Imagine getting into a car driven by a man you’ve never met before. Seems risky if you put it that way, but the thought doesn’t even cross your mind. You are only too relieved to finally get off the pavement, away from the heat or rain and the assaulting air pollution, and scurry off to your next appointment. Point A to point B. Just another taxi ride. Not much to it at all.
Unless you consider for a moment that you are riding in a car with a complete stranger, that the man sitting a couple of feet away from you is not merely an automated extension of the vehicle, that you have entered into an implicit contract with a man whom you inevitably trusted to convey you to your destination the moment you hailed and entered his cab. If you are alone, like I most often am, the possibility of interacting with the seemingly nondescript driver heightens. And if like me, you don’t mind chatting it up a bit, this exchange can prove to be more interesting than the passing views outside the window.
The taxi that took me home tonight was the same taxi I rode in to work one morning a few months ago. Or to be more specific, it was the same driver; I’m sure of it. That or maybe, I’ve ridden too many taxi’s lately.
He was quiet both times but seemed gentle when he did talk. He listened to ‘The Morning Rush’ that morning and ‘Boys Night Out’ tonight. He’s probably around my age.
There are as many different types of drivers as there are people. That is after all what they are. Some prefer to keep their eyes on the road, not minding you in the least; you are probably as interesting to him as the teeny cockroach that has nestled under the seats and accompanies him on his everyday excursions. Others seem allergic to their passengers. They hate it when you give them directions, blame the heavy traffic on you, and begrudge you for going some place so inconveniently far away. And there are those who love to talk.
One guy handed me his cellphone. He asked me to text his wife for him then make ‘pasa-load’ to his son. Just in case you’re wondering, the message was to tell her that I, the passenger, is texting to let her know that he’s driving and cannot pick up her call. Another one managed to narrate the story of his life during our 30-minute trip from Manila to Mandaluyong. He hails from Mindanao, married a Chinese girl, has a brother-in-law in the military, and is currently a doting grandfather to the child of his daughter who graduated with a degree in Education but is currently working as a call center agent.
The conversations tend to be more interesting at night. It must be the darkness or the lack of pedestrians and manic traffic. Or it can just be FM radio’s Papa Jack and his host of exasperating callers with their equally exasperating life problems. One guy turned his car into a confession box and poured his heart out. He went on and on explicitly about his love life, which I admit was pretty interesting. And how can I forget that guy, the one who shared his life story, asked me numerous questions, successfully solicited answers, and offered free psychoanalysis. To my surprise, he made such refreshing insights.
I know very well that it’s not wise to talk to strangers, nor is riding taxi’s alone at night. They are probably just trying to make their daily grind more bearable and less solitary, as I am only seeking to arrive at my destination. But in that short span of time, within the typically poorly air-conditioned confines of their vehicles, a conversation can be had, an exchange from where one can come away with anecdotes that not only rouse your curiosity but can even help lighten one’s mood. Sometimes, we all just need someone to prattle on to. And that is true no matter which side of the car you’re sitting on.
Photo credit: Ben Fredericson