4.11.2013

conversation with a cab driver

"Oh man, you live in Toronto? I love Toronto! I go there a lot. I have a friend who races horses at Woodbine."

"Woodbine, is that the one near the airport? I live right near there."

"Toronto's a great town. I love hockey, so you know I love going up to Canada."

Talk of hockey leads to talk of baseball, and as it turns out...

"Well, I couldn't really say, I'm a Red Sox fan."

"Get outta here! Me too! I'm a total diehard!"

"No way? Another New York area Sox fan!"

Typical how-is-our-team-this-year talk goes on for a while, both of us quite animated. Do we have a decent closer, the excitement of Jackie Bradley, Jr., what's it like to see Youk play for the other side. I did get a hint that something was amiss...

"Canada's great, except you can't go to Quebec. They hate us there."

"Nah, that's just something people say. Quebec is wonderful. Montreal is an amazing city."

"Oh yuck, Montreal. I have never been there."

"Montreal is terrific! It's like being in Europe."

"Ugh, if i wanted Europe, I'd go to Italy, not fucking France."

So it's back to the Red Sox...

"What is up with Pedroia? The man needs a shave and fast."

"Well damn, no wonder Ellsbury looks so hot, next to that!"

We're laughing about this when we get to the airport. The cab pulls in, and an attendant leans towards the window and politely asks the driver to pull up a bit more.

The driver yells, "Get out of my face, you foreign bastard. Go to hell, Achmed!"

I was so taken aback I could barely react. I had been up all night, was wasted, feeling sick, and was very close to missing a flight. I make it a point to challenge bigotry whenever I hear it, but I was frozen with exhaustion and surprise. I can't remember the last time I heard such blatant racism.

I wonder how often the airport worker hears it.

19 comments:

James Redekop said...

I have to wonder if the taxi driver was Irish... Or Italian... or, well, anything other than Iroquois, really...

Amy said...

Uch. No one ever said all Red Sox fans were good people, but still, how disgusting.

Amy said...

Did you tip him? That might have been how I expressed my feelings---saying something like, "I don't tip racists, even if they are Red Sox fans."

laura k said...

That's exactly what Allan and I have done in the past. We had a memorable cab ride in New Orleans, with a driver pointing out neighbourhoods that were "still nice" because "very few blacks live there". Allan gave him a $20 for an $18 fare, waited for change and said, We don't tip racists.

Unfortunately, this was arranged in advance, my mother's treat, already paid for. Damn!

laura k said...

I have to wonder if the taxi driver was Irish... Or Italian... or, well, anything other than Iroquois, really...

Same town, different story. My former brother-in-law, a racist pig, was going on about how the whole town (where he grew up) was being "taken over" by "the Koreans". The most shocking part to him was the makeup of his son's class: more than 50% Korean-American (or so he said). The big line: "Imagine being in a minority in your own country!"

*head explodes*

laura k said...

The reason I said "or so he said" is from Studs Terkel. He wrote about the threshold when many white Americans will feel uncomfortable that there are too many black people in the room, and feel threatened or minority status: 8%.

James Redekop said...

The Pacific Mall would really freak your former brother-in-law out... Whenever Lori & I have been there, we've been the only pasty Northern Europeans to be seen. :)

laura k said...

Canada would freak him out altogether!

I'm glad I've had experience of being a visible minority. When I was teaching, I was one of a very few white teachers, and the only white person in my classroom, for example. It doesn't mean I know what it's like to live as a person of colour in a white world, but it's something I wish every white person could experience.

impudent strumpet said...

Why would you be a cab driver serving the airport (and this was in New York City too?) if you don't want to deal with foreigners?

laura k said...

Good question. Based on the driver's appearance and speech, driving is one of the few jobs he could get. He appears to be only marginally employable.

He drives for a company based in Fort Lee, NJ (where my mother lives) and most of his runs are probably not to the airport.

But it's not like Ft. Lee is all white, by any stretch. Most of his customers are probably Korean-Americans.

James Redekop said...

It reminds me of a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart joke about his grandfather crossing into the US at Ellis Island, then turning around to the line behind him and yelling, "You foreigners! Get out and stop ruining my country!"

laura k said...

Right! Turning around and shaking his fist.

There's also the image of the Native American with the words superimposed "Immigrants giving you problems? I feel your pain." or "Against immigration? When do you leave?"

impudent strumpet said...

I just assumed he went to the airport a lot because he knew the attendant guy's name.

laura k said...

Oh no, I must have not explained enough. The cabdriver didn't know the attendant's name. He was being an asshole. He was calling the attendant "Achmed" the way someone might call an Italian "Guido" or a South Asian "Paki".

Amy said...

I thought Imp Strump was being funny. No?

impudent strumpet said...

See, this is why I need a dictionary of connotations! I couldn't even see that, I thought it was a name.

laura k said...

I knew she wasn't joking. I'm telling you, that dictionary of connotations idea is brilliant.

impudent strumpet said...

@Amy: I'm weirdly underexposed to racism, so I'm hilariously bad at recognizing slurs and such, or even stereotypes. (When I was a teen, I expressed surprise when a friend with the surname Cohen invited me to her bat mitzvah, because I didn't know she was Jewish. I'm of Polish heritage, and it wasn't until adulthood that I learned there was a sterotype that Poles are stupid.) It's so bad that I've inadvertently uttered racist things because I didn't know that that word applied to a group of people. I've inadvertently googled slurs at work and gotten a flag on the internet filter for it, because I thought I was just googling a word I didn't know.

So yeah, if I come across as playing dumb, I'm not playing :)

tornwordo said...

I had a similar shock when one of my students complained about the foreigners in the class and how she really wished we could just have a class with Quebecois.

Um, hello, we are all quebecois who live here.