One thing I miss about living in London is the conversations I have with black cab drivers. I always ask them if they’ve ever had any famous people in their cab, and I’ve yet to hear “no” for an answer. It’s a good way to break the ice on a brief journey. London cabbies are famous for their dry wit.
For example: years ago, early one cold London morning, I’d just got off a trans-Atlantic flight, and Mr. Fizgig decided to meet me at Paddington Station (where the Heathrow Express train delivers you) in a black cab. He told the cab driver, I’m looking for a 6-foot blonde woman, to which the cabbie quipped, without missing a beat, Ain’t we all, chum… I really miss that sense of humour. Delivered dry, but with a twinkle in the eye, a twitch at the corner of the mouth.
But London cabbies are most famous for acquiring what is known as The Knowledge – a map of London in their head that they memorise, street by street, over a two-year period. If you see someone riding a moped in London with a map attached to a clipboard, it’s someone studying The Knowledge. It doesn’t matter where you are, tell your cabbie the address you’re going to, and they’ll not only know exactly how to get there, but can probably tell you which side of the street it is too. Black cabs are expensive, yes, but, dammit, those guys earned every penny.
New York cab drivers are a different story. They don’t know where the hell they’re going most of the time; they’ll moan if you say you’re going somewhere outside of Manhattan (one guy actually kicked me out of his cab when I said I lived in Brooklyn); and most meet you with surly silence or louder music if you try to strike up a friendly conversation.
But one time was different: he was a Punjabi cabbie with a cheerful disposition. He was more than happy to take me home to Brooklyn. He knew how to get there. He even knew which bridge to take. And he was something of a philosopher:
I see more of what is going on around me because I am not concerned with finding a parking place.
I’ve never forgotten that. In today’s frantic world it was a welcome reminder to slow down. Chill out. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Enjoy the wisdom. Practice mindfulness, the art of living in the moment. (If you have a dog, take a cue from him or her.)
So, dear Fizgigglers, allow me to pass on this wise reminder: today, hopefully every day, slow down and smell the roses. (Then please come back here and share what you learned.)