You never know when you’ll find a truly good person.
The other day, I took a taxi downtown. Bumping along, the driver and I had the usual conversation I’ve come to expect here: between his limited English and my scraps of Arabic, we discussed his hometown and family, my country, the beauty of Damascus, what’s happening in the country. At an intersection, he gave an Iraqi beggar some coins. We continued. By this time we’d established that his wife was from the neighbourhood where I live, which he seemed to regard as sufficient for a relatedness of sorts. He grew paternal as we neared my requested destination. “Why go here, enti? Yanni, last week so much trouble…you are alone. No foreigners now.” He looked at me with concern. I've taken a lot of taxis, and am usually ready to battle through sudden price hikes and amorous advances; but this man did neither of these things. I felt relaxed; I liked and almost trusted him, though he had a disconcerting habit of turning to make eye contact while driving. I assured him I’d be ok, gesturing outside to the sleepy neighbourhood. He pulled over while I counted out my money. And then he did something that floored me: he refused to take the fare! I protested and tried to push the coins into his hand, but he shook his head. Ahlein, he said, you’re welcome.
Then he was driving away, waving, with a new passenger. I walked around for ages afterwards, trying to preserve the feeling.
Whoever you are, Mr Taxi Driver, I wish you and your family the very best. Maa’salaameh.
Enti – you (to a woman); Yanni – well / like / you know; Ahlein – welcome; Ma’ salaameh – good bye / God go with you.