The taxi driver was there to meet passenger, printed board, even had the word Captain on it, he felt quite important. The car was just a short walk away, window down, no air conditioning and off they went. ‘How far is it to St Julians?’ he asked. ‘Depends on the traffic’ the driver grunted, smiling at the same time, ‘not long’.
He was about 25, smartly dressed with collar and tie and proper shoes (that makes passenger sound old), round faced and leaning toward chubbiness. He wasn’t that chatty but maybe his English wasn’t as good as he’d like. They drive on the left in Malta and from a distance, it seemed to be ordered. The driver’s driving however was more Italian than anything else and they lurched aggressively form lane to lane, inches from the vehicles around them, especially those in front. His control inputs were large and without subtlety, a G suit would have been useful, as would a 4 point seat belt. Oddly, the passenger didn’t feel threatened and sat there trying to take in the scenery whizzing by. Lots of sandstone block, lots of them, even in the newer buildings but that was about the all the detail he could glean from his erratically moving viewpoint. The place seemed even more congested and overpopulated than London. Less threatening though.
After a while things seemed to ease a bit, the gap between them and the lorry in front had opened up to nearly a foot and passenger had a question. ‘Is St Julians an area within Valletta?’ he asked. A brief pause while driver eased them between two Fiats with about 5 mm to spare, ‘No’ he relied tersely, ‘it’s a different town near but far away’, a pause and then with great feeling and finality, ‘I don’t like Valletta.’
He turned his head toward the questioner, the first time he’d taken his eyes from the road, and screwed up his face in disgust, ‘Because it’s old’. Passenger looked ahead, noticed a white Toyota’s boot approaching rapidly towards them and felt every day of his 52 years.