Recently, I had to take a taxi and happened to make the acquaintance with Henry, a Mexican taxi driver / sandwich shop owner who – I couldn’t believe my ears! – used to live in Seattle before he moved back to Mexico last year in order to be closer to family. What are the odds?
It was a lovely and very unexpected surprise that brightened up my day, and I came to think of all the taxi drivers I have encountered over the years and how actually an apparently unimportant chance meeting can set the tone for a whole day.
In my previous job I had to take a taxi to the airport almost every day, so yes, I have met plenty of taxi drivers and had many surprisingly meaningful conversations – as well as many meaningless ones! (Luckily, most of my work places came with a rain guarantee, thus, I didn’t have to look far for a small talk topic.) For some time, whenever I met an exceptionally nice driver I tried to make him my “regular driver”. However, that didn’t always turn out the way I wanted. There was A. e.g. We shared the same interest in the arts and it was a pleasure chatting with him. But after a while A. turned up with breakfast when I had to catch the red-eye, and though it certainly was a lovely idea, I felt awkward accepting it – after all, I was the one paying him, right? Then one evening when he picked me up again from the airport, he showed up with theatre tickets, and when I declined, he was terribly offended, so I had to break it off with him. Yes, I dumped my sweet, lovely taxi driver!
A similar thing happened with taxi driver F. One night he showed up not in his cab, but in his private car. As he explained to me, it had been his evening off, yet he wanted to pick me up from the airport and he didn’t even accept money. I felt obliged to do something, so I invited him to a pub for a glass of beer where I then told a lot of stories about my then inexistent boy-friend – he was a hell of a guy, I can tell you! (Well, him I dumped for Mr. R. who is even a heller of a guy!) Needless to say that things were over between F. and me…
After this incident, I was cured so I shied away from asking P. to become my regular driver. Pity, though. P. was full of good stories for as luck would have it, he picked me up numerous times. I will never forget the story he told me on our first little trip: He and his friend spent a weekend on his friend’s boat. As a special treat they had mixed their own schnapps – they had simply put a handful of liquorice sweets in some vodka and voila! their liquorice schnapps was born! A few boats further down the two guys had spotted two single ladies whom they then invited over for a drink. Late at night, after enjoying various bottles of wine and beer, they all had some schnapps to round the evening off. On their way back to their boat, both ladies lost their balance and fell into the water whereupon the guys came to their rescue. They then gallantly offered both ladies their strong arms and intended to walk them back to their boat, but they couldn’t stop laughing and so splash! they all fell into the water together! P. swore to high heaven that they repeated this process 4 times until the ladies finally made it to their boat. Quite an entertaining story I thought, and I had to promise him to try his famous recipe. I haven’t yet, but you never know, I might one day. 🙂
In Austria of all countries (as everyone might or might not know, the Austrians are not terribly fond of Germans), in Salzburg to be more precise, I met the maybe friendliest taxi driver of all times. My meeting at the airport had ended just in time for a little shopping spree downtown before I had to catch my next flight. So I grabbed a cab and lucky me: The driver’s shift was just about to end, and he volunteered to do a little city tour with me – for free! And though Salzburg surely is a beautiful city, he might be the reason that I am even more fond of it.
In Istanbul, every cab driver seems to be a race driver in disguise. I tried to play it cool (for heaven’s sake, we invented the autobahn, didn’t we?), but it is hard to appear cool while covering one’s eyes with one’s hands the whole time. So I was very glad when just one day I encountered an elderly taxi driver who wasn’t in such an awful hurry, so for the first time I actually could see where we were going!
But the funniest incident happened in Norway. I was travelling with my very favourite colleague L. and we had to give a training in some meeting facility in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere. In the morning, we ordered a taxi before we enjoyed our hotel breakfast in good spirits. However, come the agreed time, no taxi showed up. After waiting for a while, we addressed the receptionist who cheerfully told us that the taxi driver had honked but when we didn’t step outside, he left again. But she would be happy to order us another taxi, would we kindly wait by the door. The minutes went by, and we got increasingly nervous. After waiting for half an hour and by this being delayed already by 45 minutes, you could see little beads of sweat pouring off our foreheads, and our smiles got a little frozen… Finally, the driver showed up, we hurried outside, threw ourselves and our bags inside the car and told the driver to please, please hurry up! He stepped on the accelerator – and immediately stopped again. L. and I looked at each other and decided that Norwegian taxi drivers were not our friends, when the driver got out, opened the door and pointed us towards the entrance of that meeting facility! We had had no idea that the hotel was just around the corner, I mean, literally just around the corner! L. and I were hysteric, we couldn’t stop laughing all day long, and the participants of our training might have written in their diaries, “Just experienced the funniest and weirdest training of my life. Those trainers were bonkers!”…
Taken any taxi lately?