For much of my life I have travelled around in taxis, in fact it has only been in recent months that I got my own car and officially left the world of taxis. But still, from time to time I do find myself in the odd taxi when my car is not at my disposal for whatever reason. Recently I bought a book at an Exclusive Books sale purely on the title, The Taxi Philosopher, and was excited to read and connect with the writer on a uniquely African experience, to share my voyeurism and learn as he had on taxi rides. Unfortunately it was not all I had expected but there was still much that I have taken and enjoyed from it.
With this, it brought me to think of my own experiences being on the inside of this often hated mode of transport. I have learned a lot being inside and behind South African Taxis.
- Taxis have taught me patience. I am the furthest thing from patient and this lesson did not become a lifestyle for me but it does not mean I have not learned from this experience. Waiting for a taxi is often like waiting for paint to dry, painstakingly slow but inevitable. You know it will happen but it is infuriating being made to wait, be it; in line, at the stop, in the taxi itself while it drives slow looking for other commuters or wanting to get off as not to be pressed between two people with one eating a skuftin of beetroot, chicken and rice. Patience. There are some things that cannot be controlled but are bound to come/end. Everything has a beginning and an end, as does this taxi ride, and sometimes all that you can do is ride it out.
- Self-reflection. In a taxi where you know no one after a long day at work, school, sports or turn up, the best thing to do in those quiet moments way from those who know you is to think. Taking those moments alone uninterrupted to truly break down who you are, what you want or reflect on what you want are precious. You are alone. You are silent. You can think uninterrupted. I learned to take these few moments to get to know myself and better myself incrementally.
- Observation. Yes, yes, yes. I learned to eavesdrop in taxis. I mean who wouldn’t? People tell such fascinating stories when they are with those they love. Above that I learned to watch, and listen and decipher the world around me. The way that people walked, talked, sat in the taxi and carried themselves’, this gave hints as to who they were or what they experience. So much of communication is nonverbal and you see this in the hailing of taxis and how we interact within the taxi. Watching me has taught me about the world in ever changing and free “focus groups”. The political, social and economic changes can be overheard and seen within most taxi rides.
- Growing up. No, riding a taxi will not turn you into an instant, taxpaying, bill managing grown up. What a taxi does for you growing up is allowing you to have some control of your movements; you are tasked with the responsibility of arriving on time without assistance. Between learning routes, finding the right taxi for you and engaging with those around you, you tend to develop into a better social and independent being. The main lesson is that you pick the path of your life and you have to ride it out or get off, the choice is always yours.
- Everyone has a story. This tie’s into point 3, Observation, few people are as they seem. Everyone in the taxi is a thinking, breathing, developing being with a story to tell. No matter how small the story is, they are just like you in that there is a story. You don’t have to listen to the story, you don’t have to engage or ask about their stories, simply acknowledge that they exist and they are important.
These are just the main points. Taxis are really a library of knowledge and development if one is but willing to learn. There is so much more to write on taxis and I am certain I will delve deeper but for now I have said enough.
Peace, love and happiness.