A tale of two autos

These are the days of fixing. Auto meter fixing is one such trade. The driver not only fixes a meter to his auto but also makes sure it is a ‘fixed’ meter. The moral of the auto story is that as long as there are metered autos there will be fixing. And every commuter has his own experience to share about how the fixed meter took him for a ride. Here is mine.

Last time, after the minimum fare was revised to Rs 14, I looked for an auto to go from the Corporation to Minerva Circle. The driver was middle aged, looked decent. But the meter had not been recalibrated. “Sir, I was away in Davanagere all these days. I have just comeback. And will get it done in a day or two,” he explained apologetically.

I told him how it would be confusing for commuters to pay the new fare on the old meter reading. He agreed but said he never in fact wanted a fare revision. “Our union even petitioned the DC not give into the demands of the other drivers,” he said. I was shocked. “The gas prices are not that steep and we can still make profit on the old fares,” he argued. Does that mean I can pay the fare at the old rates? “Yes sir, you can,” he said as he drove on.

“What are you doing?,” he asked. I introduced myself. Then he narrated his biodata. He had three children, the eldest married; the son was doing his BE and the third, a daughter again, was in college doing her degree. “See, my family depends on this auto for a living,” he said and he sounded like a man with a conscience.

We reached our destination and I wanted him to turn right. “Sorry sir, I am going home for lunch. So I will drop you here. Please do not misunderstand,” he said in a humble tone. How can I? So I got off and looked at the meter. It showed Rs 17 and it needed to be recalculated. “How much? I asked. “Rs 20 is okay,” he said and pocketed the money and drove away. A decent chap, I said to myself as I walked to my place.

Next day I had to do an encore and I found an auto with a recalibrated meter. The driver was young and did not look that friendly. I got off at that same place and looked at the meter — it showed Rs 16.50 — the new fare! I paid and walked off thinking of the previous day’s driver’s ‘honesty.’

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