Call Me a Taxi

I am not one to take up conversations with cab drivers. All I really want is a clean taxi and a driver who knows where he’s going.

In Chicago, it’s rare to find a cab driver who speaks English. They all have names comprised entirely of consonants, drive filthy cabs, act like they’re doing the world a great favor by ferrying passengers from hither to yon, and are rude to boot. I’m not even going to mention how bad they smell. If playing the “no change” game isn’t enough, they’re arrogant enough to expect a tip.

A few months ago in Philadelphia, I encountered an incredibly rude cab driver. After he finished chattering away on his cell phone, I let on that I knew he was Turkish. That much I could tell from his conversation. Instantly his demeanor changed, and he became most gracious, telling me about what part of Istanbul he was from. The same thing had happened the year before in Miami.

In Morelia, I get two kinds of cab drivers: those who just moved to the city last month and those who know where I live. The former don’t know their way around the city, yet they have the gall to ask me what I’m doing living in Morelia. Why should I have to justify why I live where I do to them? It’s bad enough telling them how to get from Point A to Point B. The latter just want to complain about politics and the economy.

The Buenos Aires cab drivers are a different breed. They strike me as more educated than the average cab driver, initiating interesting conversation. They don’t ask me where I’m from or what I’m doing here. They simply want to know where I want to go, and then they might add some useful comment along the way. They know where they’re going and how to get there. Yesterday’s driver had a photo of a Doberman on his dashboard, so I mentioned something about his dog, which led to hearing all about how great the breed is and how sad he was that the dog only lived for eleven years. The next driver volunteered how Palermo Chico was so much better than Puerto Madero before launching into a comparison of the world’s religions. And the day before, I heard about how Buenos Aires gives free English lessons to cab drivers, which isn’t much help when they have to deal with a bunch of drunken Germans. When you take a taxi in this city, you get more than just transportation.

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