Stories from Afar & Up Close

In which the taxi-driver is looking for some pedagogical entertainment

It was a rainy night, and we were in the back of a service (shared taxi), chatting with the driver about the progress of the different teams in the Lebanese basketball championship – or rather, we were being updated about their progress, because neither Walid nor I know much about the subject. Before we reached the end of the street, the driver picked up a teenage boy who wanted to go to Qoreitem, a few minutes away. I’ll take you there, said our chauffeur, as the boy slouched down in the front seat, chewing candy, but I have to drop them off at the Corniche first. The boy was not pleased. But I’m in a hurry! We weren’t, so we told the driver it would be ok to drop him off first before continuing to our destination. In return, the boy offered us candy, in that typically uninterested-teenager-way.

So… Qoreitem, ey? The driver said jokingly to the boy. Why, do you have a meeting with Hariri? Pfff… Hariri has a meeting with me! answered the boy, playing with his phone. Hariri has a meeting with him… mumbled the driver, so what’s your name? My name? the boy looked up. Why? Just want to know, what’s your name? Antoun. Why? Why is that my name? Yes, why? Well, said the boy, confused, I guess my parents felt like it. Hahaha! the taxi-driver smiled at us, I ask him his name and then I ask him why! Hahaha!

The boy’s phone rang. No, I’m on my way already; I’m next to Yamaha now, he said in English. I’ll be there soon. He was still slumped in his seat, continuously chewing his sweets. Yamaha, Honda, Nissan, the driver muttered. Like he speaks French or English or Japanese or whatever.

When the taxi-driver wanted to drop him off and take a right turn, the teenager motioned with his hand that he should move forward on the main road. Another 5 meters farther he had arrived at his destination. He looked down at the driver’s packet of cigarettes, decided that they weren’t it, then turned around and asked Walid: Do you have any Marlboro Red? Unsuccessful, he got out of the car and walked off.

Too bad, said the driver, I wish you had let me drop you off first. I wait the whole day for boys like this! These youth nowadays…. I would have taken him all around Beirut, and then some. That’ll teach him! The other day I was hit by a scooter going against traffic, and the boy started yelling at me. Well, I picked him up, stuffed him in my trunk and drove him around for a while. I guess he learned when to apologize!

With that, we arrived at our destination, where the driver refused payment. We had fun! he said. We sure did.