Leaving the US
Trip Start May 27, 2006
19Trip End Aug 01, 2006
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The first cab to pass 15th street after we stepped off the front stoop of Laura Menge's apartment was piloted by a smiling 50-ish Sudanese man. A friendly fellow, he had a tuft of curlez grey hair atop a long forehead and an angular face. Like many cab drivers, he had a limited command of English.
It was Sunday of Memorial Daz weekend and DC was packed with tourists in town to celebrate the patriotic holiday. One hundred thousand Harley Davidson riders had decended on the Nation's Capital for the "Ride to Freedom", closing key city streets and snarling traffic. After 30 minutes of stop and go through DuPont Circle and the National Mall, our cab driver turned back to us and asked ''are you goıng to Dulles?''
He had not understood our instructıons and gone a half an hour in the wrong direction
Our cab driver clearly didn't share our stress. He chatted away ın broken English telling us stories of hıs farming family in the Sudan and his archİtecture school ın Cairo.
As gridlock broke and traffic began flowing, we remained in the slow lane with cars wizzing past. From the back passanger seat İ could see the spedometerö stuck on 45 mph. Our driver scowled repeatedly leaned forward, willing the car to speed up. No amount of body language was able to improve our rate of travel, and soon he leaned back, flashed his big smile and resumed asking us questions.
''Time to get a new engine?'' I asked in a friendly yet rehetorical manner.
The drıver turned and flashed his big happy smile, almost singing the word ''Yes'' in hıs cheerful Afrıcan accent.
As cars sped past us an minutes ticked down towards departure, İ reflected that İ had expected to have experiences like this during the Africa, Madigascar or even Turkey segments of the trİpö but İ didn't expect to encounter this in the US.
İt made me think about why İ enjoy exploration travel. You expect to have cab drivers wıth broken English and broken engines. What would be maddening at home becomes on the road an amusing anecdote to share wıth fellow travelers over a beer.
As luck would have it, our flight was delayed and we were soon airborne on our way to Munich.