The first taxi I rode was on 10:45 AM. He was mostly silent, the only conversation we had was:
"Directly to the university?"
"Mighty cold, don't you think."
The second taxi I rode was on 11:10 AM. He was an old man with a knack of interfering in everything. I am with my grandmother, she wants to buy something from a poor person who sells calendars at the traffic stop.
Me : "That's expensive."
Granny : "Well, he is standing on God's door." (meaning he's really poor)
Driver: "Yes. Sure there are those people who will trick you instantly upon knowning that you are Iraqi, but this guy like the hajja here says is on God's door."
Me : "Yea."
Driver: "Poor thing, he stands there all day trying to make a living, and then they come and bust him, while the real thieves in the suits and the houses, and nobody does a thing to them."
Me: "They bust him because they can..."
I explain to him the intricate crime/begging network in Iraq.
Driver: "You know, what is happening to Iraq is that, there is a lot of money and hence everybody's fighting over it, and when a guy needs support, he coaxes all angry on Palestine."
Me : "You're right." This was an allusion to Saddam, clearly. Perhaps this guy is Jordanian, cuz usually Palestinains are gung-ho Saddamists.
Driver: "While in Palestine they are poor, they have nothing, they can't do anything."
Me : "I guess." That meant he was Palestinian. Weird.
He was a nice guy, insisted on driving us all the way to the door.
I dropped off my Grandmother at the embassy and went to do some errand at 11:15 AM, The third taxi driver was brooding, he was stone-chipped and wore a traditional Jordanian headdress like he needed to tell me something bad, but the conversation wasn't going where he wanted. We were talking about money.
Me: "But you know what I found out, money can buy everyone - there's no such thing as integrity in the world anymore."
Taxi Driver: "No such thing. My friend, are you Iraqi?"
"Those people you were saying are not all people, there are still people who are genuine, who will not give up their traditions." His accent was bedouin, which suggested something important about his origins.
A guy in a Land Cruiser was reversing his car nearby, the taxi driver took the chance and belted out what he really needed to say.
"Goddamm peasant thinks he's rich, those Palestinians, let me tell you about them - they shied away from their lands, sold it to the Israelis, like a bunch of faggots, and they come here coaxing like they got a lot of money. Son of a bitch - You were plowing farms all your life...you look at me son when I tell you, these people can be sold at the whim, but the genuine article (it wasn't hard to know who he was referring to by that) keeps to his pricinples and traditions. They come in here with their fake phoney modern accents 'A'ollak' wu 'Ulu' and all that, while we talk in the genuine Arab tongue, like you Iraqis."
I just nodded.
"Look at my haircut, this is how we cut, but these Palestinains, see their haircuts, all standing and i don't know what (spikey, but he doesn't know how to say it), and their women, those are the women who wear tight and can be bought while their parents don't care, but our women, they are true religious and wear Islamic dress."
"Okay, I think so."
1:00 PM, The fourth taxi driver was resilient and silent. We both listened to a religious lecture about Umm al-Mo'mineen Hafsa, followed by Quranic recitations.
1:45 PM, The fifth was almost a re-thinking of the fourth, I continued to listen to the recitiation.
3:40 PM, The sixth was a bearded guy that screamed Islam. But he was easygoing and nice, this combination reminds me of my father's old friends, who have a favourable impression on my childhood.
Me: "So what do you think about Iraq?"
Taxi: "When the fitna (tensions) spreads, it spreads, and everything in the end works for the benefit of the Americans."
Me: "That's not the real problem, if we were strong people, we wouldn't have been affected, what we need today is good examples and to lessen these tensions. these horrible tensions."
Taxi: "But what brings these tensions?"
Me: "The cruelty of the leaders."
Me: "Brtutality does not solve anything, that is an old lesson learned from the days of al-Hajjaj, isn't it? You see, most people here hate Shias, but they are still Muslims just like us. right?"
Taxi: "You are absolutely correct." This was very unusual. It was my stop.
I tipped him extra.
11:30 PM, The seventh guy kept silent in a scary way, he's ask brief questions ominously that seemed to be going badly.
"My brother is Iraqi...?"
"You're Shiite, I guess?"
"What? Why? No." This was surprising, he probably wanted to lull me into assurance, but he kinda failed as he was asking in a very unnatural, careful way.
"I just hear stuff about Baghdad being Shiite."
"It will be soon."
"Yeah, Shiites took it now."
"So I wanna know if that guy is Shiite or not, how will I?"
"Various things, name, dress, accent...you can't know unless u'r Iraqi."
"So, how many Sunnis are there in Iraq?"
I was very sick of this by now. His talk rekindled memories of the taxi drivers in Iraq.
"May God curse the Shiiites, you know how I know when a guy is Shiite, when he starts telling me : There's no differnece, we're all Iraqis - we're all united."
"But you should know...err...it's somewhat....true, even if they have some mistakes, they are still Muslims, you hate..er...Shiites because you have not lived with any all your life, you think that...er...you know..err...this sort of thinking is what crippled Iraq my friend."
"Yeah." He retorted, probably thinking I'm Shiite after all.
I walked out with a bad taste in my mouth, all I wanted to do was bust his head on the windshield, but I have a nature of being prudent with taxi drivers, something one learns from Iraq. I hated myself because I could not do anything about it. I am wary of all this hate, of all this name-calling when everyone is to blame.
I promise you, that on the next taxi fare, I won't shut up.