My grandfather has a fascination with strangers for as long as I've known him. Especially with those that are serving him. There hasn't been a time he hasn't initiated a conversation with a waitress, hostess, flight attendant or cab driver. His first question is always "where are you from?" After that, he finds ways to keep the conversation going: asking questions about their childhood, their schooling, making connections with his own life, asking follow up questions. Sometimes with the less social ones, he has no choice but to move on to the mundane, the weather, current state of Taiwan, what had they eaten for lunch and what did they plan to have for dinner. By the end of the ride,  however long it was, he has learned something about that person, and that pleases him greatly. He likes learning about people and finding ways to connect with them, all while knowing he'll likely never see them again.

Thank you to my three recent successive one one one conversations with San Francisco cab drivers, I understand why.

the Brazilian

due to technical problems, my train from the Southbay stopped at Bayshore on its way to SF. Bayshore is shady. It was 1030 p.m. on a Saturday night. All I wanted was to get home. I called a cab. I was on hold for 20 minutes. I found a girl around my age who was also in need of getting home to SF. We teamed up to try to find a cab. Other people had similar ideas. Namely a latino man with thick hair past his shoulders and a denim jacket. He caught a cab a few blocks away from us. Girl and I screamed "WAIT are you going to SF?! Can we share?!" He accepted, waving us over. Man's boyfriend, also latino, also in a denim jacket, was waiting for him in the back of the cab, put his arm around long-haired man immediately. It was super sweet. I sat in the front next to my soon to be friend. We were on our way...

(images that came up when I google searched "cab driver")


What I learned about the cab driver, #1 is that he is from Brazil and has been here for about a decade now. He is a music teacher, but not just any kind of music teacher. He teaches poor kids in the Mission, for very little money. He says he is broke, but he doesn't care because he does what he loves. He has a daughter who is 12 and who works hard and does well in school, and he said he just bought her a computer for her birthday because she has been earning good grades and especially doing well in English, a language that is not her first... Portuguese and Spanish are her firsts. She is tri-lingual. He is very proud of her. He said her only issue is she doesn't speak up. She had had a toothache for a long time, but she didn't tell anyone until recently when it was really bad and now he has to work extra shifts to pay for the dentist bill. He said this all with love. I told him about my plans to travel the world, starting with Asia. He said, Please. Do It. He is also a musician. He plays percussion and has played at places around the city. samba, fun stuff. We then went into a 15 minute conversation about THE POWER OF MUSIC, and how it is the best invention of mankind. how it is beautiful. and moves people, brings them together, helps them forget their differences, helps them appreciate each other. for minutes we were just YEAH-ing and building upon each other's assertions about MUSIC. i used recent experiences at shows. he used a story about one time when he was depressed, music kept him going.

It was beautiful. We said goodbye, my heart was warm. Thirty minutes later I would get into a cab with a driver named Kerrie, who was 47 years old man and flirted with me like we were sitting side by side at a busy bar on a weekend night. I save that story for next time...


Authorjustine lee