Day 2: Anna and the Taxi Ride

Oh, no, my Uber!

I looked down at my Uber app to see that my driver had canceled on me. I had booked him for around $40, but prices to get a ride out of LaGuardia Airport had suddenly hiked up to over $80 and he must have wanted someone with a bigger payout.

I stood among a group of people—all of us waiting to get rides after our late-night arrivals. Yellow taxicabs skirted through black Uber cars, picking up passengers eager to leave. I had been trying to hail a taxi for a while.

How am I going to get out here? Should I just book a ridiculously expensive Uber?

I stood at the edge of the sidewalk with my arm feebly raised, unsure if any cab would notice me. To my surprise, the next yellow taxi nearing the pickup area came close to where I was standing and I noticed the driver inside motioning for me to get into the car. I rushed over and got in with my backpack and suitcase.

“Where to?” asked the driver.

“Washington Heights,” I replied. “I live near the George Washington Bridge.” With that, the cabby started driving away from the airport. I browsed through texts and emails on my phone while occasionally looking out the window at the familiar cityscape.

“Where did you fly in from?” The driver asked as we passed through the toll booth. I couldn’t recognize his accent.

“Chicago. I was visiting my parents,” I said, while looking up from my phone. I was used to cabbies who wanted to chit-chat a little. “How long have you been driving taxis?”

“Oh, I think it’s been a couple years now.”

“I’m sure you get to meet a lot of different kinds of people.”

“Oh, yeah. Lots of people. And I get to meet beautiful people like you.”

The unexpected compliment threw me off, but I just uttered a simple “thank you” and went back to looking at my phone—hoping to cut off further conversation. I could guess where it was headed based on my past experiences with men.

“You’re Asian, right?” asked the cabby. I couldn’t see his face clearly in the mirror, but I could tell he was looking at me in the reflection.

“Yes, I’m Asian.”

“I hang out with a friend who is Asian. He’s Taiwanese.”

I wanted to roll my eyes at this. Men like to tell me about that one Asian friend they have as if it would suddenly endear themselves to me.

“Where are you from?” asked the driver. I knew what he was really asking.

“I was born in Korea, but I grew up in America,” I replied.

“Oh, you’re Korean?” exclaimed the cabby. “I have a buddy who married a Korean woman. He said she’s great.”

“That’s nice,” I said flatly, hoping to end the conversation, but the driver wanted to keep me talking.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Anna.”

“Oh, that’s so beautiful! What does it mean?”

“That’s just my English name.”

“Oh, so what’s your Korean name?”

“Heewon.”

“What does that mean?”

“It can mean two things. Waiting for a savior. Or hoping to save.”

After a little more conversation, the cabby stopped talking and I kept on looking at my phone, rereading texts and trying to look preoccupied.

“What is that on your chin?” asked the driver.

“Excuse me?” I asked, confused.

“You have something on your chin. What is that?”

“Umm… I don’t know… Do I have something on my face?” I turned on my phone camera and peered at my chin.

Did I leave a piece of food on my chin? No. Did a huge zit suddenly form on my face during my flight? No.

“Ah, it’s not a mole. I don’t know what it’s called,” the cabby said. I slowly started to realize what he meant.

“Oh, I think you’re talking about my cleft. It’s a cleft chin.”

“Yes! That’s what it is! I love it. It’s so beautiful.”

“Umm… thanks. I’ve never really paid attention to it.”

“I’ve never seen a woman with it before. It’s beautiful. It makes you unique.”

I just said “thank you” again as I leaned back against the backseat of the cab, feeling a little self-conscious. I’ve always had a slight cleft on my chin, but it’s not that noticeable. The driver must have been observing my face very closely from the rear view mirror. I’ve also never thought of my cleft as beautiful, so I felt horrified that a random stranger was pointing out something that I personally thought of as a flaw.

We were both silent for a while, but I could sense that the cabby was trying to figure out something to say.

“Who’s your favorite male actor?” he asked. I groaned inside. Men who are interested in me sometimes ask what celebrity I like to get an idea of what I’m looking for in a guy. I didn’t want to play his little game.

“Ah, I don’t know. I’m not someone who really likes celebrities,” I said. “I guess in terms of acting, I like people like Dustin Hoffman or Edward Norton. They’re great actors. What about you? Who’s your favorite actress?”

“Julia Roberts. You know the movie Pretty Woman? I’ve seen it so many times. I just love that woman,” responded the driver, eager to carry on the conversation. “She is on my list of favorites, but you know what? Tonight, you’re on my list. You’re my superstar! I want to take a picture with you… and get your autograph.”

“Oh, haha. Okay.” I said, laughing a little nervously. I could recognize the surroundings outside of the cab. We were in my neighborhood. I couldn’t wait to get out of the cab and eat something at home before passing out for the night.

“You can stop along here,” I told the driver. I swiped my credit card to pay for the ride and quickly grabbed my bags.

“I guess I’m going to get your autograph after all. For the receipt. You got a pen?” asked the cabby.

“No. I don’t have one,” I said, as I stepped out of the taxi. I didn’t even bother to look for one in my backpack.

“Oh, well… okay,” the driver replied with a disappointed tone in his voice. “Have a good night, Anna!” He drove away once I shut the car door. I waited for his cab to turn the corner before heading towards my apartment building.

I’m not sure if the driver was trying to schmooze me up for a better tip or maybe he just really digs Asian girls with cleft chins. Who knows? But that was definitely one of the more uncomfortable taxi rides I’ve ever had.

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