My cabbie was cool. When I spotted the shades, the high-brushed hair and the braided bracelet, I figured something was up. It was. After explaining where I wanted to go (certain destinations are some of the only Chinese I know), he leaned back, shifted to his left, put his right hand on the top of the wheel and drove ahead. We were on our way.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece, I normally read a cabbie’s ID card so I can thank them by name. This time, when I looked at him and his picture, I saw they weren’t the same. Granted, while many Chinese do, in fact, look similar to me, these two looked totally different. My driver was hip and lean. The gentleman in the picture was two lips and steam (he may have been pissed about the unflattering picture). When I brought the discrepancy to the driver’s attention he said a few words (none of which I understood), pulled out another ID from the dashboard, handed it to me and smiled. This one fit. It was him…sans shades and high hair.
Recognizing my approval, he made conversation…at least he attempted to. He asked a question, repeated it, rephrased it and gave up. Wanting to respond in kind, I did the same, but in English, this time with hand gestures, small words and repetition. It didn’t make a difference. I didn’t speak Mandarin and he didn’t speak English…at least not much (read on).
Trying to find a common language, one we both understood and appreciated, I resorted to music…again. Remember the cab driver I introduced to Pearl Jam? This one I introduced to Plant. I decided I’d put cool to the test and what could be more cool than rock and roll? Led Zeppelin to be exact. I went with their first album, last song, “How Many More Times”. The bass line began. If you haven’t heard it, and I’m sure you have, it’s catchy. That’s why I chose it. In came the guitar. Once it caught up to and mimicked the base line he was hooked. When Robert started singing my cabbie started talking…in English. Apparently, the only English my cabbie spoke, or at least cared to share, was as hip as he was: “This is cool” he said.
You know what else is cool? My cabbie.