I have to admit I’m a racist. In Dublin, if I have a choice, I always take a taxi driven by a black driver.
My experience of white taxi drivers is that they make every journey into a test of your masculinity.
First of all, there’s the tussle about routes. I tell the driver where I want to go, and they’ll automatically say, “Do you want to go along the quays or do you want to go through Kimmage?” And I never know what way I want to go. I just want a taxi driver to take me there, so I’ll say in my fake-jokey voice, “I don’t mind. I trust you!” And they never, ever accept this. I get asked again. As a man, I should know which way I want to go. Eventually, I am worn down, and I just say one of the options.
I prefer a taxi driver who asks me to spell my destination and then puts it into his satnav and then that makes a far better decision about routes than I ever could.
Once we have measured each other’s penises while deciding which way to go, we dispose of the weather, and then the taxi driver asks me about rugby (or soccer or GAA). When I say that I’m not interested and didn’t watch the match, I get asked, “What about soccer? (or rugby or GAA, depending on what the first one was). We then cover my lack of interest in the third. Some taxi drivers have the good sense to stop talking about sport at this stage, but some keep on going, not really believing I didn’t see Leinster/Katie Taylor/Tyrone/Ireland/Newcastle win/lose/draw and that I literally can’t.
We get our wangs out again with the question “What do you do yourself?” Whatever I answer, it couldn’t possibly be as manly as “taxi driver”. I suppose I could say I’m a coal miner, or professional darts player or a sheriff or something, but I don’t. I sometimes tell the truth and sometimes I don’t, saying that I work washing dishes in a restaurant or as a security guard, just so as not to come across as a complete nancy noncy boy who doesn’t know directions or football and who’s a posh Trinity student.
And then there are the taxi drivers, and it’s not every white taxi driver in Dublin, but it’s more than one or two, who will start commenting on the legs/breasts/bums of the women walking by, inviting my agreement. (Even if you don’t like rugby, if there’s one thing all us men can agree on it’s this.) I don’t agree, but I’m not brave enough to say “Well actually I prefer a nice juicy cock” and out of my own internalised homophobia, I just mutter noncommittally in a way that might mean that that girl does have a lovely bum.
If only I knew more about Offaly hurling, then I wouldn’t find myself objectifying women I don’t know in the company of a man I don’t know.
I know it’s my own fault. These drivers are just people. And I could lead the conversation myself, or be more honest in my responses. But I don’t and I’m not.
I invariably get out of a taxi in Dublin feeling emasculated and beaten.
I don’t have to do that any more.
Because Saigon is all motorbikes and no one ever ever walks and there is no real public transport to speak of, I take a lot of taxis here. And it’s great. As a friend of mine said, I’m living a life like Eddie Murphy in Coming To America. A journey into the city centre costs between 3 and 4 euros, or 2 on a good day, or 7 on a bad day. I’m sure they often take me on the scenic route, but I don’t mind, because they don’t care about my opinion on Padraig Harrington or Monaghan football. And they don’t ask me about women’s breasts. And they presume I don’t know the best way home. And they are probably far poorer than me, so I just sit in the airconditioned goodness, watch the motorbikes swarm past me, and let myself be overcharged, glorying in my unchallenged manhood.