During our stay in San Francisco, I learned more from taxi cab drivers than one might imagine. They offer grassroot views of humanity that seem to slice through every possible perspective on the planet. To whatever extent they could or could not be documented as factual, the perspectives give a snapshot insight into a worldwide set of modern mentalities that would probably not be readily available any other way.
One cabbie told me of his escape from a newly formed militant country in Africa. In a ten-day harrowing ordeal, he was smuggled through the jungle and across the border to safety in Ethiopia.
Another told me of his life in Honduras and his new life here in the U.S. His children now are aspiring to very bright futures, worlds away from the childhood he knew. His daughter plans to become a civil rights attorney. His son loves soccer and plans to enter college soon. His childhood world seemed to be as unknown to them as it is to me. As he drove us to the Golden Gate Bridge where we would hike across and on to Sausalito, he gave a verbal tour of San Francisco that surpassed anything I could find online.
Still another told us of how in 1972, he hitchhiked to San Francisco from Baltimore to join the hippie movement. He told of the days when he rented a studio apartment for $100 per month that now rents for $3500! Back then he said you could, on a Saturday afternoon, lie in the middle of a downtown city street with no fear of any traffic. Those streets now, on any given Saturday, are packed with cars. Many of his successful friends from those days, he said, are now homeless, unable to afford the high rents and costs driven up by the tech economy that took over the city.
I had a great conversation with a Russian who, when I asked, “What do you think of Putin?” responded with, “What do you think of Al Capone?” He said that Putin would be in prison if he had not become President.
Then there was a Mongolian, an Iranian, and a Filipino, each with his own compelling life story. After telling one of them that I felt they should charge over and above the fare for their fascinating stories, he responded by saying that he felt he should pay his passengers for their fascinating stories as well. The taxi drivers of San Francisco gave me far more than just transportation from one part of the city to another. They have given me a heartfelt education and have re-enlivened my love of humanity.