Taxi drivers can tell you a lot about a country. It says something, for example, that all taxi drivers in Syria are Syrian. And a good number of them are also engineers. I wondered on occasion whether an engineering degree was a requirement for the job. The degree surely would not have been wasted, what with all of the tight squeezes to manage, the daredevil pedestrians to avoid, and the labyrinthine streets to navigate.
But they get cocky sometimes, these engineers. After a late party one night, we chanced upon a taxi driver with a really nice ride. It was the best-looking Syrian taxi I had ever seen. Unmarred, it gleamed like a ceremonial weapon—the kind that never actually goes into battle. The kind that stays home in a clean-swept garage while other cars sacrifice their life and loveliness for their patrons. The driver also seemed a little like the kind of man that would never go into battle.
But like all Syrian men, he acted as though my baby was pretty much the most scrumptious thing he had seen all day. Twisting around to look at her from his seat, he coochie-cooed her for quite a while before he was willing to put the car into gear. Even then, he couldn’t bear to watch the road for more than a few moments between glances back at the baby. We were moving slowly down a hill when he reached back to squeeze the baby’s cheeks and accidentally crashed into a parked car.
We all piled out of the driver’s formerly pristine vehicle to inspect the damage. He seemed to be sweating a little as he bent over the dent in the front right bumper, rubbing it firmly with his hand, as if to take away the sting.