Monday, November 21, 2005

Great cabbies of Toronto, we salute you

The diversity of Toronto floored this ignoramus, who was apparently expecting a city composed entirely of pasty mopers and Vernon Wells. But oh no. Incredibly diverse, and the best cabbies too. We can't stop yakking with cabbies in any city, and Toronto gets an A+ in cabbie locquaciousness. Country of origin, in temporal order: Somalia, Ecuador, Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait, Jamaica, India.

Take this with a massive block of salt; we know this is probably entirely unrepresentative of the population & the generalizations herein are bullshit. But it makes a good anecdote. Within five minutes of conversation with cabbie #1, we'd already broached the topic of female circumcision/genital mutilation (depending on your viewpoint). Normally it takes thirty minutes and several rounds of Yukon Jack. Here was his take on the Somali male dating situation in Toronto: the men like to mess around for a few years, sampling the dating life. "We like to party and fuck, but we don't drink or do drugs. So the Caribbean women like us. Jamaican, Trinidadian, all that." Then, according to the cabbie, they return to the waiting arms of Somali women. He honestly seemed bothered by the notion that Somali women remained chaste while the men screwed around, regarding this inequality as an unfortunate cultural residue. This is the point at which female circumcision/genital mutilation ("35% of Somali women here," according to the cabbie) entered the conversation.

As soon as we entered cab #5, the driver posed a challenge: "I will ask you one question. If you can answer it, the ride is free." He then produced a business card, which features a photo of him next to a globe, and which reads:

Mr. Geography. "Ignorance is the biggest enemy." president of non-profit organization: Save the poor people of Mother Earth. Relieve poverty, provide clean drinking water. Fight Mosquitoes & Malaria. [phone number, mailing address]

We spent the next fifteen minutes firing geography trivia questions back and forth. He stumped us every time (perhaps not so hard), and nailed every question we fired his way... except one: the "mackerel" question. He was clearly excited and happy to be stumped, but insisted that this was technically a "language" question and not a "geography" question, so his undefeated streak of several years remains intact. We're supposed to call him tonight to see if he got it right by now.

Not that we question his authority. The guy is tops, and you've got to concede the validity of his quibble. He produced several laminated news articles featuring his profile (his civilian name is Mohammed Collins). We Googled him later and found this account of his glorious victory over a Canadian Geographic Society team in a quiz.