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June 16th, 2014:

Smart aleck fail

I took a taxi home yesterday. A lot of times, drivers want to engage me in a conversation, which I really don’t mind. However, the conversations almost inevitably focus on the same few topics: where are you from, gosh, your Chinese is good, what do you think of China, how long have you been here. For my own amusement, I sometimes make up little stories, I sometimes try to engage them in a little bit of wordplay. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s complete and total failure. Yesterday was one of those times.

The driver asked me where I was from. I was tired after an 11 hour day in the office, and feeling a little snarky. Instead of answering directly, which is what I usually do, I asked him to guess. He was a simple man, and he said, a little wistfully, that he couldn’t guess. I didn’t respond, content to have a quiet ride home. But then he asked if I was from Canada. At this point, I could have just said no, I’m from America. But, I was tired and cranky, so out came the snark. I said close, I’m from the country south of Canada. Ah, he said, you’re Canadian. Again, I could have just let it rest there, but I decided to push it. No, I said, I’m from the country south of Canada. He seem confused, and asked what country was south of Canada. Then the snark really came out. I told him to go home and look at a map and then he’ll know where I’m from.

I usually regret saying something sarcastic or nasty, and this time was no exception. I felt guilty about my condescending comment about the map. After all, this guy was probably not very educated, I realized. That’s probably why he was driving a cab. I recognized that I was being a jerk, and wanted to try to make amends. When we got to my apartment, as I was paying him and getting out of the cab, I told him that the country south of Canada is America. Ah, he said, you’re American. He seemed to have shaken off my snarkiness, he probably didn’t even understand the snark in the first place, which made me feel even more guilty. Here was an uncomplicated man, just trying to make his way in the world, having to deal with smart ass foreigners.

So, I tried to be a smart aleck, and ended up regretting it. I’ll try to be nicer to taxi drivers in the future. After all, they’re just trying to make a living, like of the rest of us, and their job is a lot harder than mine.