This morning, my driver had breaking news to report. A local taxi driver had been stabbed last night after picking up two passengers. All she knew was that he wanted to stick to the local ‘A’ roads but his passengers wanted to take the motorway. Stabbed in the neck, that was what she had heard, and that he was in hospital.
The next four minutes (it can be a long time!) were spent in an engaging conversation about personal space. I learnt how her taxi had mirrors that told her where her passengers hands were and what they were doing. She told me that although “you look like a nice person and are sitting here, chatting with me, I don’t know you, therefore I don’t trust you”. She was careful and alert all the time.
She went on to recount how she reacts when anybody invades her personal space. She’s upfront about asking people in queues to move back. She keeps a safe distance from people in front of her and expects the same courtesy from everybody else.
I told her that she wouldn’t enjoy travelling in India, not with the constant throng – intentional or not.
Even as a child, she said, she preferred to keep her distance from other children (is that normal? I found myself thinking.)
Her taxi was a Mercedes, with enough space between the driver and the front passenger. She doesn’t like cars that have seats too close by.
With not much traffic, the four minutes uphill passed by quickly. We stopped outside my destination; she was so engrossed in the discussion that we sat there, still talking for a few minutes more.
It was unusual, I thought later, to feel so strongly about personal space in a profession when you have people (strangers) around you, in close proximity, throughout your business hours.
She’s been a taxi driver for 15 years. Staying vigilant at every moment has kept her safe. It’s sound advice for any woman, I think.
PS : The taxi driver died.