Monday, January 27, 2020

Rome Journal: Taxi!

"Odessa Cab Corp," drawing by Hallie Cohen
There are probably elaborate explanations about how the taxi service works in Rome, but it’s radically different from New York. Essentially Rome has had an advanced system by which cabs respond to calls. Maybe it doesn't go back to Roman times, but it's been around before there was Uber. There’s, in fact, a special kind of app you can now access which will let you enjoy Rome cab rides at a cheaper market rate, but the reality is that this is a case where Kasparov beats the computer. Let’s say you want a cab. If you’re staying at a hotel, there will be a device which prints out a response and inevitably if you’re anywhere near the center of Rome or even on one of the hills like the Gianicolo, you will have a cab at your disposal in 5 minutes. Roman taxi drivers are often accused of taking their customers for a ride, but anecdotal evidence points to the fact that's not the case if you take one of the legitimate city cabs, identified by their white color. As everyone knows, there are few cab companies in New York that you can call or trust anymore, but Romans have this down to an art. Roman cab dispatchers are like elegant jugglers with the cabs and cabbies being their balls. Yes, there's obviously some explanation for the electronics behind the system. However, let’s just conjure one of those big Italian markets like the Porta Portese, in which customers stroll down the aisles looking for everything from clothes to fish. Just imagine substituting cab dispatchers as potential customers stride by. You’ll have an idea of how people get places when they’re in a hurry in Rome.

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