I love cab drivers. When Dad and Sidnee were here this last weekend, we took a lot of cabs around town. Cabbies are great because they're the ultimate entrepreneurs and they come from all over the world, so they summarize the American immigrant experience.
The first interesting cab driver I met in the Bay Area was a couple of years ago on one of my first visits to Berkeley, when Justin and I took a cab from the Oakland airport to Justin's apartment. We were having a great conversation with him, and then we asked him where he was from, and he said, "Afghanistan." Awkward silence. (This was not long after the military action there.) Then, "Um, how long have you lived here?" Seventeen years, as it turned out.
This weekend we had several interesting cabbies. One was Asian--Dad asked him where he was from, and he said, "Saigon." "Not Ho Chi Minh City?" Dad asked (probably smirking, but he was in the front seat, so I couldn't tell). "No, Saigon," the cabbie answered (definitely smiling).
Another was from the Philippines. We talked about the pope's death and the prospects for the new pope. He was hoping the next one would be more favorable toward embryonic stem cell research, because his brother is a paraplegic--he was shot in a bar just a week after he arrived in San Francisco, just accidentally ended up in the line of fire in a brawl. He also said his beard intimidates people and his customers are less mean to him now than when he was clean-cut. (One thing I absolutely love about my dad is that he has no pretension whatsoever, so he's really comfortable talking to all sorts of people. Being a cabbie must be a thankless job most of the time; I'm glad my dad is nice to them.)
The Filipino cabbie took us to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. The only Anglo cabbie we had took us back downtown, and my stepmother nearly got into a political argument with him. Eek. (If you have ever gotten into a political discussion with her, or any sort of discussion, you can understand why I was frightened.) But fortunately they didn't get too into whether corporations should run the government or vice versa, so we made it all the way to our destination. Close shave.
1 month ago