I got my hair cut tonight after work. My Little Sister works near my office (she's a hairdresser), so I went over there for a new 'do before heading home. We decided to share a cab home, so we could keep talking (and save a few bucks). We were walking up Connecticut Avenue, when LS stuck out her arm, in a very strange way. Not your usual hailing of a cab . . . more like heil-ing a cab. She looked like she should be wearing jack boots and marching in goose step. Fortunately, the cabbie wasn't deterred by this strange display, and stopped to pick us up. Meanwhile, I couldn't stop laughing at her.
We got in the cab, and started on our way home. This got me thinking . . . cabbies in D.C. are really interesting. Many of them are from other parts of the world, which in itself isn't particulary different from other cities. But what I have found here is that our cab drivers are extremely well educated, culturally aware, and in tune to current events (contrary to the image portrayed in the 80's travesty D.C. Cab -- starring Mr. T).
This makes perfect sense if you think about it. It's not unusual to get into a cab, and find the driver listening to NPR. I know I'd be a lot more up on the news and politics, the economy and and foreign affairs, if I spent hours all day long listening to quality talk radio. D.C. cab drivers are up to date on the latest news from here and abroad, and they can discuss politics just as well as (and in many cases better than) any of the pundits on the major news channels. They are astute and observational and are some of the most interesting people you can talk to. In fact, LS once got into a cab with a driver who told her he was a poet, and proceeded to share with her his website and book.
Sure, it's easy to get into the cab and ask to be taken to your destination and bury your head in your Blackberry or stare out the window, but it's so much more fun to take a moment to ask a few questions, engage your driver in whatever news story is on NPR, and learn a thing or two about a thing or two. And while many people in this town think that our politicians are the local treasures, I'd argue that our friends behind the wheel are much more valuable. I'd much rather engage in a tete-a-tete with a D.C. cabbie than 90 percent of the folks doing the work on Capitol Hill. So instead of watching Meet the Press to find out the latest on healthcare reform next Sunday, I'll be hailing (not heil-ing) a cab and starting the converstation.