Reporting from the 44th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America, the Guardian’s award-winning podcaster, Riazat Butt, found herself in Chicago in a cab being driven by a Bulgarian, who was clearly having a better time than his relatives languishing on the spud farms of Old (potato) Blighty. But he was unimpressed by the 40,000 muslims gathering in the city, and even more disappointed that ‘making sex’ was not on the agenda. Clearly a European embracing a more global agenda, then.
This reminded Yours Truly of some of his own close encounters of the third kind – as in ‘aliens’ driving taxis, that is.
In New York, on a mission to locate the marauding hordes of the UK metal-bashing fraternity, who were on tour to promote this nation’s greatest industrial achievement – the tin can – Guru jumped into a cab only to find another shiny metallic object being waved in his face. Ducking was not enough to get out of the firing line, and the cabbie duly blasted Yours Truly in the face with his trumpet.
It turns out the wannabe Vaudeville star had been adopting this tactic for four years in the vain hope that one day, his passenger might be an orchestra leader with an acute shortage in the brass section. Needless to say, he continued to play one-handed as he skidded around the Big Apple.
Another New York cabbie was slightly more sinister, in that he was brandishing a Dirty Harry-style Smith & Wesson Magnum revolver on account of being an ‘illegal’ Peruvian. He kept it to ensure he got paid, but Guru had good reason to worry about this driver on account of having had a lift from a Peruvian in the UK some weeks earlier.
That one did not have a big gun, but a big pile of papers that he could not read on account of being Peruvian, which he duly asked Yours Truly to translate.
It turned out he had a notice to appear at his local police station for driving erratically without brake lights, tread, a licence, or insurance. And that was just the first item in the pile that had been building up since his arrival in the UK four days earlier.
Much relieved to have safely arrived at his destination, and being a fan of the national minimum wage, Guru handed over the special £2 fare that he reserves for all top cabbies with language difficulties.