Talks with Taxi Drivers, Part 115….
Well, I have been lazy. It's one of the drawbacks of "going native." I have written about this before… Things no longer seem strange to me.
I have even commented that the driving habits of Tehranians have gotten much better. Then I got into a taxi with three touring friends. At one point the driver pulled a standard move: pulling out into moving traffic in order to make a left turn. It was clear to me that we would not be hit, but our three friends all flinched and yelled in fright at the exact same moment. Is it possible that driving habits have not improved at all?
A friend tells me there were 26,000 traffic deaths last year. That would mean that, in fact, driving habits have not improved in the least.
"You foreigners should relax," a driver tells me when I ask him to slow down. "We know what we are doing."
"Hey," I respond, "you guys still have the highest accident rate in the world. Maybe it's time you became a little less relaxed."
Another driver asks me when Bush will come to Iran? "You don't really want him here," I respond.
"I don't want him to attack us, you're right. No one wants a foreign power to attack their country. But I do want him to visit us."
K and I are waiting for a taxi when a young woman pulls over. "I'm going to Valiasr Square she tells us. Do you want a ride?" This is not uncommon in Iran. People often pull over to give foreigners a lift somewhere. They feel sorry for us.
K and I hop in. We thank her. "We wouldn't want your wife to have a bad experience here and write a book," she tells K. We all laugh.
It turns out she is studying English so that she can apply for a visa to Australia, get citizenship there, and then try to get a job in America working for Industrial Light and Magic.
"How did Bush manage to become president again if Americas hate him so much?" a driver asks me.
"Who do you think the next president of Iran will be?" I respond.
He laughs. "Oh I get it."
K is sitting up front chatting with a driver about politics. The driver is going on an on about how evil the British are. At a certain point he turns to K and says, "Your wife's not British, is she?"
I laugh. "It's a little late to ask," I respond in Persian. The poor driver is shocked. "Your wife understands Persian," he says to K.
"Yeah. Some say that she understands more than I do," he responds. "But don't worry, she's not English."
When we pull up to our house, the driver says, "Make sure to tell Americans how much we like them. Iranians love Americans. We have no problem with the people. It's just our two governments that have problems."
I promise to pass on his message. I even put it in bold.