It was morning, early before work. I had awoken swollen and tired from a rough night of too little sleep, and decided that the stairs of the subway were too much for me to conquer. A taxi was called for.
I stepped out my front door and onto the curb where, with clock-like precision, a sullied but still-gleaming yellow taxi appeared. Ducking in and shutting the door firmly behind me, I said, “I’m going downtown– Broad and Beaver, across from the Stock Exchange,” and settled back in my seat, letting my puffy eyes drift closed as the cab rattled down the road.
“You from here?”
My eyes blinked open.
“…No, I’m from California,” I said, wondering if it was my shock of blonde hair that had given me away to the small, middle-aged man I could hardly see over the partition. “Where are you from?”
“Oooh, California people very nice. Best people. I’m from India. My English not so good. You work downtown?”
“Yes I do.”
“You have good job? Benefits?”
I was sitting up now. “I do. I’m so lucky. In California I didn’t have a good job, but here I do. Yes– I have benefits.”
“You have job for taxi driver?”
“Haha– not at the moment, but if we did I’d hire you!”
My new friend laughed with me and started to talk about how lucky we are to live in America (this opinion is a common thread amongst cab drivers, I’ve discovered), how the economy is so much better here than at home, how California people are the best (“So nice. The nicest people.”). He asked if my family was in California, and if I lived alone in the city.
“No– I mean, yes– I mean, I have a roommate but all my family is in California.”
“You no have husband? Boyfriend?”
I shook my head.
Shocked face. Then, a pause.
“You have girlfriend?”
I shook my head again, laughing.
We were at a stoplight and he turned around, grinning at me over the partition and extended his hand to shake mine, “You are exceptional!”
I laughed out loud. “Thank you! I think you’re exceptional too.”
Then he started telling me about his marriage, and why people should date before they get married, but “people marry someone light outside, black inside… No good. You marry someone light inside. Good inside. I’m married 14 years–“
“Was your marriage arranged?” I interjected.
“Oh yes. We get married, she is my best friend. At beginning, no crazy sex, no crazy nothing, she is best friend. I don’t need money, I don’t need Princess Diana– I come home, see happy face, kiss my wife. All work go away. Happy! That is all I need.”
Through his cracking English I was amazed by his wisdom and the simple yet profound way he talked about marriage and his love for his wife. He went on to talk about how I was young and shouldn’t worry about needing to get married– but he was still shocked by my unattached status (which, I cannot feign, was deeply flattering), and just kept saying, “You are exceptional person. I could drive you around all day.”
When we had reached my stop I wished him a wonderful, rich day and slid my credit card to pay the fare. He turned around again, reaching his soft, caramel colored hand for mine across the partition and said it one last time, “You are exceptional. Hope I see you again! Have a great day!”
As I slid from the leather seat onto the black gravel of Wall Street, my eyes didn’t feel puffy any more and a smile was tugging at the edge of my lips. I walked past security in my office and waved at the guards and thought, “Why is it that taxi drivers give the best marriage advice?!”