He Has Sex

This morning I had to be to church a little early. Shannon and I agreed I could catch a cab and she'd follow later with the kiddies. Well, circumstances reminded me that Friday morning is a poor time to try to catch a taxi in the Muslim world. I walked uphill from our house for about 15 minutes swiveling my little neck in hopes of spying a yellow cab, while the 9:00 a.m. sun -- already a dry 85 degrees -- beat down on my dark Sunday-suited body as I lumbered up the hill with oversized binders and my scriptures under my arm. The old 1960s number played through my mind: "Hot town, summer in the city/back of my neck getting warm and pretty/hot town, isn't it a pity?/Doesn't seem to be a shadow in the city."'

I was frustrated for several reasons: 1) I was getting no love from the cabbies. What, are they with their families or something? I need a ride. Can't your family wait? 2) That 60s number is pretty annoying. 3) I felt bad for having an oldie stuck in my head on the Sabbath instead of a hymn. My mission president was somewhere at that moment tsk-tsk-tsk'ing as he saw me in vision humming this Gentile song on the Sabbath.

Shannon and I had a cool experience with a taxi driver during our time in Damascus, Syria in 2003. We caught a cab one day, piloted by a particularly jovial Syrian gentleman. He prattled amiably with us, proud to use his almost nonexistent English. We good-naturedly encouraged him. Until he got dirty with us.

"You have child?" he asked, pointing at Savannah, then perhaps 10 months old and seated in Shannon's lap.

"Yes," I affirmed.

"I have sex!" he proudly declared.

Silence enveloped the lilting taxi as he grinned at me and I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. Shannon carefully studied the top of Savannah's head.

When nobody responded to his assertion, the cabby repeated: "I have sex!" Again, I tried think of how to say "too much information, pal" in Arabic to save us all from further awkwardness.

Finally, we eased up to a stoplight. He released the steering wheel, turned his body to face me, and, holding up six fingers, repeated with his big, dumb grin plastered across his mustachio'd face: "I have sex!"

Ah! It was coming together for us. I confirmed: "You have six children?"

"Yes!" He nodded vigorously. Shannon and I glanced at each other and telepathically agreed that getting the correct vowel can really change the tone of a conversation.