Taxi drivers have always been the go-to source if one needs to know about the ins and outs of a certain city. They deal with hundreds of city dwellers per day, ranging from children to adults, the financially strained to the financially well off. They see and hear conversations meant to be kept behind closed doors, yet customers rarely talk directly at a public taxi driver, the driver just notices whatever the people are saying to each other; meaning while on ride sharing drives, people feel a lot more comfortable to go into personal details with the driver. After a long tiring day, being driven to one’s destination creates a room for interpersonal communication and some people feel like they know the driver to a certain extent leading to deep conversations, debates over certain events or even a quite music infused ride home.
I’ve personally had deep meaningful conversations with ride drivers, to a point where I relay on them to fill me in on the latest news. Most of them happily engage in conversation; maybe it is that spending hours on the road, they enjoy engaging in conversations with their customers to make the rush hour traffic a lot more bearable or maybe the conversations serve as an outlet for the drivers themselves.
I kept wondering if I am the only one who has told their deepest inner most thoughts to perfect strangers who by the grace of a ride sharing app graced me with their company. I started asking people what sort of conversations they have with people who drive them to places, surprising enough most said they have gotten various advice on life, relationships and family matters as well. Getting your problems across to people is a task easier said than done; inaction is much easier to carry out than actively confronting your problems. Turning to friends or family can be an unappealing choice for they are people you have to face all the time, and the thought of them judging you is a hard thing to overcome, a psychiatrist is too expensive and they handle serious patients so it might not always be a choice. The happy medium, of course, is venting to a total stranger, and what better stranger than a person you’re stuck in a compartmentalized space in?
The drivers are full of stories themselves, coming from all walks of life, having experienced different things. The advice and input they give in conversations let one see things from perspectives they couldn’t otherwise attain from talking to people in their social group. I can vividly recall times I put on my imaginary therapist hat to give my insights on the lives of the people giving me rides; on this specific occasion my driver was questioning his career choices and at the time I was going through the same thing too. As luck would have it, we started talking about our potential career paths; by the end of the ride, we both had a better outlook into our future and although I don’t remember what the man looked like or what his name was he has had a tremendous role in the career choices I have made since.
I have heard people complain about how their ride drivers are too chatty, or how they would prefer quitter rides and be left to their own thoughts. Every customer has their own preference, and every driver has a different skill for listening or giving advice for that matter. Some customers feel at ease when talking to ride drivers for the level of anonymity the situation presents is unmatched. Anonymity isn’t always desirable, however. For the social butterfly that just happens to be down on their luck, it is the perfect outlet.
Stranger danger may still apply in some instances even in situations that involve using a ride sharing service but more often than not, talking to strangers is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It has been shown to decrease boredom, disrupt your routine, and help you feel more grounded, and connected as a person, so the next time you’re in a cab ride, start a conversation with your driver for you never know what sort of life advice you could give or receive.
Contributed by Yosthena Aynalem