I met a very upbeat cab driver from Pakistan this weekend. He loves Canada, of course, (every taxi driver does, or so it seems) and apologised for his English. I apologised for my Urdu, which made him laugh hysterically. After he recovered from the shock of my answer to the question "do you have children?" he proceeded to tell me how he came to have some himself.
Soon it became clear that he was trying to convey that on his wedding night, at 16 – his wife was just 14 – he was unable to consummate the union. Or, more simply and in his words, "machine no working". As I understand the story – and I could, obviously, have gotten things very, very wrong – his mother (somehow?) stepped in and sorted everything out. Not quite sure on the details, but things were apparently executed properly – to everyone's relief – the second night. "Second night good", he said. He also assured me that his "machine" continued "working very good" after that first hurdle, and I guess so: the couple have four children. Not that I needed to know, but he assured me "machine very good – no problem", even now.
Earlier he told me I need children, and soon, to take care of me when I am old. He then tried to illustrate what would happen if I don't have any. It takes talent to mime to mime a hungry old homeless person falling down in the street, especially while driving a speeding taxi in heavy traffic down Muroor Rd.
He reminded me of another taxi driver, this one from Afghanistan, who sparked up a conversation while steering me in one of those old green, white and gold jobs that are disappearing from the street. He was on about how he can't sleep here, but when he goes home to his wife, "sleeping very well" and "sleeping all the time".
I nodded and tried to look pleased for him, answering his question about my own sleep with "yes, fine". It was only after he repeated himself several times, with what I can only describe as a if you know what I mean tone to his voice that I clued in.
I can't figure out either conversation. I mean, the drivers are both probably dirty old men trying to engage in some sexy talk the only way they know how. But, and maybe I am being naive (it wouldn't be a stretch, considering I just figured out about the ladies of the evening in my neighbourhood) neither conversation really had that vibe.
It's also quite possible that "lewd and lascivious" just doesn't cross cultures very well.