A Taxista Explained It
One of the hardest things to explain to someone new to Nicaragua is that "time is free". Now, that doesn't mean that is the case for a professional -- say a doctor or lawyer -- but, for most regular people that is the assumption.
When you go to a store and the clerk is talking to her boyfriend on the phone and expects you to wait, the Gringo tendency is to get mad. I know I do. This person is wasting my time. Most of us who get paid for what we get done rather than just renting our body by the hour feel this way.
Well, today, I got another way to explain this. A few of us got in a cab to go from Point A to Point B and then return to Point A. At Point B we were going to have to wait to get some papers reviewed. We had no idea how long. On the first leg of the trip, here is what the taxista said (in Spanish of course).
If you want I can wait for you. I don't charge for waiting.
Maybe this will strike home. The last time I was in a taxi with a meter was in Seattle over 10 years ago. I remember there was a "pickup charge" (interesting concept considering I was at the airport with taxis waiting), a distance charge and a wait time charge all automatically computed by the meter. Thus, if you were stuck in traffic or just waiting at a light, you were paying for the taxi driver's time. At the time I believe it was $.20/minute.
In that last Seattle taxi ride I remember the meter said $5.60 when we were finally out of the airport and on a regular road. Today, our full taxi ride (three adults and 2 kids) cost about the same for about a 15 kilometer trip. He waited maybe 20 minutes and made another about $6 to take us back. If the wait had been five minutes or an hour the price would have been the same.
Now, I still think my time is worth money (because I can do things with it which actually does make me money) but for lots of people in Nicaragua, there is no charge for waiting.