February 19, 2007

Conversations with cabdrivers.

1. New York City. Sunday, noon. The ride starts at 55 Church Street. The cabdriver asked me where I was from, so I asked him where he was from. He said Pakistan, then rushed to say that he's all American now, here for 20 years. Where in Pakistan? Lahore. I ask what I always ask about cities I don't know: Is the architecture beautiful? He talks about how the city has changed so much in the last ten years, something about all the new and not very good buildings that have detracted from the beauty of the old. It used to be so clean. He used to know every tree, which ones were good for climbing, and where the bird's nests were.

2. Madison. Sunday, midnight. The ride starts at the airport. I say I was happy to see cabs waiting at the airport so late at night, and he explains how the company monitors the websites and knows when there are planes coming in. I say my plane was late because a plane in Cleveland skidded off the runway in the ice and snow. Talking about the weather, he says he finally bought some "choppers," which I learn is the name for a type of heavy mitten. Around here they make them out of deerskin. But out in the west, maybe elkskin. "Choppers," weird. I never heard that term before. I guess they're for chopping wood. Yeah.


MadisonMan said...

Choppers are also great for riding bikes in cold weather. You can get them at Farm and Fleet.

Welcome back. Thanks for bringing back Spring Weather. I expect to see people out and about in shorts today.

Ann Althouse said...

Oh, yes, when I see the Madison men in shorts, I imagine they are all doing it to taunt me. But I will accept the taunting, if it is the price of warmer weather.

Badger Down Under said...

I once got into a cab on the upper East Side. The cab driver (about 55, Romanian) asked if I though he was dangerous, and proceeded to tell me he had committed two murders. He detailed the police investigation, his arrest, and then said he was able to get off because nobody could connect him with the crime.

Then he burst out laughing. Turns out he was a character actor who had played a small role in a recent Law & Order episode, with that story line. He showed me his headshot, which had been autographed by the show's stars.

That was some ride.

Dave F said...

Wow I once got in a cab on the Upper East side too!

Once, when I was feeling dangerous, I even got in a cab on the Lower East Side!

Daryl Herbert said...

Here's another story about a conversation with a Muslim cabdriver

Maxine Weiss said...

The perils of being a single woman and not having someone to pick you up.

Let's face it, having a man around the house comes in handy.

A woman alone with a male cab driver... Those Pakistani men covet the blondes, especially.

They don't have blondes in their country.

They're not afraid of death, with a blonde as their last experience.

Husbands are convenient at times like that.

Peace, Maxine

libbyterian said...

My grandmother is from Lahore. She tells us great stories about the city when it was very diverse and cosmopolitan and the center of undivided Punjab. It was about 40% Hindu/Sikh and 60% Muslim, yet Hindus and Sikhs owned a much larger share of the city's wealth. My great grandfater owned a huge factory in the city, but was force to abandon it when Lahore was awarded to Pakistan after independence from Britian. When the British left riots broke out in the region and the single largest mass migration in the history of humanity took place. The ethnic cleansing that took place in Punjab on both sides (india and pakistan) is pretty remarkable. In a place so densely populated, 40% minorities were completely eradicated on both sides of the border. She migrated to Delhi but still mentions how she dreams about her birth city. She has always wanted to go back, but is probably too frail to travel.

When you think of partition, you think of Israel, but a lot of people don't know about the British partition of India and what kind of effect it had on the world. The manner in which the countries were created led to three wars, a nuclear arms race, and two or three nuclear showdowns.

If you want to read a good book about the Partition of India, I recommend the Ice Candy Man. The story is centered in prepartition undivided Lahore.

Internet Ronin said...

Oh Maxine, surely you can do better than that!

Jim C. said...

"the company monitors the websites and knows when there are planes coming in."

Now that's an interesting detail I've never heard before. It makes a lot of sense.

Ann Althouse said...

libbyterian: Thanks. I had some trouble understanding what the cab driver was referring to. I could tell he was being circuitous. As I heard it, he seemed to be talking about homogeneity in the past and a more recent influx of different people. He seemed dismayed that the good culture of the past had been disturbed, and I had the impression that he was opposed to diversity, but a little embarrassed to admit it. I couldn't tell exactly what had happened, and I didn't know what group he belonged to. It was clear that he was very unhappy about something that had changed, and he made me feel sad about it, though I didn't know what it was. I checked a little before writing this post, because I thought it was possible that he was the xeonophobe.

TMink said...

Here in Nashville, the cab drivers are not so safe and amicable. At least one anyway.

Two students visiting from Ohio got in an argument with their Somali cab driver. They paid their fare, and exited the cab. The driver then attempted to run them over as he drove up on the sidewalk to hit one of the passengers, sending him to the hospital. He remains there in serious condition. The other occupant avoided the battery.

Must have been Religion of Peace Cab Line.