True stories from a media dietitian with her suitcase of vegetables in the back seat of a taxi
Friends who know me well have heard a few of these tales. They’ve often suggested I write a book about my experiences while riding in cabs. Turns out, many could write their own book, if not a few chapters. We always have a ton of laughs when sharing taxi stories. Instead of a whole book at this point, I thought I’d share 5 of my ‘favourite’ experiences of many before I forget them. (Maybe I’ll never really forget these!)
- Toronto blizzard. Anyone who relies frequently or even occasionally on taxis in any part of the world has no doubt experienced the Formula One race car driver. You’re sweating bullets and hanging on for dear life. I can’t believe that some of these taxi drivers are even allowed to get the job position they have with their driving technique. I’ve had many that have been more ‘air sickness’-inducing than a turbulent flight. New York, Boston, Montreal…The worst speeding driver for me was on a ride from the airport to downtown Toronto one dark ‘blizzardy’ February night. It was rush hour. The driver was cutting in and out of the icy lanes. Long story short…he screeches to a stop, slides and we get rear-ended pretty hard. He says nothing to me. He pulls over and has a 15-minute argument with the driver of the car who hit us. He gets back in, still total silence and continues driving on. I’m purposely waiting to see if he brings it up. Once at the destination, he says “That’ll be $85.” I casually respond with “Do you factor in a discount at all for the crash?” As my big, tall, brother-in-law comes over to help unload the car, the driver looks at him, then back at me and says “Okay, today is free!”
- Are you available? Had someone predicted that in a 20-minute ride from my then apartment in Vancouver to the airport I’d be asked if I was available to serve as a surrogate mother for a cab driver and his wife who were having trouble getting pregnant I would have thought that was unreal. It started with the look from the rear view mirror followed with “I like those sunglasses…do you have kids…do you have a husband…are you single”…to the detailed story of the unfortunate difficulties he and his wife were having and how they were now looking for a surrogate mother. “Here’s my card if you change your mind” he said as I exited!?!
- Follow Up Consultation. Flying YVR to Toronto on the 9 am flight means arriving around 4:30 pm with a 60 minute-ish rush hour drive into the city. On one of many such days a very friendly cab driver asked what brought me to town. Although I don’t always spill the full story, this time I briefly mentioned what I do. He told me he was recovering from a heart attack and was working on exercising more and eating better. He was proud of his son who is a doctor. He even proudly opened his lunch bag and showed me the awesome chickpea and vegetable dish his wife had sent with him. He asked a number of questions about blood pressure, cholesterol and weight management. I gave him some guidance. Because he had many more questions and we were at my destination, I gave him my card (there is no photo of me on it) and suggested he email if he’d like a referral to any of my great dietitian colleagues in the Toronto area. About 8 months later, I arrive at YYZ again and grab a cab outside the airport. As we head towards the city, the driver looks at me and says “Hey, are you Patricia Chuey?” I was surprised! It was THE SAME driver and he remembered me – even my name!?! The follow-up consultation ensued. He told me that in the 24 years he’d been driving a taxi and the 1700 or so drivers who are authorized to do pickups at the airport, he’d never had a customer he remembered from a previous trip. THAT should have been a free ride given the 2-session consultation!
- Would you like a latte? Again in Vancouver en route to the airport. The driver asks if I mind if he drinks his latte while he drives. I said no problem and continued quietly returning a few emails. He then apologizes and says he feels bad that he only has the one coffee. He proceeds to pass it back over the seat to me saying I’m welcome to have some if I’d like!?! A little baffled, I politely decline. Is there anything more personal than your cup of coffee??? I wouldn’t even share my husband’s coffee!
- My girlfriend just dumped me. I now live in a city with a population of about 90,000. Occasionally when heading out in the wee hours of the morning or very late at night, I need a taxi. Chances of getting the same driver here are high. I’ve unfortunately had the ‘woe is me‘ fellow on 3 occasions. (I’m hoping he doesn’t recognize me each time.) It’s a 30 minute drive between the airport and our home and with him, a half hour sad monologue of how his girlfriend deeply hurt him and prevents him from seeing their child. No polite mentions of “I’m sorry, I’m really tired and just need to quietly ride home” stop this guy. He’s not my favourite driver ever. Still, I try to find a glimmer of hope and an encouraging word for him as I leave the taxi.
Some of my friends and colleagues have asked why I don’t just avoid making eye contact and ignore the opening question of “How’s your day going so far?” Sometimes I do say “It’s going well but I’m sorry I need to rest (or get a little work done)”. That rarely seems to work for me. I’ve ended up hearing amazing stories from mostly very polite driver’s about their families outside of Canada, their pre-taxi careers, their travels, their kids and how their day is going. I’ve heard about some of their craziest passengers. THEY need to write the book! I’ve learned about their favourite foods and the diet challenges they’re having. I’ve shared a few tips when they’ve asked. I don’t think I’d have it any other way on this short life journey as my bag of vegetables and I travel around trying to increase peace of mind for people with their food choices!
Happy Nutrition Month to my many colleagues all over North America cabbing to those very early morning news show guest appearances and providing free mini-consultations along the way!
April 22, 2016 Update: It’s about 6 weeks since I shared the 5 stories above. Earlier this week, I experienced the next taxi tale to add to this list:
6. “Meet Me At the Door and Look Intimidating” was the text I sent to my hubby from a cab ride home the other night in the small city in which I live. The driver seemed ‘friendly’ albeit completely unaware of personal boundaries. After asking for the destination address, he proceeded to ask if that’s my home, if I live alone, with my family or with who? Uncomfortable, I told him I’d like to keep that information private. He says “sure” and then asks what I do for a living. After quickly saying “I help people figure out how to eat healthy” he fires a number of questions about his own diet at me. Proud of myself for doing this for the very first time, I lightheartedly replied with “I’m happy to answer your questions but each one will cost $10.00 and my meter will run in the same way yours is. We can just call it even at the end of the ride.” (typically a $90 cabfare). He laughed and got the point. Although I told him I really would just like to be quiet and relax after a busy day, he switched his commentary to why he lives in a smaller city (to avoid the gang violence that he was a part of in the past!) and how he doesn’t really know anyone locally because you can’t really trust people!?! Are you as uncomfortable as I am yet? Thank goodness for the ability to text and be greeted by my husband wearing a black sniper T-shirt from a work trade show and looking as tough as possible!