“You have to be careful who you pick up, though sometimes you can’t tell. It is the risk of driving a taxi”.
I had stepped into the taxi on the Plaza de Armas to take me back to the Santa Mónica neighborhood. The driver was maybe 22 or 23 years old and had asked me, once we had settled into the drive, if military service were obligatory in the US.
He said he had just finished his military service though it is not obligatory in Peru anymore either.
The radio mentioned something about the Santiago neighborhood of Cusco and I said I had never been there but would like to get to know it.
“You do not want to go to Santiago. It is too dangerous. There are too many thieves there. They will steal everything you are carrying.”
“Yeah. I have heard that. But I was thinking of just taking a taxi to its plaza with some friends and walking around its edges, before taking another cab from there.”
“It is still not a good idea for you to go. There are just too many choros, thieves.”
I asked him about driving and if he was ever worried about thieves since he constantly picked up people he did not know.
“I am always cautious. Sometimes you make mistakes, though.
“The other evening I picked up a guy who seemed a little drunk but later I realized he really wasn’t. He wanted me to take him up to one of the high neighborhoods on the right bank and that worried me.
“As I drove, I got more and more concerned about him. Something was just off. I thought he would not pay me the fare and maybe something more would happen.
“I tried to figure out what to do to protect myself. At that moment a gas station appeared. I did not need gas but pulled in any way while telling the passenger that I needed to buy gas.
“I went there because the stations are well lit and they have cameras. They film everything that is going on.
“Once there, I asked him to pay me in advance and said that, otherwise, I would not take him into that neighborhood.
“He tried arguing with me, but it all felt wrong so I insisted. Finally, he got out of the taxi to disagree with me, so I got back in and just drove off leaving him there.
“I am sure he was going to rob me, but at least I was able to get out of the situation. You always need to be careful.”