Boys and relationships, according to cabbies

So, while out for Canada Day last night, I had to take cabs at two separate points in the night – and got more than I expected.

The first ride, my friend Patty and I were at Queen and Bathurst, waiting for a streetcar so we could get to College. We gave up and flagged down a cab.

The guy driving the cab was hilarious and kept us laughing our entire trip. He asked us, “Do you know about English polyphonic a capellas?” Having a smidge of musical knowledge, I’m not entirely sure if that was really a term, but we played along, and said, “Uh no.” Then he asked us about some opus by Beethoven in B-flat. Again, we played along.

And he said, “This is something you can use to find nice boy. If he says he knows about these, than he is the boy for you.”

The second cab ride was on my way home. Having walked with my friend Heather from College down to King Street, we parted ways at King and Bathurst, and I hopped in a cab across town.

I was wide awake at this point, but the rocking motion of cabs travelling 60 kms/hr tend to have this hypnotic effect, rendering me asleep within about 15 minutes. I was wondering how to keep myself awake.

I didn’t have to wonder much, thanks to my cabbie Shafiq. The conversation started out pretty simple enough – we were just making small talk about what we both did for Canada Day.

And then he asked some question about what did my boyfriend think (I guess about going out so late) and I said, “I don’t have a boyfriend. I live with my parents; I don’t have to worry about that sort of thing.” And then he was wondering aloud why it seemed more and more girls don’t seem to find boys – or at least, why they don’t want to find boys, opting to study instead.

The conversation then took another turn onto the subject of interracial/inter-cultural dating. He relayed this one story about himself as a younger man from Pakistan, who’d dated this Polish girl, fell in love with her and told her he wanted to marry her. She said no – the difference in culture would just make things difficult. Needless to say, they probably broke up shortly after. He asked me what I thought about this.

Here’s my general philosophy on these things: As far as I’m concerned, it’s understandable if someone wants to date and/or marry someone of the same culture. It’s safe and uncomplicated. And I understand the whole need to keep the culture alive.

But with the way things are, especially in countries like ours, we shouldn’t judge if someone wants to date or marry someone else who’s different, outside their culture, outside their religion. And there’s a growing number of these relationships everywhere you look.

Sure, it’s hard, and it’s a lot of work – especially if two people plan on having children. But any relationship, whether romantic, platonic or otherwise, requires people putting in the effort for it to work. Whether two people are of the same culture or different ones, if they’re not willing to do the work, then don’t put in the time. And I think as the number of intercultural or interracial families grow, there’s a chance it might get easier (aside from people guessing what you are every five minutes).

On top of which, yeah, it does help if you have the support of the families who will be joined together. The lack of family foundation just makes things that much more difficult.

To me, it doesn’t really matter who I’d end up with, as long as I can deal with the things that transcend racial/religious/cultural boundries: the inital spark, whether feelings are mutual, the ability to communicate with the other person and whether the two of us can stick together during the rough patches.

It’s probably a pretty idealistic way of looking at things, and I’m sure I’m glossing or missing important factors other people consider daily. But to me, happiness is ultimately what matters, more than what other people may think.

‘Cause if you can’t share happiness with someone you love, no matter who or what they are, then what do you have?

An Ode to Calvin

As a suburban commuter who doesn’t let the subway schedule dictate my own, I rely on cabs to get me home.

Sometimes, I find it’s the cab driver who dictates whether the ride will be pleasant, or if I’ll be resigning myself to taking a nap in the back seat.

Commuting home from downtown the other night, I decided to catch a cab at the end of the subway line because the rapid transit I usually take home had finished its run for the night.

I plodded up the escalator and made my way along the queue of taxis to the one in front.

Usually, I never expect to get a particularly talkative cabbie. That night, I was in luck.

Calvin had to be one of the nicest cab drivers I’ve ever met. A 38-year-veteran, he’s a lot of things in his time. He even owned a part of the cab company he drives for, but decided to get rid of his share.

As I’m sure is the case with a lot of professions, some people at that stage would just tire of the same job and look forward to getting out. Not Calvin. I think he said he was semi-retired, but he still loves to drive, which is why he’s still in the business.

Even as his line of work seems to be getting more dangerous, he seems to take it in stride. He told me a story about this one passenger he picked up at a police station in the east end.

He was a young guy, Calvin said, whose parents own a popular West Indian restaurant. And the man seemed pretty cordial, very nice. He took him where he needed to go, but then the passenger asked him to wait as he stopped off somewhere, then got back in the cab and told him he needed to go to another destination.

He asked Calvin if he could have a smoke. Normally in a cab that wouldn’t be allowed, but Calvin obliged. It was only a short while before he noticed a change in the passenger’s behaviour. He started getting increasingly agitated, and just started giving Calvin all sorts of erratic directions. Turns out he’d been smoking crack and he was high and crazy.

Things came to a head when the guy lunged over the front seat and grabbed the steering wheel. Calvin managed to regain control of the car, and from what I can remember him telling me, he safely stopped the car and tossed the guy out.

As startled as he was, Calvin took a day off and was back on the road again. He even found the guy again and went to speak to him. For peace of mind, I think he said, and to make sure the guy was all right.

Despite that incident – and all the attacks on cabbies that have happened in recent months -Calvin says he’d never get a protective shield for his taxi. If that’s not unyielding faith in the goodness of complete strangers, I don’t know what is.

So one of these days or nights, if you ever take an East End taxi and happen to get a nice Trinidadian man who wears fingerless driving gloves, don’t ignore him. Have a chat with him – it’ll make your ride that much more worthwhile.