fun with taxi drivers
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 26, 2008
Most of my taxi rides are relatively silent affairs. I like to watch the city go by, and I’m not great at making small talk. But had I taken the possibilities of having parents in town more seriously, I would have spent last week talking away.
I realized my missed opportunities on Sunday morning, as I went from gym to church, where I was meeting my parents.
My taxi driver asked the usual “you speak Arabic but I can’t quite believe you’re from here” questions, like have you lived here long? No, I said. I don’t live here – I came from the gym. Not helpful, I could see him thinking.
He next asked where I work, and I told him. Its a fairly neutral sounding company, which hires both Lebanese and foreigners. Again, not helpful.
And finally, the clincher – he asked whether I would need a ride back when the church service finished.
Oh no, I said. Thank you, but I’m meeting my parents there.
Your parents? he asked.
Yes, I said. My mother and father.
Oh, he said, and then – silence.
His confusion reminded me of a service ride I took late last year, with a delightfully sweet driver. After speaking for a few minutes about the weather, the “situation” and the quirky Belgian man who had just exited the cab, the driver said:
Excuse me, but are you Lebanese?
No, I said, I’m American.
Oh, he sighed. Its so hard to tell these days. Lebanese people all look so different now – anyone could be Lebanese.
I’m not so sure about that, but I did sympathize with his frustration. It must be confusing to have so many Lebanese with one parent from abroad, and to have so many Lebanese who look and speak like they come from abroad themselves.
As for me, I enjoyed the brief moment of sounding like I was local, with Lebanese parents waiting impatiently for me to get to church.
But then my better nature prevailed – as did my cab driver’s curiosity.
Are you Lebanese? he asked.
No, I said. I’m American.
Ah, he said, relieved to have his sense of my foreign-ness confirmed. And we had a very pleasant rest of the ride!