It was just like any other day. I had to get to some place after dark, notwithstanding, it wasn’t safe anymore to take the public commute. So, I settled for an Uber ride home. With the heavy rains pounding and hours flying by, we sighed with relief when the ride finally arrived.
We hurried to the taxi, ducking the downpour. Well, it was going to take a few minutes to get to our destination. With relief, we boarded the taxi and exchanged pleasantries with the driver. Notifying him of the different stops he would make along the way.
As usual, I cocooned into my reserved self. I enjoy long distance travels that span hours. It’s a time to reflect on life, choices, and just set my mind free to roam as it pleases. And this time was no different. I didn’t have to engage the driver, but I would listen in to the conversation, once in a while.
In no time, every other person had reached their destination, and I was the only one left to journey on. I didn’t see any harm in that. We were just a few minutes away from my stop. We said our quick goodbyes and the taximan, started towards our stop.
All was going well until he started a conversation. By that time, I was lost in my thoughts and was outlining my moves for the coming day. He stopped my train of thoughts by voicing his reservations about driving high schoolers and college students.
He was complaining about their lack of respect and how most of them don’t know how to handle their liquor. I thought to myself; he thinks I belong to that category. And so, I indulged him, needing to understand why he held such views.
He explained how young people opt for carpooling in excess. Convincing the taxi driver that he won’t be stopped by the Police, as they were unlikely to be around at that time. Only for them to find a police stop right ahead.
He fretted over the fact that in such an instance the teens would be held to no account. He then moves on, to criticize that the teens act like babies when drunk. I think about interjecting and raising a contrary opinion, but I want to get back my train of thought, so I refrain myself from indulging him further.
I choose not to respond, hoping that he will get the clue that I enjoy riding in silence better. He instead, gets personal and starts detailing his plans for the future.
It makes me uncomfortable because I wouldn’t want to voice my opinion to a stranger, on his ideas. That’s not my place. Then, I ask myself, should I return the favor and outline my plan to him, too. That would be more awkward than entertaining, I convince myself.
So, I resort to just to rejoin with “Oh! Aha! Okay! Really!” , and the likes. He continues the conversation all the while I was battling with myself, not to drift back to my thoughts. I could tell him, that I am not as sociable and conversations with strangers are unnerving. But he could take it the wrong way.
After all, he was the one at the wheel, he could decide to do something unpleasant, and I wouldn’t know how to get myself out of it. Then, I remember, this isn’t my first time, with such an encounter. Some time ago, I had the pleasure of taking another taxi, not an Uber.
I kept quiet for a while before the driver interposed with “You don’t like talking, do you?” I laughed it off, but it made me self-conscious. So, I tried to start small talk, I wasn’t interested in doing so, but it just felt like I was beholden to.
And I couldn’t wait to get to my destination, as soon as possible. To be in an environment where I could be me, and not feel judged because of it, was more pleasant than the drive. When we reached my stop, I was consoled by the fact that I could finally breathe, and be my quiet self.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what if Uber and every other Taxi service allowed introverts to select drivers who wouldn’t expect you to indulge them. Until then, I guess I should ensure that I carpool with sociable people, so I won’t have to start conversations, when wandering in my thoughts, felt more appealing.
Or I should try to get to my destinations early in the day when a matatu would just do. The only conversation I would have is to ask for the fare charge and notify the tout of my stop. What a ride!