I’m not sure if it is just me, but I always seem to be able to pick the taxi drivers who are up for a chat. Whatever the country, they seem to hone in on the fact that I will listen if they are willing to talk, or is it they really need to talk and I am willing to listen. Yes, there are times when I want to switch off during my ride, but I guess you need to be prepared that if you say hi, how are you, this might instigate a full blown retelling of their life story. Possibly from too much time alone, or maybe they know that the likelihood of you ever meeting again is slim, some will go on to reveal the most intimate and personal stories. For some people, this is just too much coming from a complete stranger, or at least way too much during a 15 minute car trip. I’ve certainly had those moments….but then there are some insights worth listening to.
I often find that taxi drivers can give little pearls of wisdom or the most interesting insight into human nature. How could they not when driving for a living, literally watching all wakes of life enter their vehicle for short spans. With this, these passengers can bring any number of moods or state of minds: drunk or sober, stressed, ready for a big trip, angry, sick, upset, really happy, really horny-the drivers have probably seen it all.
The last trip I took with a taxi driver was heading to Singapore International airport and was hands down the best driver I’ve ever had. I’m sure we’ve all got our tales of horrible drivers-those ones where you feared for your life as they were really tired or weirdly wired- narrowly missing traffic; ignorant or angered drivers; those with tales of woe that you really don’t want to listen to. I’ve even had a driver who wanted to share his spliff whilst driving…. we did drive really slowly; listening to reggae beats the whole way, so it wasn’t all bad. But on this occasion, Fandli, was a 35 year old Muslim Malay driver, who covered topics from the decline in radio content, to differences in driver behaviours in each country during peak hour, to subliminal messaging in Marvel comic movies.
He mentioned he hardly watched the news on TV as he thinks the government, media and certain organizations who control this information, can sway opinion. That people tend to become devoid of being able to think with their own minds, never questioning what information they are being presented with. Instead, he would read and learn from a variety of different sources and always question it. I agree that we can be all too willing to soak up certain information as gospel. We are offered advice on what to eat, how to love, where to travel, how to be-surely some of it is wrong and some of it just bogus. At the end of the day, it should be about finding what works for you. I loved when he said how ridiculous it is that we now have apps that can track the location of our phones, yet we can’t track a plane that goes missing. This guy was full of conspiracy theories, but not without research or intelligence.
Instead of watching crap on TV, he would read and open his mind. He chose to wake up, look up and talk and learn from people he met throughout his day. Ok, yes there are times where I love to switch off my mind after a long day at work and watch a bad chick flick or reality TV-but I certainly mix it up with insightful shows, documentaries, news and worthwhile films. Fandli was frustrated with everyone glued to their phones, never really actively participating in life. Well, we all know this is a problem. We are incredibly lucky to be in a generation where we literally have information at our fingertips. We can communicate with ease to friends and family across the globe, we can learn about the extraordinary or the mundane within seconds. Though we also need to think about the huge amount of people who don’t have this luxury of access or wealth to purchase the technology-we should remember that part of living, is being present and not stuck to the screen of whatever medium you are choosing to use in that moment.
Fandli also wished that the media wouldn’t create fear by generalizing factions ie. that ALL Muslims are terrorists for example. Fandli is Muslim and during our 30 minute ride, he seemed like a good natured, kind and generous man, which fits the description of many Muslims and Catholics and atheists and others. It is just unfortunate that ignorance and lack of information can lead people to believe the media’s scare mongering. After all of this, he then turned around and said ‘look all I’m giving you is my 20c worth of taxi wisdom so you don’t have to agree, but it is nice that you have stopped to listen.’ Isn’t that what this world should be about, listening to other people’s opinions from all ethnicities, religions, genders and sexuality, because even if you might not always agree, you are giving them the freedom of speech and you the right to listen. In many countries, this is not a liberty, it is a censorship issue.