Tish wrote her impressions of our misadventures in Alexandria.
Do you believe that taxi drivers are infallible in navigating the streets of a city to deposit you at your requested destination? Think again. After years of movies and TV shows, I thought taxi drivers knew every place and all the short cuts. Egypt has taught me different. Drivers can be experienced navigators of a city or they can be part-time hacks driving a rented cab trying to make milk money for their families. They can know their area of a city intimately or know nothing at all about other sections of the city. Cairo is immense.
When Ellen, Mark and Ruth got into the yellow and black cab on the Corniche in Alexandria, I thought we were home free. What driver wouldn’t know the main railway station? It is only 10 minutes away from the Corniche. It is thru a maze of one way streets, but this is a main destination. Whew! Maybe we didn’t need to leave early to make sure we got to the station well before our 7 p.m. departure time. Alex is a small city compared to Cairo. Mafeesh mushkala. No problem.
Karlice, Ed and I thought we would see them outside the station as they had left in the first cab. Nope. They weren’t inside the station either. We found the platform for the Cairo train. Ed stationed himself at the end of the platform. Karlice searched up and down the platforms. I patrolled the front of the station looking for Ellen, Mark, and Ruth. It was 6:30 and we still had half an hour until the train left. I wasn’t worried. They would be here soon. They must be in a traffic jam somewhere.
By 6:45, I had tried Ellen’s phone twice and got a “call barred” message. Now it was scary that there was no sign of them. I briefly flashed on their having been kidnapped until I remembered I was not in Guatemala any more. You can get irrational when you are worried. Where are they??? The taxi could get lost, but not for this long. Karlice, Ed and I strategized. If they don’t get here in time, we’ll have to take the next train. When is it? Can we get tickets or is the train full? I was thinking of hotels in Alex for an overnight stay.
At 6:55, we got their call. At first I thought that they were at the main station, but on the wrong platform. Then I got it, they were at the next station and would wait for us there. We had to run to make the train and find our car. Trains are one of the few things in Egypt that do run on time! Our adrenaline was running high.
I was confused about where we would meet at the stop. I had an image of them waiting on the platform as the train went by so that we could jump out and swoop them into our car. I called again and spoke to Mahmoud who had helped Ellen, Mark and Ruth. He was excited and he said that they would be in Car 4. Why Car 4? Our tickets were for Car 7. Platform 4, Car 4? No!!!
When the train stopped, we followed thru with our strategy. Ed stays in the car. Karlice stations herself at the door to the car while I run up and down the platform like a crazy person yelling their names. And searching the crowd. The platform was crazy busy with passengers jostling to get themselves and their luggage on the train.
A man, later I learned it was Mahmoud, stopped me as I was running along the platform and asked if I was looking for my family. He told me that Ellen, Mark and Ruth were in Car 4. Too bad that the cars didn’t have any numbers on them. I went to the end of the train and counted backwards until 4. No Ellen. No Mark. No Ruth.
In the surrounding cars? No Ellen. No Mark. No Ruth. Calm down. Let me count the cars again. 1, 2, 3, 4. No Ellen. No Mark, No Ruth. I started yelling their names again. Everyone on the platform was looking at me, but not Ellen, Mark or Ruth. Where were they? How could I have missed them? Start again. My phone rang and Karlice let me know that the lost were found. I ran to car 7-- an Ellen, a Mark and a Ruth.
A possible disaster was turned into a good memory and comic story due to Mahmoud and his willingness to help strangers on a train platform in Alexandra. Taxi!!