Taxi confessions

Becky Lucas has been having some rather deep and meaningful conversations with Dubai’s taxi drivers

The Knowledge

Isn’t love a beautiful thing?’

My taxi driver and I are parked in a bus stop, waiting for my friend to hop in. Our exchange thus far has consisted of a polite greeting and directions. It’s fair to say this outburst has come out of the blue.

‘Of course it is,’ I respond; then, figuring he’s chosen me as a random confidante: ‘Are you in love then?’

‘Yeees,’ he replies in his soft Pakistani accent, ruefully gazing at the teen rollerblading the wrong way up the road. We don’t let this sight get in the way of taxi talk. ‘But I’m afraid.’

‘Is she not Pakistani?’ I dig, staring at the back of his head with compassion.

‘No, she’s a Filipino air hostess. It doesn’t matter where she’s from. She says she loves me,’ he replies, seemingly cheering up a bit.

‘Then what’s the problem?’ I probe. ‘So many people have affairs,’ he wails. ‘How do you stop them?’ This man obviously has too much time on his hands to analyse things.

‘Not everyone cheats. My parents never have,’ I confide back. The situation is more and more surreal.

‘Nor have mine. You know, they adopted me when my mother died.’ I didn’t know that, but I don’t like to interrupt now he’s moving into the more comforting realm of his past. ‘They gave up their own baby for me.’

‘Wow,’ I murmur, just as my companion yanks open the door and tumbles in, breaking the spell with a warm gust of air from outside.

I’ve been catching cabs in Dubai twice a day for nearly four years now. But lately it seems the drivers are becoming more and more confessional. Perhaps it’s because there aren’t as many customers these days, so they make the most of the human contact sitting pretty in the back. Maybe it’s because when I tell them I’ve been here longer than a few months, they hope our shared geography may equate to mutual sympathy. Or maybe I’ve just been slow at asking them to put on some music (is that so rude? I’m never sure if taxi fares include radio rights).

Either way, in the space of a week one driver informed me that ‘life passes like a bullet’, before handing me a doughnut and confiding that he was ‘only working as a taxi driver to stop his parents worrying about their tearaway son’. Another told me his five kids can marry for love if they want to. And now this.

I gaze out of the window, wondering whether others are engaged in such heart to hearts. And I hope – for both their sake and their driver’s – that they are.

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