Epilogue to our Crimean cab adventures
My grandmother and I left Koktebel’ two days later. We had to get to the airport in Simferopol, two hours away. I still couldn’t convince my grandmother to take a bus, so we decided to give our old method one more try.
I went up to the hotel desk and asked if they knew a cabbie who would drive us all the way to the airport, but this time, we asked that he be anyone but Andrei. They didn’t seem surprised or concerned by this condition, which makes me wonder what they had known about Andrei in the first place. The women was on the phone much longer this time, and I could hear her making sure that our driver was not Andrei.
“What is his name? What car does he drive? Alright, that should be fine.”
We went outside to wait.
When he showed up, we were happy to see that he was a fair amount older than Andrei, and felt that this boded well for his driving. His car was also more reasonable, a Skoda. It’s Russian brand, and as Russian brands go — not too shabby. Even better, it had seatbelts. Every other cab we had gotten into in Ukraine didn’t have seatbelts in the back seats. They were either non-existent or tucked behind the seats. We never saw someone put on a seatbelt either, not any driver, not Andrei’s fiancée, no one. This man though, he put on his seatbelt. My grandmother and I commented on this, feeling even more secure. This cabbie was a good man, we were safe. He gave us a good price up front, too. As we drove out of town he and I talked about this and that, and as we reached the town where the infamous “butter” deal had gone down, he said, “I have to pull over, this will just take a minute.”
He drove up to a car parked by the side of the road. The man standing next to the car was obviously on his day off, he was in a T-shirt and Europeanly short shorts, and he was Andrei.
Our new driver rolled down the window, and Andrei leaned over against the car. He reached his arm through to shake hands, as all men do when they greet each other, and then handed the new driver a large wad of Easter egg colored Ukrainian bills. My grandmother and I kept perfectly silent. As Andrei is stepping back away from the car, his eyes made a quick sweep of the back seat, and then lit up with recognition. He beamed back at us.
“It’s you! Are you leaving now?”
“Yes, we’re going home.”
“Shastlivava pooti!” (Happy trails.)
He waved as we drove away.
“How do you know him?” Our new driver asked.
I kept my explanation simple.
“He was our driver for a couple of days,”
“That’s good,” our new driver said. “He’s my son.”
And then he took off his seatbelt.