Dad, Taxi Drivers, And The Fourth of July


At this time I wish to recall a most uplifting series of conversations with taxi drivers while spending a 10-day vacation in Washington DC. Throughout my life, I saw dad (Royce Humphrey) always strike up a conversation with those he met whether it was at a mall, restaurant, or service station. Like him, I too have much the same attitude when it comes to talking with others as it provides insight into the world around me and seems like a polite way to proceed through life.

So, while in our nation’s Capital I did my own small survey of the roughly dozen taxicab drivers who took us to places around the city.  I always started by asking how their day or night was going and then proceeded to ask how long they had been living in the D.C. area.  From there I asked where they grew up.

I was heartened that each of the men driving cabs was chatty and open about their life and experiences in this nation.   From Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Morocco, Sudan, and Sierra Leone each had strong feelings and all, but one, had language skills that made it easy to convey them.  The vast majority were of the Islamic faith and, were as proud to talk about it as anyone would be about their religion.  One soft-spoken man from Ethiopia seemed so humble and sincere about his life and outlook that upon leaving the cab I turned and offered the Islamic greeting of “peace be upon you”.

All the men had come to this country to make a better way in life.  Most had been here for about 15 years, a couple arrived only about 7 years ago.  Some had traveled with family and others came alone.  A man who came from India to get an education started his own restaurant.  An Ethiopian driver was surprised we knew of some foods from his native land such as Injera and Doro Wat.   We told him that in Madison we live close to a restaurant that makes these foods.  He smiled and told us that in his land Dor Wat is reserved for special days as it takes lots of ingredients and time to make.

Each of the drivers had made a bold choice of leaving the place of their birth to seek a better life.  It required in each case learning a new language, culture, currency, and adapting to the weather.  It meant at times, as with the driver from India, leaving every member of his family behind and seeking something different.  It is a phenomenal undertaking to make such a journey.

And they work hard.  They are not slackers.  Most lived in Maryland where rental properties were more affordable.   One driver spoke of the rent increases over the past decade where his two-bedroom apartment now costs over $2,000 per month.   Other drivers told of their small children.  In one case a driver wanted his son to learn his native language at home while also speaking English at school.   My husband, James, as a professor of languages, heartily agreed and offered some tips on how to make that process work.

I saw America at its best during the rides past the city sites I so love while conversing with truly inspiring and uplifting reasons why this nation is special.

As dad well knew a person can learn a lot when you take the time to talk to others.