Saturday, December 04, 2010

Drivers of knowledge

I usually don't use taxis when traveling, instead favoring public transit because of the overwhelming sense of place that it provides (of course, in many places in America, rental cars have to do for lack of a choice). However, in a certain Midwestern town that I frequent for work, I do find myself riding taxis a lot for one reason or the other.

As with any successful conversation with a stranger in a new place, chats with taxi drivers are often very interesting and informative. But, in this particular town, I have always been struck with how extraordinarily knowledgeable the drivers have been.

On one occasion, the driver gave me a field geology lesson as we drove through rolling hills and cornfields to my destination; pointing out different formations and sharing interesting agricultural facts he had learnt as a part-time farmer. On yet another (this time sharing the taxi with 2 stranger co-passengers - it was the only cab available at 1'o clock in the morning), the discussion veered towards the economy and property prices and the driver proceeded to rattle economic statistics for the county and gave us a schpeel about what the region was not doing right in terms of attracting industrial enterprises.

During my last trip there, I was driven by a woman who had graduated from college, trained as a teacher, spent a few years teaching at a Native American reservation in the Southwest, returned to the Midwest when she got "homesick to her bones", and took up taxi driving because of the flexible hours it offered. Our conversation ranged from the home construction methods to the Palestine-Israel issue.

Pretty impressive (to my sappy genteel sensibilities, at least).

* * *

The last Midwest trip coincided with the opening of the deer hunting season. I have some strong views about hunting (if I write a post on that subject, it will be called Manly Pussies) yet cannot be but amused at the scale of excitement among Midwesterners about this annual ritual. Hunting is serious business, or it is made out to be, in any case. The ado is something to be seen to be believed.

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