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Monday, August 01, 2005

Traveling and Taxi Drivers

I have an adult son who is currently living in the Chama Valley region of northern New Mexico. I traveled from Chicago to see him recently. There is still lots of space in northern New Mexico. My son is living on an organic ranch near Los Ojos, a town that is 2 hours north of Santa Fe. He is in the middle of the boondocks, but my God, it is beautiful. He seems to love it.

I did a bit of business traveling right after my family trip. I ususally take a local cab to the airport from Evanston - Norshore Cab. It appears that all of the Norshore drivers are south Asian immigrants these days - from Pakistan or Bangaldesh. I hopped into a cab to Midway Airport on Tuesday evening and the gentleman behind the wheel was a very polite 50-something fellow from Karachi. We struggled through traffic for an hour - it was raining steadily that night, a blessed change form the persistent drought we have suffered this summer. While the rain was welcome, it turned into an annoyance for my driver. The roof of his weathered cab was not watertight, and a leak developed directly over his head. The poor guy was subject to an accelerating drip on his balding pate as we crawled toward the airport. It was a funny/sad sight. I gave him a big tip.

In Minneapolis, all of the Gold Star Cab drivers are Somalis. Minneapolis has the largest Somali community in the U.S. (Toronto has a slightly larger Somali population). Of course, Somalia is one of the most desperate places on our planet; Twin Cities is heaven to these folks. I caught a cab from the hotel at 6 a.m.; my driver was a lean, well-groomed fellow in a bright white shirt and dark trousers. The weather was cool and blessedly clear, and we small-talked about that. My driver was celebrating his seventh anniversary in the U.S. He projected optimism, and he had lots of questions about Chicago. He might be thinking about leaving Twin Cities for a new venue. I would think that the taxi business is more lucrative in Chicago...

Taxi drivers work hard and take home little disposable income. I tell all my friends to tip these folks generously - they need the dough. Driving a cab is the immigrant's profession - I rarely ride with a native-born American in a taxi these days. Driving a taxi is not a bad way for a relatively new U.S. resident to learn a lot about his community and his new country. It is an honorable path.

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