Taxis in Jordan; you can’t live with them, you can’t go anywhere without them (if you don’t have a car). If you live in Jordan, then you probably understand what I’m talking about, and if you don’t then congratulations, you are the luckiest person out there!
Whether they are funny, cruel, strange, angry, impoverished, oppressed, or just plain misunderstood, you can’t deny that we have a huge variety of taxi drivers roaming Jordanian streets, and so, consequently, a huge variety of experiences riding a cab with them. They might tell you they drive these yellow-colored vehicles for a living, because they are poor and destitute, or for fun, because they are actually millionaires. Some will tell you about why they were kicked out of school for trying to stab their teacher after she told them to tuck their shirt in at school, and others will tell you of their long, interesting careers that somehow involve being a dentist, heart surgeon, astronaut and President of the United States all at the same time. Whatever the story is, there is no question that they will make for funny and/or really creepy stories to tell your children and grandchildren… if you survive the trip.
I, Sadad Talhouni ™, have probably had enough bad taxi experiences to last me a lifetime. Being a car-less university student with an outgoing lifestyle, I, more often-than-not, require the services of taxis in order to get around, and, thusly, have amassed a significant amount of tales to tell. This article will be a retelling of some of my favorite (or, in reality, not favorite) taxi cab stories. Now I know I sometimes boast some exaggerated and untrue things (like how I can lift a whole bus full of people with one hand, when, in truth, it is only a car full of people), but when it comes to cab tales, my own anecdotes with taxis are the unbent truth; they are accurate, unmodified and quite entertaining.
Story #1: Illegal Activity
When we entered year 2009, I was hoping that the New Year would change my luck with taxi cabs. I was sadly mistaken. I hailed a cab one morning, attempting to get to university on time. I was, as usual, running late for my first lecture of the day and was hoping I could catch a cab that would quickly help me reach my destination. The trip went smoothly up until we reached the last street that connected to my university’s campus. There, a policeman stopped him because his front light was broken and asked for his driving license. The driver made a fuss about not being able to get his driving license out of the glove compartment because I was blocking it from being opened (I’m a large man, you see). While the driver tried to smooth-talk his way out of the situation, I, being polite and not wanting to be the cause of a dispute between and man and an officer of the law, squished and squirmed until I managed to open the glove compartment and notified the driver of my accomplishment. The driver then handed the policeman his papers with an odd expression on his face, an expression which I foolishly thought was due to his astonishment at the sudden turn of events, but which I discovered was because of another, worse, reason; his license was expired!
I remained in the vehicle for a full ten minutes until the driver finished his affairs with the cop and dropped me off at my university with a grumpy and silent expression on his face. At this point I was less concerned about the fact that I was very late for my classes and more worried about whether the driver will attempt to run me over once I got out of the car.
Story #2: An Unpleasant Return
After a long and stressful day at university, I stood on the sidewalk, waiting to hitch a cab so I can return back home and unwind. I was wearing a purple t-shirt that day and so while waiting, a cab passed by and the passenger stuck his head out the window and yelled something like: “Hey! Beitinjaneh!” (“Beitinjaneh” means “eggplant” in Arabic). These kinds of incidents are, unfortunately, not uncommon in Jordanian streets, and I have grown used to them ever since I discovered the Easter Bunny isn’t real (at least Santa is though, thank God). But this was not the end of it though; after I finally got in a cab, the driver proceeds to compliment the area and how calm it is. This was something I couldn’t help but agree with; the streets were empty, there was greenery and the sun shone beautifully. I felt happy knowing that I was at least riding with a man with a bit of similar taste. At least, that was the case, until he turned around, looked at me, and asked: “Mashallah! How much do you weigh? Did you pass the 100 mark? Maybe you should do a little sport, you know, to lose some weight.”
These are the sort of questions that really indicate when someone is stepping out of line; friendly conversations are one thing, but poking your nose into other people’s private matters is another.
Story #3: How Are Your Children?
This story is best told with the original dialogue. The following occurred on a sick day, as I was returning home from my friend’s place:
Taxi Driver: How are your children?
