The other day I had to take a taxi for something work related, and I had the same fellow wait for a few moments and drive me back to my office.
Do you chat with taxi drivers?
Most of the time I do, but there are some that I don't talk to, and I won't list the reasons why here (I have some good ones...)
But for the most part, I find that wherever I am, chatting with a taxi driver is a very good method of taking the pulse of a city, and even of a given country.
The fellow I spoke with a couple of days ago was originally from Ethiopia, and had spent an extended period of time in England. His father was a doctor in Ethiopia, and told his son to move to Britain for greener pastures. The son worked in England for a number of years and then decided to move to Canada.
It took him a long time to get used to driving on the right side of the road, and he has been driving a taxi professionally for about seven or eight years and he says it's a great gig.
He had some interesting things to say. First of all, he said one of the first things he did was buy his own car because the public transit in Toronto is so primitive. I had to agree. We laughed about how the idiots in this city want to build more streetcars to clog the streets because they think that streetcars are powered by electricity, which of course is made from Magical Unicorn Fart Gas-clean and green.
More chit chat.
He smokes-he said he doesn't do drugs or drink, but he smokes cigarettes and loves to shop. He doesn't save money, he buys stuff.
He says the taxi pays great money-not to believe any driver who whines about how hard it is. He said he stops driving after he makes $150 per day, but he could do more hours and easily make $200 and he only declares about 2/3 of what he makes. He goes "back home" to Ethiopia every summer for 2-3 months.
Anyway. I asked him if he had a family, a wife, kids? He said no. He told me he had a girlfriend a few years ago that broke up with him, heartache, etc.. and that he hadn't rebounded, and that there are no good girls around there, and women don't like taxi drivers.
At this point, I told him that he was full of shit.
Women are certainly looking for husbands, and there are plenty of women who know that a man doing any job where he gets up in the morning and goes to work, and is not on the dole, is honourable.
I said go to a freaking yoga class and women will pounce on you.
Seriously. Why don't people think with mathematical minds? If you are a man, go to where there are lots of women. If you are a woman, go to where the men are.
I told him also that his shopping habit was an addiction, and a very silly substitute for real joy and real pleasure. He said no he likes it.
I said it makes you feel "high"-your friends might like alcohol or drugs, but you feel high when you spend money, but NOTHING you buy, absolutely NOTHING you buy, will ever make you happy.
Happy is from within. Not from without.
Now, money of course is good-very good, but it cannot buy happy or healthy. It's nice to have enough money to live comfortably, travel, have good food and nice things, but that is "stuff", not ephemeral.
I said the only things that matter are G-d and family and health and friends.
Why do you go to Ethiopia every year? Because of family.
Then I said how old are you?
He said 40.
So I told him to stop wasting his life buying stupid things that will never make him happy, to find a nice woman who wants a man who works for a living and wants to have children-because everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING else is bullshit. I told him you only get one life, why was he wasting his?
He seemed completely stunned, totally speechless for a few minutes.
But as we were nearing my destination he thanked me.
He said what I just explained to him made a lot of sense, and that I really taught him something. His tone was quiet, introspective and respectful. Quite different than the lackadaisical bravado-lite of the earlier segment of our journey.
I wished him good luck finding a good woman, but reminded him that there are plenty.
I stepped out of the taxi into the fall sunshine looking around, anxiously waiting for my next story to walk into my life, just fall into my lap, waiting to be told.