alter ego?