I plead guilty: I like to talk just as much as Lebanese service taxi drivers like to ramble. Now, mix the two of us together in a red plated broken down car bustling down cramped Beiruti streets and you have crazy, fervent conversations happening on an almost daily basis. If you’ve ridden a taxi before and insinuated – in any way, whatsoever – that you would not mind listening to their angry grumbles, then you know just as well as I do how much time they spend complaining about everything in Lebanon. Don’t blame them, tbh.

In the spirit of humor in times of (consistent) turmoil, I’ve decided to share some of the most ridiculous encounters I’ve ever had. NB: Some are not really humorous.

The Taxi Driver with a Weird Friend

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After scurrying into the backseat of a cab in Achrafieh, I couldn’t help but notice a young, red-haired girl confidently sitting in the front passenger seat, twirling her hair with her index finger like she was the sh*t. She donned a yellow and purple Juicy Couture jumpsuit and chewed gum loudly enough that I, in the backseat, hummed beats that were in tune with her moving jaw.

The thing is, it didn’t feel like she was a passenger randomly traversing a journey from one street to another. It also didn’t feel like she was the taxi driver’s daughter, because their dynamic wasn't fatherly-daughterly. But here’s the thing: they didn’t have a romantic/sexual vibe going on either.

After Hrag, the driver, dropped her off, he turned over to me with a sheepish grin that exposed a missing tooth and exclaimed, “hayde khawta,” (she is crazy) in a thick Armenian-Arabic accent. From what I understood, it turned out this red-haired girl was a lonely teenager with anger problems and Hrag found out about her issues when she climbed into his taxi on a cold day last December. Long story short, they’re currently best friends and he picks her up when she has suicidal thoughts. She hangs around the taxi and they pick people up together and drop them off. Whaaaat?

The Taxi Driver Who Thought Music Was the Devil

(Image via Running Off the Reeses)

Oh, this one was scary. I’m guessing when this heard me whispering on the phone to my mother that I’d be in Tripoli before sunset he assumed I was a Sunni extremist. He went on to say, rather unintelligibly, how America has an evil plan in store for Sunnis of the Arab world. Apparently, America is scared that if Sunnis are left on their own and wars aren’t waged against them, they will develop weapons, books and other intelligent objects that would make them powerful enough to demolish “Brezident Obama” from the face of the earth. He then went on to talk about the horrors of women driving and the effects of music on the psyche of the male mind. I’m out.

The Taxi Driver Who Wouldn’t Stop Singing

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“La we’eeeeeen badik waslek, ya 3’ammooooo, ya ammourraaaaa?” (where do you want me to drop you, you moon?) this balding old man, in a flowery shirt, sang to me as I climbed into this taxi.

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing and sing back, “Hamraaaaa”.

For the entire tip, this happy old man sang his heart out, despite the hot weather and his incessantly sweaty brow. He rolled down his windows as we waited for the unbearable traffic to move and made it a point to scream Melhem Barakat lyrics outside the window to surprised passerby. I couldn’t help but join the fun. It was freaking epic.

The Frenchie Taxi Driver

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So, I climb into the taxi and ask him to take me to the French embassy in Sodeco. It seems that this man had simply been dying to practice his far worse-than-horrible French speaking abilities on anyone. It was funny at first when he said “je suis rehit 3a paris avec marté deux years ago”. He then informed me, in French, which places I should visit in Paris (don’t ever go to a Vietnamese restaurant there, guys. He got poisoned).

But, after a while – despite repeatedly affirming that I honestly didn’t speak a single word of French – it got annoying. He would NOT stop speaking French to me! Yi, walaw?!!! Oh, and here’s the other weird part. When he dropped me off he said, “One euro, please!” Ok that was kinda funny, I’ll admit it.

The Macho Man

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This encounter is one that I will never forget, even though I'd like to. My brother and I hopped into a service and as usual, the taxi driver made it a point to complain about the economic situation in Lebanon. It turned out he was fired from his previous job as a driver for a well-known taxi company in Beirut. Gas doesn't come cheap in this country and his family of ten kids is too demanding, so he decided to endure the woes of driving service around the city. Poor old guy, we thought.

Of course, curiosity got the best of us and we nosily asked questions to try and figure out why he was fired. It turns out the manager of the taxi company used to belittle him and make him feel like Mr.Nobody. One day, he couldn't take it any longer and just exploded, beating the crap out of the owner.

What shocked us the most is how proud he was of the fact that he made the owner’s nose bleed copiously, as tears rolled down his face. He hysterically laughed recalling the satisfaction he felt after almost killing the owner. He then went on to tell us that “isa ma khili2 eli mabyihtirimne” (the person that disrespects him is yet to be born) and the owner of the company got what he deserved.

More on the need for better anger management skills later...


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