June 2016 - Tbilisi, Georgia
After a full day of travel, my flight finally landed in the Tbilisi airport at roughly 3am. I stumbled off the plane in a bit of a disoriented, over-tired shuffle. Fumbling through my pockets, I handed my passport to the lady at the security check, expecting to receive the bored, airport gaze I had grown accustomed to due to unfortunate extensive use of JFK. Instead, however, I looked up and saw a beaming smile.
""Welcome to Georgia!" she exclaimed in English with only a slight accent. "Enjoy your stay in Tbilisi and make sure you visit the Black Sea." Could I be dreaming? This lady has to be at work while the rest of the country is sound asleep and has to deal with passengers like me that look like all hell and probably smell even worse, yet she is smiling and enthusiastic. I had always heard Georgians were friendly, but this was truly something.
Feeling more comfortable, I decided to ask what time public transportation started, and she replied, "Seven." This meant it was still about four hours until the metro and public transportation would open. So therefore, I was left with two options. Either I stay around and wait until 7 and try to navigate my way through a city I do not know with a language I cannot speak, or (opinion 2) take a taxi. After a brief contemplation, I succumbed to the exhaustion of travel and jet-lag and opted for the taxi. Although I have had some problems with taxis before, I thought that after the warm welcome I had received at security, maybe taxi drivers here would be nice, or at least relaxed, too. I was a fool for being so optimistic.
My driver was a middle-aged Georgian man, slightly overweight with short, graying hair. Of all the drivers, his apparently calm demeanor conjured ideas in my head that he would be the best option… or so I thought. Right after leaving the airport parking lot, I began to notice something was odd. Instead of gripping the steering wheel, my driver’s hands firmly grasped a cigarette and a beer (one in each hand), repeatedly bringing each to his mouth. He started the car.
We began to drive, faster, faster, and faster...
(I will now present this retelling of the story in the form of my interior monologue at the time):
“Ok, I guess this guy needed a cigarette for the ride. Wait… is that a beer too? What the hell? How’s this dude gonna steer the wheel? Ok, ok, looks like he’s gonna use his wrist and forearms… how do I get him to pay attention? What do I say? Does this guy know English or Russian? Hmmm… turns out not well, damn. Ok, ok, ok, maybe this means he’ll drive slow at least. NOOOOO! OH SWEET JESUS NO! WE’RE IN A CITY AND HE’S GONNA CRACK 100 MILES AN HOUR (160 kph)!!! ARGHGHG, I DO NOT WANT TO BE MANGLED IN A FLAMING WRECKAGE! Calm down, calm down! We're on a long straight-away now. Maybe he’ll slow for the turns. OH MY GOD! HE’S GOING EVEN FASTER! THE CAR IS GONNA FLIP!!! AND HE’S ON ANOTHER CIGARETTE! Ok, ok, I see a police car, this should slow him down… WHAT?!?! HE’S HONKING AT THE COP!!! AND NOW HE SPEEDS PAST HIM?!?! NOOO!! WHY NOW?!?! WHY ME!?! I WAS ENJOYING MY LIFE! AND I STILL HAVEN’T LEARNED HOW TO WHISTLE OR SKI! KNRNRLKJGENRJBE!!!”
Suddenly the car stopped.
“What’s going on?!?! We’re here? YESSSSS! I’M ALIVE!!!! I’M GONNA MAKE IT TO 25! I appreciate everything now! Happy dance time! No, wait… legs are still trembling too much to dance. Who cares! I’m alive! I won’t suffer the fate of Pre! (Rest in Peace) Life is beautiful! Life is awesome! I will live it up from now on! Oh yes, and no more Georgian cabs… ever again.”