Recently in Amman, a taxi driver got my attention. He had a white taxi, the kind that a bunch of strangers squeeze into and then get dropped off separately. These are an everyday form of travel in the Lebanese transport system, known as “Servees”, but are available in other parts of the Middle East.
I call them the Soccer-mom taxis; because after soccer practice, one mom picks up the kids in a carpool arrangement and delivers them to their different homes. Such are the white taxis, minus the free orange slices and the smell of feet. Ok, just the slices.
So this driver says, “You speaks da Engleesi?!” and tells me to get in his car. Of course I obliged, but if this had happened when I first came to the Middle East, I would have panicked: an Arab man in a leather jacket with a big ‘ol Saddam mustache telling me to jump into his taxi / kidnap-mobile? Nooooo thanks!!!
But now I know better. He’s harmless and probably needs me to read something in English. Into the car I went and quickly smelled the feet again. I was soon craving oranges but I had to focus on his dilemma.
You see, Mr. Taxi had a sweet new radio but the only languages on it were Korean and a little Spanish. The settings were locked and what could he do? All he had was his Arabic, my useless English and four people in the backseat waiting to go home.
I called it quits after 10 minutes and I was about as helpful as his car’s air freshener. In those moments, we accomplished nothing but I still felt like I achieved something. Mr. Taxi was stuck and I tried to help him, and not the other way around, which is usually the case.
If I had a dollar for every time an Arab freely helped me with something, I would be driving a Lamborghini down Rainbow Street.
My thanks to all you Arabs who have helped; with directions, translating a menu, buying a suit, eating Mensaf, caring for my family, having us over for coffee and the list goes on.
And if anyone knows of Koreans in Amman, I have a mustached friend who could use their help. God knows they owe him.
By Brett Weer