There are only so many taxi rides that you can take before you begin to pick up on the subtleties of maintaining inane conversations. And if your default mode of transport is a taxi, you have no choice but to cultivate the art, unless awkward silence is your forte. Here then in no specific order are the non threatening things that keep coming up for me in my journeys in the Aberdeen area.
- Moan about the weather: If it’s nice and sunny, complain that it might rain and ruin your plans. If it’s rainy, moan away. One of the guys at work, who’s been up here since like forever once told me joke about the city. On his first day up here as an offshore construction engineer, he was chomping at the bit a little, wanting to get some materials delivered offshore. His older, wiser boss took him aside to a stretch of land overlooking the harbour and asked him what he could see. As he recalls, it was a clear bright day with only a little cloud, and he told his boss so. The boss’s answer – when it’s clear, know that it will rain tomorrow, if it is not, then it’s raining already!
- Be prepared to discuss holiday plans: Perhaps it is due to the general consensus that the weather is lousy, but I find that cab drivers are keen to discuss holiday plans. The last cabbie I hired had a trip planned to Tenerife. I had to oblige him with a spun-on-the-fly tale about my holiday planned to Houston this year over Christmas.
- Be prepared to talk about ‘where you’re originally from’: You will be asked where you’re originally from – and if you’re Nigerian like I am you’ll likely hear an anecdote about the country. Thanks to the length of time the likes of Shell, Sparrow and OIS/Oceaneering have been involved in the industry in Nigeria, more often than not I run into cab drivers who have pulled a stint in Port Harcourt, or who know someone who has. There is also a growing Nigerian community – current students, ex students and staff on International postings also swell the complement of Nigerians, which makes for good banter with cab drivers.
- Be prepared to hear a moanful earful about the City Council: Scotsmen have a reputation for being miserable sods. ‘Legend‘ – and I use that as loosely as possible – has it that copper fire was formed inadvertently as two Scotsmen fought over two pennys in the street. My favourite moan has to be the one where the cab drivers complains about having to pay a 500 pound registration fee to be able to pick up custom from the train station. In the interest of keeping the conversation flowing, I usually hum and ahh and toss in a word of mock outrage from time to time. In reality, I probably don’t care.
- Know your football: Once in a while, I have had to entertain football questions, from Scotland being lousy at the game to how dire the Aberdeen team are.
- Have an opinion on Sir Ian Wood and the Union Terrace Gardens project. More recently a key moan topic has been the botched city centre revamp, bulk of peeps detest the plans
It’s not all doom and gloom, on the odd occasion you will run into an Ian McEwan lover. Savour those moments!