“There is no one on this Earth more beautiful than you,” said the taxi driver. “For you are you and no one else.” He spoke with airy tones and lines resembling a modern day Dr. Seuss. Such simple but gracious words made me feel whimsically nostalgic and full of warmth, though this was not the first time I felt such a way. It is all too often that I leave my Brooklyn doorstep or a Lower East Side bar to find myself actively denouncing the art of “walking”, huffing and puffing my way through. It is in these instances that my better judgement opts for a form of transport and conversation like no other.
The frugal me finds automotive city transportation a first world luxury. Although it is not cost effective or fun for the environment, each ride I’ve taken in this glorious city has sent me on an adventure of perspective and truth. I can never understand why these exchanges have such frequency, except that maybe both myself and said driver crave real connection. Living in such hysteria and buzz can at times dull your personality, making you shrivel whilst wanting to be revived. So when two humans who are tightly confined yet hungry for expression cross paths, you can expect to have a thirty-minute taxi talk while parked outside of an apartment that you should have entered forty minutes ago. Trust me, it has happened.
If any readers have been following my self-reflective plight as of late, you have read my recent article on exiting societal norms. Leaving my career behind, I also left New York on a hiatus and with this came a need for final assessment. I yearned to understand if New York was my blue sky. I needed to decide if and what I loved about this city was legitimate. Considering this “voyage” back “home” as the last charade, I set off, using these few NYC days to determine the next step of my future or furthermore, impede it.
I walked and scoured and explored my city, speaking to strangers, seeing new sights, and petting all pets. By day four I felt renewed and awakened yet still lacked the stamp of approval to return. Giving up almost all hope I decided to meet an acquaintance for drinks at a local dive club. Maybe ample whiskey and banter would open my mindset? In true millennial style I hailed a taxi, stepped one foot in after the other, and drove off into the sunset. Or rather, a very gentrified area of Brooklyn. As I adjusted my comfortability and greeted my driver, we instantly got to chatting. Ahmad was from Morocco, and migrated to NYC in the early 80s, similar to my Syrian father, who set foot in Boston around the same era. I quickly connected with Ahmad on this. I understood his story, it was a tale I’d heard before; a man in search of opportunity and the growing of roots. Fast forwarding to present day and a whopping 10 minutes into our conversation, Ahmad was divulging his biggest regrets to me. Regret was something he felt strongly and it was inherently due to lack of English and education. What I thought to be brave, he thought to be crippling. Further explaining to me all the sacrifices he had made to keep his family afloat.
The banter continued as he expressed his love for Allah and the Islamic ways of life. Again, Ahmad’s life reflected that of my father. A devoted Muslim man doing his best to make do with God’s gifts. As I arrived at my swanky little club Ahmad pulled out an English translated Quran. Handing it to me he whispered “I know you do not believe in my God, but just read a page or two, see what you can learn from it. Ahmad continued with “And here is one more, to give to another. If neither of you read this I understand, just promise me to pass it on and not toss it away.” Completely in awe I took the books while thanking Ahmad profusely. I understood that this type of act was pure, vulnerable, and at times not reciprocated positively. Something I often saw but rarely acknowledged. Furthermore, as if he had not blessed me with enough insight and personal experience, Ahmad left me with this:
“Whether you are interested in this or not, you must admit, this is how we create change.”
Though silent, I was in full agreement with Ahmad’s proclamation. Here was a man who openly and generously allowed me into his world all the while, giving me gifts. Figuratively and literally. For the first time since year one of my New York pilgrimage, I had felt lighter. A sense of gratitude for those around me began to manifest, effecting me in such a dazzling way. Granted, strutting into a bar with two holy books isn’t my preferred method for attention, but it surely was the conversation starter of a lifetime. So, thanks Ahmad, for all of it.
Ahmad was one of four memorable taxi encounters that week. Moving vehicle discussions were held on anything from anal sex to the way credit card marketing schemes have influenced women to spend more than men. I mean the spectrum was truly broad here, folks. Yet, these individuals and these conversations are never to be forgotten. This type of open candor with complete strangers is what attracted me to New York some odd years ago. That ability to step outside, turn the corner, and be struck with colloquial repartee by your next great love, your better one-night stand, or your best damn friend is a very characterizing moment.
Life’s lessons take on the same shape time and time again. With the perfect placement, and the perfect timing, the perfect answer will unravel itself. I often forget this elemental rule of thumb but I’m shown in utter repetition that nothing is truer. So, as I pack my bags and draw a conclusion on this long winded taxi tale, I would like to bring acknowledgement to every stranger in this world. May you realize how impactful you are.
Written by Brittni Alahmar