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Yellow is nice

Until recently Jane and I relied on taxis to get around and for the most part it worked out well. We had a few experiences that resulted in interesting stories and over time we became pretty proficient at getting around the city. A couple of minor difficulties, however, always made these taxi outings more of a challenge then they should have been. Namely, it was always hard to tell if a cab was occupied (no fancy little light on top) and it was difficult to tell if the car in question was really a taxi (no standard color) so you ended up waving at a lot of occupied vehicles, some of which weren't even taxis.

One of those difficulties recently disappeared, the official color for taxis in Panama is now yellow - actually it has been for some time, read on. The tale of this giant leap is both a political and a taxi story and is a pretty good example of how things operate in Panama. Three years ago a law was passed - all taxis must be yellow - the taxi drivers said they didn't like that idea (primarily because it would cost them money) so everyone just ignored the requirement.

So, as the years went by and various deadlines came and went the number of yellow cabs sloooowly increased. Then the new government is elected and the guy in charge of these things says . . . "the new deadline is January 1, 2010,," and everybody yawned. In late December he says . . . "I'm serious" and the taxi drivers with unpainted cars say . . . "that's not fair," we think the government should pay us to paint our cars. The jefe (boss, new guy in charge) says . . . "okay, I'll give you two months" (but no money) and the drivers respond with a threat to strike and block traffic on all the streets (which they are entirely capable of doing).

guess which are taxis     don't they look nice

Then a strange thing happened. The boss said, no two month grace period, no money and if you don't have your car painted by tomorrow you cannot drive. If you drive we will take your license (i.e., they loose their job) and you will not be able to get it back. Overnight the sale of yellow paint skyrocketed, paint shops appeared in backyards, and amazingly, the only cabs we saw the next day were yellow. So now it's much easier to spot a taxi, if only we could tell if it was occupied. Oh well, its Panama - one little step at a time.

Take care.
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