Monday, October 31, 2011

You Were Not Born in India, Were You? (or somethng to that effect)

Every taxi driver knows too well that passengers say the craziest (not like Art Linkletter, where kids said the darnest things) nonsense, bringing up topics more fit for an asylum than a taxi, but come to mention it the average taxi is a rolling psychiatric ward, where hopefully the most incoherent customers (inmates) disappear quickly and painlessly away.  This posting then is a brief entry into that lexicon-fueled world known as passenger dialogue.  Most taxi conversation is reasonable, friendly and coherent, but not always as the first example given here amply displays.

The guy from top of Queen Anne going to the Pan Pacific Hotel kept asking whether I was from India?  At first I responded not at all.  Upon persistence I initially told him that it was a big secret, too important to divulge.  Then after further consideration I confessed that no, I was not born in India but in a town named after an American Native tribe or nation, Puyallup.  He fortunately had no further comment but one wonders why the question was asked at at, just to why it held any significance one way or the other where the driver was born.  Clearly I don't look like any native of that distant subcontinent.  His genealogical interest was truly peculiar, motivated by what pathology I truly am not interested in knowing.  It is only too typical when the passenger sees you not at all and cares about you not at all and upon getting out of the taxi remembers you not at all.  Did I just have a human to human interaction?  Obviously, not at all!

I had a family in my taxi yesterday from Saudi Arabia, a father and his three children.  Being the only English speaker, the father began translating our conversation for his children's benefit.  Upon discovering that I was a writer and (very nominally) aware of his region and culture his questions became more probing.  As with the older couple from Kuwait last weekend, I have found that the majority of foreign visitors and temporary residents are always pleasantly surprised, if not shocked to meet a reasonably informed and knowledgeable American as it appears that American cultural illiteracy is now legendary and transferred to all of my fellow citizens.  I dropped the Saudi family off at the Red Roof Inn, Sea-Tac with the father repeating that he would buy my book on Amazon.  I would find that pleasing, as I am always ready to be a reasonable representative and emissary for our confounding country.

Yesterday I picked up at the Vulcan (Paul Allen) Boeing Field Facility.  As with my other contacts with the Vulcan empire I always feel I have been transported back to Iron Curtain Europe (I was in Hungary in 1984) where a secretive and opaque bureaucracy divulges as little as possible, suspicion the generously supplied entree.  I mentioned this Soviet-era atmosphere to the somewhat superior gentleman I was taking to Sea-Tac. He immediately softened and became more human. One point that hasn't been mentioned during these "Occupy Wall Street" times is that many of us are not at all interested in doing what is necessary to become a "one percenter."  I could care less.  I have more important things to do than manipulate money markets and require that others make my bread & butter.  How boring!  Why even driving a taxi is better than that!

Question?  Where was Winston Churchill speaking when he made his famous "Iron Curtain" reference? 
Answer:  A place of very little iron, Kanas!

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