Me: Um… what?
TD: How are your children?
Me: Um, I don’t have any children.
TD: Then why is your hair like this? (I had long hair at the time)
TD: Come on man, you can tell me.
Me: I’m trying a new style.
TD: I thought you are busy with the wife and kids, and you didn’t have time to cut your hair (comedy clearly is his second nature).
The man then tries to talk about my hair some more, then starts forcing me to guess his age, even though I clearly couldn’t care less. He then starts at it again:
TD: How are your children?
(I pretend to laugh a little bit for him, hoping that this is some kind of retarded attempt at making me laugh)
TD: Do you want me to tell you the truth, my friend?
TD: Your hair is horrible.
I give him another short laugh, wishing he would shut up and just drive, but after a while:
TD: How are your children?
(I pretend to laugh again, not wanting nor knowing what to reply)
TD: How are the girls?
Me: The girls are good.
TD: How many girlfriends do you have?
(Not being the kind of guy who likes to discuss his private social life with complete strangers, let alone half lunatics, I responded with none.)
Me: I don’t have any girlfriends.
TD: Come on dude, don’t lie to me, you’ve got loads, how many girlfriends do you have?
Me: I don’t have any!
TD: Man, this is me you’re talking to, just tell me.
(I was very sick that day and was in no mood to continue arguing, so I decided to improvise)
Me: I have one girlfriend.
TD: Do you love her?
TD: Well, what do you do with her? Do you kiss or hug or have sex?
Me: Um… Just hug.
TD: Oh, I’m sure that when she sits in your lap she disappears into the layers of fat, right?
I do not comment at this ridiculousness, and remain quiet. The silence doesn’t go on for long because, yet again:
TD: How are your children?
(I only respond with a chuckle this time)
TD: Aha! You didn’t laugh this time, the joke is getting old, right?
Me: (This would have been a great moment for sarcasm) Yeah, a little.
TD: But come on, man, I always have good humor. How fun am I? A lot, or medium?
TD: Why, man?
Me: No, I’m kidding, a lot.
TD: So do you want to get married soon?
TD: Well, when then?
Me: After I finish university.
TD: Well then you should lose some weight man. I mean, if you want to hug your wife, she’ll disappear! Do some sports!
At this point, I left the vehicle. I knew, of course, that this kind of people is the reason why there is a waiting period for handguns. This kind of extremely rude and derogatory mannerism not only ruins a person’s trust in others, it shows how ugly and downright underdeveloped a person can be.
Story #4: Wise Man on Wheels
This pretty old taxi driver, with a sort of grandfatherly look, picks me up from university one day. After introducing himself and questioning me about my major and studies, he starts telling me about his life, and how he majored in multiple types of engineering courses (something that has to do with mechanical and motor engineering). He, according to him, used to be a pilot before founding a private delivery company which became pretty successful, but, unfortunately, he got scammed with around two million dollars, and then all his rich friends abandoned him. But he didn’t give up and decided to start from scratch as a taxi driver. When we reached my destination, he pulled over, looked me straight in the eyes and told me:
“You see that building over there? If a person wants to climb it, he has to calculate the height of the building and get a ladder of the right length, not longer or shorter. And the same goes for studying; if you want to reach the top, then you have to know what you are doing, and prepare for everything you need. There is no such thing as someone “better” than you; if you work hard enough, you CAN be the best, and you should, after all, what else do you have in your life right now? Studying is your responsibility! Don’t waste your time with pointless things. And never trust anyone; always count on yourself.”
Now, while this man could very well be some kind of delusional psycho, this doesn’t discredit his real words of advice. And even though he sounded like my mother a lot, I couldn’t help but agree with this strange, multi-engineer/ ex-pilot/ millionaire.
I know these are not the WORST predicaments anyone can go through; some people have way worse, and also way funnier, experiences. I thank you if you bore through my stories to the end, so here is a little secret: Do you know what my greatest fear is?
Answer: becoming a taxi driver!
>> If you want to reach the top, then you have to know what you are doing, and prepare for everything you need