I have to blog about my encounters with cabbies in the US. No, please take your mind out of the gutter, an encounter meaning just that - a 30-40 minute cab ride usually to or from airports in Chicago or New York.
The thing is - I love to chat with cabbies, find out where they are from (its never anywhere as prosaic as Iowa) and lately I have taken to asking them where they go to eat authentic food from their country.
The reason this comes up is that I was too lazy to drive and park at the Oakland airport for the trip to Vegas my mom and I took, and so I called a cab suggested by the security guy in my building. The driver turned out to be an Algerian, called Atmun (or something that sounds like that - I am going by phonetic memory). Having eaten Moroccan food at dinner just the previous day, I had to ask him where he went for Algerian food in the Bay area and he said sadly, "Nowhere." But he/they would go to eat Moroccan at a small place in the city , "Umm at Geary and Jones", he said. Which was exactly where my hole-in-the-wall Moroccan, Tajine was. "Ha, long live Chowhound
!" I thought to myself.
We reached the airport and he promised to come pick us up on Monday at 1:30 AM which is when our flight back from Vegas was (damn Expedia). I tipped him 20% and he actually gave me back a couple of bucks and said, "Too much. Your mum, she reminds me of my mum." After that ultimate Bollywood ishtyle line, I had no option but to take it back sheepishly.
We land, half an hour late on Monday early AM, wondering if the cab was waiting. Yes, he was and this time he carries out our carry-on from inside the terminal to his cab in the rain, pays for parking and refuses any tip (or even for parking) over and above the flat rate the cab company normally charges. "This is a ride for you mum, yes." And he drives away. And I ponder how my cabby experiences in this country are pretty good normally.
Memorable ones: the cabby in Manhattan who wouldn't take any money from me, when excited by his speaking in Bangla on his cell I just had to ask, "Dada, apni Bangali?" The very next day, I heard another cabby talk in Bangla on his cell but was very very careful to not talk to him in Bengali. On reaching my destination, he says, "Apni Bangali, na?" with a huge smile and refuses the fare. [Digression: Am I THAT obviously Bangali??] I was embarassed and humbled. Not that it ever happened to me again. The one in Chicago who had managed a large car dealership before he became schizophrenic and his wife left him. The one in Vegas who was from Romania, whose best friend was of Indian origin from Guyana (apparently brother to Shakira Caine!) and he had kicked a gambling habit and moved to Vegas (the irony!!).
On the other hand my friend G, who was my roommate in Evanston, kept bumping into cabbies (and also the janitor in our school) who wanted her to marry (or at least meet) their sons (er one at a time of course) who were inevitably "doctors in California". Is there a moral here somewhere?