Not having a vehicle, and having to do shift work at odd hours, I often need a cab to commute to work. Normally I walk and cycle, or occasionally catch the bus. The frequency of cab usage has resulted in me meeting a number of drivers enough so that I have become familiar with them. I also like talking to the drivers, and usually sit in the front seat with them. Here are a few that come immediately to mind.
First there is the Russian sailor who became a born-again Christian. He always has a free New Testament for those interested, and is also ready at the drop of a hat to discuss anything theological. His main problem is his faith in some web-pages regarding his beliefs. The fact that you can be seduced into trusting a certain group of pages that mutually support each other, while slanting the truth and facts, seems to have escaped him. For example, he believes that moderate conservative Muslims are not following the Koran, but that radical extremist such as Wahabbi Sunnis are following the core of Islamic belief. He thought C.S. Lewis was a born-again Christian, and that you can also logically and irrefutably prove the existence of God without resorting to faith. However, he is a nice guy, and it is fun trying to have a talk with him without it drifting towards the theological.
Then there is the Iranian driver who is friendly, polite, and is actually driving mostly for fun. His main occupation is financing and profiting from major condominium and apartment rental developments in Halifax. When Hurricane Juan severely damaged Point Pleasant Park, he lobbied in a fairly polite way for part of the park to be developed. He is also a fount of knowledge on the Middle East, and half the time when he drives you home he is on a cell phone talking to a friend or partner in Toronto or Kuwait.
Occasionally I drive with a Sikh from Simla, who has a child who is an M.B.A., another who is a research doctor, a third who is an ER doctor, and a fourth who is just graduating high school. He has high hopes for him, as she is the most brilliant of his children! He himself was well educated in Literature in India (I forget the University), but when he came here the best job he could get was taxi driving. He has saved and invested well. This true gentlemen is pleasant, articulate, and has a lot to be proud of. I think he drives partially to meet people.
Then there is the Haligonian middle-aged guy who always has a philosophy book handy, and will discuss international affairs and history at the drop of a hat. The last time I was in his cab, he was reading Sartre and St. Augustine. There was also a copy of the Koran on the front seat.
Tonight I met a Kurd who lived in the part of Kurdistan claimed by Turkey. He had the most wonderful thick mustache, and was very happy about the success of the Democrats in the United States. Before I left the car, he explained how Kurds have been persecuted, why getting rid of Hussein was a good thing, but also why the Americans were doing it in the wrong way and alienating so many Muslims.
Most taxi drivers are able to hold a conversation, get along with people, and often have interesting lives. I seem to remember several artists who drove cabs for a while.I’ve met people from Nova Scotia, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Syria, Palestine, Georgia (the one east of Canada), Brazil, China, Korea, India, Bangladesh, Scotland, Germany, Switzerland (an engineer), Egypt, and Newfoundland. Without leaving the city limits, I have met much of the world.
Finally, taxi driving does allow many people to avoid buying cars, and are useful in cases where you occasionally need a vehicle but don’t need a rental. Sometimes you need to carry large objects short distances, sometimes there is an emergency, and occasionally you need to go somewhere that is not serviced by mass transit. While I like mass transit more, taxis have a place, and surprisingly often the drivers are interesting and nice, making it a pleasant experience.