Once I left my building and tried to hail a cab, I realized it was too cold to be outside without a scarf or gloves. I’ve lived here for 12 years, but my California roots are easily misled by bright sun. I was extra relieved when a cab driver waiting next to CVS waved me over to his “new-fashioned” cab. When I think of a “Taxi”, I think of massive American sedans, like Crown Victorias, their Mercury-twins and old Lincolns. Any smaller, more modern car, whether it be a Toyota Camry or a Ford Taurus feels “new”. This cab was so “new” I couldn’t even identify the model. I slid in.
“Boy, am I glad to see you. I’m cold!”
He smiled and quietly asked, “Where to?”
I told him my destination and looked at the front, passenger-side visor. For once, it was flipped downwards and the driver’s name and photograph were perfectly visible. Nine times out of ten, when I am in a cab, I notice (with great annoyance) that such crucial information is deliberately obscured by other papers or cards, paper-clipped on top of helpful details like the name of the cab operator. This name looked French.
“D’où venez-vous?”, I asked hopefully. I usually don’t have a language in common with Cabbies in D.C. besides English; in a different city to our North, whenever I splurged on a big yellow ride, I practiced everything from Punjabi to Greek .
The question was a catalyst for transformation in the front seat. The man who had cordially agreed to make a left on Park, and take Reno road to blah, blah, blah was brought to life.
“I am from Haiti!” he exulted. He did not ask me how I knew French, which filled me with childish delight. I looked like I might speak French! Zut alors! He did ask me, “How did you know?”
“Your name. Jean P____.”
“Yes! That is my name!” He sat up straighter in his seat, eyes twinkling in the rear view.