Taxicab WisdomI have incredibly good taxicab karma. I've never really been a car person. Getting a driver's license wasn't exciting to me because I could drive. It was exciting because I could leave. But, from the day that I was 15 and wrapped my parent's maroon station wagon around a telephone pole, I have been blandly disinterested in being in the world of the automobile.
Get me in a cab, though, and I am Miss Daisy without the bitchiness. I am Taxicab Confessions in reverse. I love lurching through the city streets in the back of a cab -- window cracked open, eyes closed. And, cabbies love to talk to me. Politics, philosophy, love, fast food, music, soccer teams, the etymology of interesting words. You name it.
I even have the cell phone number of a cabbie who will come pick me up wherever I am if he is within 10 minutes. Usually, he does not charge me cab fare. He said once, "It is payment enough to see your beautiful face." I have stopped calling him as frequently after the last time he drove me home and said, "Next time, you sit up front."
Although many of my cabbie conversations inevitably lead to some sort of date proposition; the men are, for the most part, courteous about my polite refusals. However, I still enjoy the rapport. I have a few stock questions that work well conversationally:
"Where are you from? Oh. You speak _____ (insert appropriate language)?"
"How long have you lived here? Do you miss home?"
I often impress my hired drivers with my educated familiarity with their place of birth. I have a generally good grasp of geography and a basic knowledge of simple cultural identifiers: major languages spoken, political current events, gross national product. However, it certainly makes me feel globally immersed to discuss world events with people directly affected by civil unrest or presidential coups. It's like having an ear to the ground of the planet.
For example this morning, I met a cabbie named, Makkhete. Makkhete hails from Senegal and spoke with a lyrical baritone that resonated like solid brass handbells.
Learning he was Senegalese, I said, "Oh, you speak Wolof?"
"Ha, haaa! Yes!" He intoned with a bright chime. "Do you?"
"Dedet. Dedet." I demured. "No, no."
"Ha, haaa! My name is Makkehte. You say it like 'Ma head'."
We then launched into a discussion about his philosophy on life. He was good-hearted and optimistic in a way that energized me. Despite the fact that I had just had an arduous weekend that involved one period of 30+hours without sleep. I was excited by his enthusiasm for life.
He said, "You know, this is how I see it. I came here and couldn't speak any English. I couldn't even go to the store and buy something because I had no idea how to ask for what I needed. I was hungry. So, I learned. I like to work hard."
"Everything I do, I set small goals and I try to achieve them. Everything. Everything is a goal. Right now, your goal is to go home and my goal is to take you there."
Then, Makkehte said something that was profoundly simple but very reassuring to me in that moment. He said, "Some people, never set goals. But Life sets it for them. These people end up unhappy. They blame everyone but themselves. If you do not have goals, Life will make them for you. And you may not like what Life comes up with."
Years ago, when I was in a deep depression, this same philosophy granted me renewed optimism. I reached a point in my life where I was so overwhelmed by what I perceived as being an utter creative failure that I could not bear to participate in life at all. I gave up.
After two weeks of sleeping on my brother's living room floor, not speaking or eating, I sat up. The next day, I stood up. The next day, I walked. And so on. In my journal from that time, I write about how exciting it felt to brush my teeth and change my clothes. These everyday actions felt like huge achievements.
At some point, your physical body stops growing. This does not mean you do not have to, at times, re-teach yourself how to stand or walk or become. It is not irrelevant to be proud of your baby steps. Some days, they are the truest goals you achieve.