March 2024
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Saigon Kids Stories: My First Taxi Adventure

by Kevin Wells (ACS)

Overconfidence is a terrible thing. And overconfident I was when I announced at the USOMRenault Taxi Sagion Guest House that I was, indeed ready to direct a taxi all the way to the Circle Sportif and home again. Piece of cake! No problem! Trust me! There was no authority figure at the USOM Guest House to consult, so I just pocketed the cash and hailed a taxi.

The object of the trip was an opportunity to ogle the French expatriate girls in their simply outrageous two-piece bathing suits. It promised to be shocking, simply shocking and I just could not wait any longer. I was working on my lecher credentials even in 1959.

I had been over the route several afternoons although not as passenger-in-command. It was simple, in toward the Palace, take a right just before the Palace and there it is on the left.

Unfortunately, I chose the wrong turn just before the palace. In fairly short order I was Level 1 lost (There are 5 Levels, culminating in Level 5, uncertain as to the continent on which you find yourself).

Not knowing where I was did not impair my taxi meter reading skills. Things were not looking good. With 200 Ps I was well into being at the point of no return and not a clue in sight.

I guess I was lucky because although the taxi French, English, taxi Vietnamese and gesticulations got me nowhere, the driver decided to solve all of his several problems.

Possession of a knucklehead in the back of the taxi was only part of it. It was an American knucklehead, and the knucklehead did not have the fare. Quite possibly, bad things would result.

So he drove to the USOM location and told the QC (RVN Military Police) on duty that he had a COD dependent delivery. The Sergeant that paid the fare correctly predicted that I was destined for a world of hurt (a phrase that has a special meaning to anyone with Army experience in that era.)

My father would have handcuffed me to something solid if anyone could have found the handcuffs. While he finished the morning duties, I was on a chair outside the office area contemplating my fate. It was not stony silence on the way home at noon. It was ominous silence. Fortunately, they did not have handcuffs at the USOM Guest House either.

Fortunately, my parents became distracted in the search for housing and the whole thing blew over. It was 18 months later that my mother had her taxi adventure.

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5 comments to Saigon Kids Stories: My First Taxi Adventure

  • Kenneth R. Yeager

    Kevin, you are producing some first class tales here and I am thoroughly enjoying them. I am bending my meager brain trying to recall some similar adventures but either I did not experience them OR (and more likely) my brain cells just do not retain that much information. (I often compare my brain to a sponge…it only absorbs so much, to add, something has to be squeezed out).

  • Maile Doyle

    This soooo made me smile, Kevin! My first adventure in a taxi was coming home from Central Market. I did not pronounce my street properly, however, the taxi driver could read! So, I wrote it down, his face lit up in understanding, he then pronounced it properly Tran Qui Cap, with the emphasis on Qui and got me home. Whew!! Thank you for sharing and helping me recall that adventure.

  • Sarah Rogers

    Kevin you are too funny!

  • H. Clark

    I enjoyed your taxi adventure very much. 🙂

    Your story reminds me of my dilemma as a young kid going to work every morning. It’s not about the problem in communication, but rather a $ problem. Never had enough money for taxi, but since I didn’t want to be late for work, I needed transportation for at least half way and then walked the rest of the way. I would flag down a taxi and then carefully watch the meter $ counter. The driver would drive along in the direction I told him for a good distance, and then just before the meter reads a certain $ amount that I could afford, like a crazy woman I frantically asked the driver to please stop..stop… here… I need to get off – LOL – 🙂 I feel sorry for any taxi driver who had me for a passenger in the mornings. My frequent stop was at the Cathedral. From there I headed down to Tu Do street and then to Nguyen Hue where I worked.

  • frank

    Ah! Nguyen Hue and the Flower Street. For part of the summer of 1962 I lived on the top floor (4th story) of the TAX Building.

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