Cab drivers, the heart of every nation

2012 September 23

It is midnight in Mumbai and my cab driver knows two English words. He points to the huge traffic jam around the hotel caused by the festival and says: “shortcut”. I nod my head appreciatively, hoping he can get me to make my 3 am flight back to the US. As we dodge crowds of young children wandering in the shanties, he utters his second word: “tip”. Raised eyebrows tell me we’re now negotiating. For 20%, he gets me to the airport in less than an hour and I make my flight comfortably. This “tip for shortcut” value proposition is as concise as they come. Cabbies are the best small business owners.
It’s the second half of July in Paris. Traffic is slow, a surprise given that many French people are already on vacation. The problem is painters and plumbers, my Rumanian-born cab driver tells me. “They want to go on vacation in August, and in order to generate cash, they start three or four jobs they will finish in the fall, which allows them to collect multiple down-payments before leaving.” As we’re bobbing and weaving through traffic, he points to numerous double-parked vans clogging traffic. Cabbies are the best traffic analysts.
My London taxi driver hears me speak French on the phone. He asks me if I know the Armenian-born singer Charles Aznavour. As I tell him I do, he starts playing Aznavour’s song entitled “Ils Sont Tombés” (They Have Fallen), a stirring description of the Armenians uprising against Turks in the early 20th century. He’s not Armenian himself, but he has tears in his eyes as he barrels down the M4 to Heathrow. Cabbies are the conscience of mankind.
I am in Spain. Real Madrid is playing Manchester City at home tonight in the first game of the Champions League. We don’t have any language in common, yet we can communicate on whether Ronaldo is really sad (he thinks he’s a big baby), whether David Villa the Spaniard should be considered a traitor for playing for Manchester City (he thinks it’s OK because soccer is a global business), and whether Spain should dump the Euro (his position is no because Real Madrid could no longer attract big worldwide stars like Ronaldo, even though he’s a big baby). Cabbies are the best soccer economists.
As I head back home in Boston, my limo driver is Moroccan. He’s got opinions about everything, Obama vs. Romney, the Arab Spring, and the movie that is igniting protests all over the Middle East. “The problem is that there’s not enough American Muslim leadership to act as intermediary between the fanatics and the grassroots Muslim people”, he tells me, talking like a Harvard PhD. “Look how different this is from France or Germany where local imams in those two countries help tamper everything.” He dreams of playing a role like that someday. Cabbies are the best politicians.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. October 17, 2012

    I noticed the French do this as well. When my hubnasd and I visited Paris, we were warned to always say Bon jour and Merci. We mastered that, but butchered the rest! Our French was lousy.I like your blog. I have always thought about becoming an ESL teacher. Now, I’m not so sure. Blogging takes up a huge chuck of my free time. But I do still like to read your blog. If I decide to teach one day, I’ll have a great resource.

  2. December 5, 2012

    Great post Mssr Gouillart

    I can say the same thing about cabbies in my country, Indonesia.. They are very opinionated too :)

    By the way, I knew and learned about Co-Creation from my colleagues when I was working in Palladium Asia Pacific.

    Cheers,
    Adhy Hosen

  3. February 12, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this very nice post, please keep continue the sharing of this types of information. Here we are waiting for more

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