Some of the best conversations I have had have been with the taxi cab driver. If you think about it generally your driver is probably foreign…. In England it is rare to have a Cockney taxi driver and in the US or Canada it’s extremely likely that you will have a doctor or an engineer driving your cab – just so happens that they are from another country. That’s why I always like to chat to the driver – some don’t like to talk – others…. Are like a goldmine of information and entertainment.
We took the “town car service” from the Marriott in Scottsdale to Phoenix airport. Yes, it costs a bit more but the cars are really comfortable and our drive was a big black escalade with tinted windows…. Wow a gangster car. The driver sort of looked the part…. Tall, dark with long hair scraped back into a pigtail – but very smart – the minute he started speaking I knew he was foreign – but where the hell was he from.
He laughed when I asked. “Oh My God…. Well”, he said “If you can figure it out you can tell me. I was born in Persia, grew up in Italy, moved to Holland and now I live in Phoenix.”
Go figure – I guess he must have had an Italian/Persian accent.
He was very chatty and seemed eager to share so I asked him when he came to the States. “Oh my God” he said (again)…..He had only been in the States for four years and was at college part-time and chauffeur driving to make a living. He told us that when he first arrived in the States the only thing he knew how to say was “Good morning.” So that’s how he greeted people – morning, noon and night…. Until someone said to him.
“Hey idiot….it’s 10.30 pm at night – why are you saying Good morning.”
He enrolled in school for ESL (English as a second language) and said he had the best teacher ever. ”Oh My God…. that woman was amazing”. She was so patient with all his questions. He got his first job delivering pizza. Because he was new he got the graveyard shift – midnight to 6 am. All he knew to say was – “Pizza delivery – $19.46 please”. But on one of his first calls out there the lady at the door said “Yeah, I’ll give you my card”.
“No no” he said “cash….. You give cash.”
“No” she said “I don’t have cash – I can give you a card”. With that he took out a one dollar bill and waved it in her face.
“Look look – you pay cash”
“Are you serious?” she asked. “I don’t have cash – I always pay with my card.”
“Oh My God” he laughed, recalling this. ”I just kept saying – What is card?” As you can see by now – Oh My God was a phrase that was well and truly embedded in his conversation and featured in just about every sentence.
“Oh My God …. I did not know what she was saying. So I phone my teacher at her house. She said to me Marco, do you know what time it is. It is 2.30 in the morning. I said Please Teacher, you have to help me – what is this card mean?” His teacher gave him a quick lesson in credit cards and that he would have to call in the card number to the depot and then get an authorisation by which time he could turn over the now congealing pizza.
“Oh My God” he said again, laughing “That teacher was so good to me. “
The drive to the airport had gone by in a flash and I had been well and truly educated and entertained at the same time.
Other cab drivers have been equally memorable…… like the one from Miami to Fort Lauderdale who drove like a bat out of hell in a van that was falling apart with rust. Throughout the entire drive he coughed, spluttered and spat out of the window along the way. Needless to say I didn’t get too friendly with him.
You never really quite know what is going to be waiting for you. I picked up a cab in Scottsdale and jumped inside to be greeted with this overpowering sweet smell of air freshener on a mission.
“Oh Sorry Madam” said the driver in a strong African accent “the man before you – he ate a burrito in the car and I had to get rid of the smell.” Who does that? Eats a burrito in a taxi cab and then leaves the lingering perfume of onions, beans and what the hell else in the taxi for the next passenger. Really.
But the prize goes to the Italian driver who took a cell phone call along the highway out of Rome and had a spirited argument (in Italian of course which I do not speak) and then proceeded to drive with the phone clenched in his teeth while he cried.
Oh My God as Marco would have said.