My flights were long but uneventful. The sterile, highly secure space of the airline infrastructure ended abruptly as we left the airport to take taxi to our hotel. I met up with two other women who are also on this trip; Krystal and Heidi. Both were excited to be in Jordan and we exited the airport to the chaos outside. Random people asking: “Cab?” Cab?” It’s how it’s done here. Confusing as it was, we found a young man who appeared to be a working guy shuttling tourists to hotels after long flights.
We piled into his dingy 15-year-old Toyota sedan and realized he spoke no English. But wait… We have maps! Except they are in English. It was too late, we realized he had NO IDEA where he was going. He knew really only one English phrase “Welcome to Jordan” and he meant it! Friendly and a little silly, he blasted Arabic and American songs while weaving in and out of lanes and between cars in lanes. NYC cab drivers would have been in awe.
As we approached the city, it was obvious that our driver had no clue where he was, so he stopped at each intersection and … he asked for directions! And he asked and asked. He stopped no less that 10 times, all the while announcing over and over again “Welcome to Jordan!”
At this point we are all so tired that it was actually funny. He stopped when he saw a friend in the street, he had to give him a hug. He tried to teach us words in Arabic but my American tongue couldn’t wrap itself around those words. He seemed to enjoy having Americans in the car, he would call his friends and said “Speak English!”. He saw me with my iPhone out and said “pitur, pitur!? So he abruptly struck a pose, thank goodness the car was not moving!
While all this was going on, I felt my rigidity, my armor drop away, as I noticed the world is a gyrating, pulsing, dirty, clean, messy, fun and dangerous place! I had this thought: I am way too white. I think about all the rules I have for myself, not that it’s a bad thing, but wow, lighten up Russo.
Finally we arrived, the hotel was full, we got back in the cab and went to another hotel. Same driver, more directions and stops, intermixed with traffic and strangers coming over to help him find his way. Finally, finally we arrived and we got rooms, we are in! Reflecting on that 45-minute cab ride, I hadn’t laughed that much in a very long time.
Tomorrow morning it’s off on an adventure in a part of the world that’s completely new to me. I can’t wait.
Note to Mitch: Speaking English and knowing where the hotels are is prerequisite to selecting cab drivers in the future.