Conversations with a Cab Driver #1

I went to the office today to spend some QT (quality time) with Negra and make sure she wasn’t too lonely or without food. She was quite thrilled to see me, must have been waiting up on that patio for hours until someone would arrive to give her some well-deserved attention. We hung out outside for a bit, I gave her food which she ate excitedly, and then we went out to the front of the office where she chose a particularly fluffy bush to nestle in and roll around. I had taken off her jacket since the weather was warm today, so that might have had something to do with the sudden urge to feel grass and dirt on her back!

I ended up staying much longer than anticipated, of course. I can never leave an animal hungry for attention behind without feeling guilty, so after two hours of petting and hanging out and rolling in grass, I brought Negra downstairs where she promptly entered the outdoor bathroom and curled up in her bed. At least she knows where home is! Since I had stayed past sunset, I decided to call for a cab rather than risk a 45 minute wait for the bus to show up!

I always find conversations with cabbies to be interesting. No matter where in the world I am, I feel like they somehow provide real insight into the life and times of a particular country or city. My cabbie tonight was a nice guy, probably in his mid-to-late-50’s. I always try not to say too much for fear of giving away just how foreign I am, (as though the name of my street doesn’t give it away enough, for those of you who don’t know I am on a street that crosses directly with a street named Estados Unidos…and for those of you who really don’t remember, in Buenos Aires I also lived on Calle Estados Unidos! coincidence??) He started talking to me about the obscene humidity (it’s 100%) and how nice it was to have some warm weather for a change. He then continued with the “So where are you from?What are you doing here? How do you know how to speak Spanish?” sequence. I’m not sure why it’s such a strange concept that foreigners know how to speak Spanish. Probably at least half the people in the U.S. speak Spanish, (most of those as a native language!) and yet every time I open my mouth people ask “But, how do you know how to speak Spanish?” I’ve also learned just to say “I lived in Buenos Aires” rather than explaining that really I started studying Spanish in middle school about 14 years ago because…a) it’s too much information, b) I’m slightly embarrassed at how long I’ve been studying Spanish!

Anyway, I asked the man how long his hours were, knowing that in NYC they generally work 12 hour shifts. It seems to be the same here. He wakes up to begin work at 9 am, where he and his wife both work at a bar preparing food. Then at 2 or 3 PM he switches to his cab driving where he drives until 2 or 3 in the morning. Apparently there used to be more business in the “past” (not sure how distant) – Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays were packed, but now people have no money and stopped taking cabs, so there is hardly any business. How this man supports his wife and kids (a 19-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter who are both in the University) is beyond me. I’m still amazed at the salaries of college graduates in NYC as compared to the minimum wage or average salary down here. Such a different world!

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