Cabbies usually hail from other countries in New York City.
It’s part of the local charm.
And while some people might find that a hindrance to conversation, I’ve never let it stop me from chatting up the taxi driver on my way back and forth to the airport.
But last night, I was in Tulsa, the heartland of America. I was expecting Billy Bob to pick me up on his tractor and drive me to my meeting. (I say this with all due love and respect; remember, I grew up in Kentucky.)
But who was my driver? Eni, from Jamaica, with an accent so thick, you would have thought he had arrived just that morning, even though he has called Tulsa home for eight years.
Eni and I exchanged only the basic pleasantries until he discovered I was originally from Kentucky. Then he asked, with some excitement,
“Did you go to the University of Kentucky?”
When I said with great pride that I had, Eni talked non-stop for the rest of the long cab ride — with tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm, I might add — about the UK Wildcats basketball program. He is a huge fan of Coach Cal and knew our record this season as well as if not better than I.
Eni knew a lot about basketball…and American football…and the Olympics. In fact, our shared love of sports became our common language, even though we sometimes had to struggle to figure out exactly what each other were saying, since his English was a bit broken.
When Eni picked me up at the end of my meeting, he had updates on the Olympic women’s figure skating still in progress. You can bet if I’m ever in Tulsa again, Eni will be the cabbie I’ll call.
Every two years, the International Olympics Committee brings the world together through athletic competition. Last night, I experienced first-hand how sports can be a bridge.