Certain individuals frequently assess the pulse of a community or society by their conversations with taxi drivers. While these tales can make for interesting reading at times, my general position is that this approach is a socially acceptable way for these writers to admit to being out of touch.
On a related note, I took a rare taxi ride Saturday night (technically Sunday morning), from West Hyattsville to my home. My driver was from Ethiopia (had been in the US for less than 5 years) and he loaded three separate fares in his vehicle. The other two were middle aged Latina women, with whom he conversed entirely in Spanish, a language that he said he had learned since moving to the US.
He noted that he had recently started driving a taxi, his only source of income, after working at gas stations and convenience stores. He was very self-conscious about his English language ability and noted that it was difficult to develop his English as he circulated primarily in the Ethiopian Diaspora community. He added that many caucasian customers had spoken to him very rudely, often noting that he should not be in a customer oriented position with weak English language skills.
In the events that I typically write about on these pages, (with some exceptions), I rarely encounter Ethiopians. This opportunity was a little awkward. Aside from that, I’m not sure what to make of it. Does that make me less intelligent that renowned columnists like Tom Friedman who often distill crucial nuggets from such scenarios? Does this encounter signal a looming Ethio-Latino political or cultural union?