I generally like to think of myself as a sociable person. I make small talk with the security guard at the front of my building, I’ve been to several networking coffee mornings, I have 339 Facebook friends and my name alone gets 60,000-plus Google hits.
However, there’s one scenario where I prefer not to get involved in verbal tennis, and that’s in taxis.
In London I routinely travelled by bus rather than suffer through a taxi driver’s paranoid tirade or conspiracy theory. Where I’m from, cabbies always seem to want to rant, or question you about where you come from and what you’re planning to do – almost like my parents before I went to my first teenage disco.
In Dubai, it seems taxi drivers can be just as talkative. I recently endured an hour-long journey to Abu Dhabi, during which the driver regaled me with lengthy tales about everything from his teenage daughter to the price of mobile phones. He only paused to admit he was lost.
For anyone else unlucky enough to chance upon a Dubai taxi driver with a penchant for uncontrollable banter (or anyone who likes peace and quiet as much as me), I uncovered a secret global cabbie code on a recent trip to London. Grabbing a black cab to the other side of the city to meet a friend, I was faced with an angry taxi driver’s rant about the political situation in a country I’d never even heard of, as well as the pros and cons of the Arab Spring When I finally got to my destination, my friend noticed my distress and, when I told her the story, she simply asked where in the taxi I’d been sitting. Believe it or not, it seems this has a bearing on how much of an earful you get from the driver.
Listen up: this bit is important.Settling into the front seat is an invitation for an intimate conversation for the duration of your journey.
If you sit in the back, behind the passenger seat, you’re letting the cabbie know you’re up for light-hearted chit-chat. But if you sit behind the driver’s seat, it’s the universal taxi equivalent of a ‘do not disturb’ sign. You want silence? You want no questions of any sort unless it’s a matter of life and death? You got it.
After successfully putting this theory to the test in London, I was delighted to discover it translated to Dubai. The only problem is that now cabbies don’t even bother to tell me when they’re lost.
Shane McGinley is chief reporter for Arabian Business. He doesn’t say much.