Stuff I Talk About

by Christina Ledbetter

The Scam

Voodo leck a caddy bag?

That’s what it sounds like. But say it so quickly.

Would you like a carry bag?

No, I would not like a carry bag, thank you. I brought my own. Then I proudly display my cloth bag, because I, ladies and gentlemen, have lived in Mumbai, India for three weeks and three days now, and I’ve learned some things. One of which is to always bring my own carry bags. The other thing I’ve learned is that sometimes Uber drivers try to scam you.

We’d heard about the trick. An Uber driver accepts your ride, but upon seeing where you’d like to go, he decides he doesn’t want the job – too far, too much traffic, not enough pay. Instead of cancelling the request, he meanders about town in lieu of fetching his clients, or he simply parks his car a mile away. His goal: make the client cancel the ride. You see if he cancels the ride, he doesn’t get paid. If you cancel, you still have to fork over a fee, and now Scammy Driver has just earned 40 rupees.

We plugged in our destination on the app, requested a ride, and were pleased to see our driver was six minutes away. We stood on the street waiting. “Five minutes away,” the phone told us. We knew the license plate number to look for. We watched a throng of night workers in sandals and saris waiting on the public bus to drive them home.

Four minutes pass. Five minutes away.

Two minutes pass. Six minutes away.

The bus came for the workers.

Five minutes away.

“He’s driving in circles,” Benson said.

We watched on Benson’s screen the little car circle a roundabout four times in a row. Round, round, round, round. We held hands in the dark in this country where even buying an apple takes work when you don’t know what you’re doing. “We’re going to find him,” Benson announced, and off we went, following the map on his phone, walking past the slum, past two boys bathing from a pan outside their shack, past a park, past four men on a motorcycle, past a teen couple staring into one another’s eyes on the sidewalk beneath a tree. We walked down a hill, around a corner, across a street (we cross streets now!). We made our way to the roundabout and found the car parked outside D-Mart, that crazy grocery store with the mung beans and brown bread. Benson knocked on the window and held his phone for the man to see. “You’re our driver.”

We received only Hindi in return, but enough of the foreign tongue to know that he wasn’t driving us anywhere, nor would he cancel the ride. We stood on the sidewalk outside his car, using my phone now to try and find another ride. But until we did that, Benson wasn’t going to cancel our first ride, essentially holding the driver hostage.

It worked. He finally waved us over, realizing we weren’t releasing him (though in fact, we’d planned on releasing him once we found another ride with my phone). I entered the car. “This is ridiculous,” I huffed, abruptly embracing the bluntness of this culture.

And then, it took fifty-five minutes to drive two and a half miles.

At the sixty-minute mark, Scammy Driver missed the turn to our apartment.

And I was done. I furiously fidgeted with the lock (I’m so classy) until I was able to fling open my door and then stomped directly into the night traffic, holding my palm out the way I see Indians do, serving as my own crossing guard. Benson scurried after me, and I shouted the bad word from The Christmas Story as we trudged up the road toward the guard gate.

It’s been a month of God pulling aside the curtain of my heart, revealing stuff I didn’t want dug up. Stuff I was happy keeping buried, idols that served me and my own scammy self really well.

When God removed food I love, He showed me the idol of having control over my diet. When He removed my community, I was faced with the feeling of not being adored, and I realized how needy I am for others’ admiration. When He removed my control, I lost it. There are a thousand more plastic figurines stored this way and that in the shelves of my heart, and thankfully, though painfully, God will continue to reveal them.

But there’s so much good in that. And there’s fun to be had in this country. There have been many tears shed, but also outright happy times. There was the day last week when a new friend left her toddler with a sitter and spent her birthday with me pointing out where I can buy an oven, a table, curtains. And once Benson and I found some Scrabble tiles (thanks, Amazon India!), we played a game that lasted three days, and even though Benson used all of his letters in one play, snatching up 50 bonus points, I still came back to win, essentially giving us both a feeling of victory (but ultimately me).

Finally, I just got a text from that husband of mine. It’s looking like we are going to sign on an apartment. It’s brand new, itty bitty, and a stone’s throw from the non-mung bean grocery store and the restaurant that serves kale salads for lunch (plus a bunch of roadside rickety stands selling daal and milky tea). The building sits on a road with sidewalks and leafy trees. The best part: the closet-sized kitchen has a floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks Mumbai.

I have no idea what’s to come. I assume much of it will be difficult . . . but I’m excited.


Categories: This and That

2 replies

  1. I love these stories and how sassy you have become! Much better than the tears! Keeping y’all in prayer!

  2. Love going on this adventure with you both. AND your still smiling. Be safe and lots of prayers coming your way!!!

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