What do you get when you pair a sharp Israeli woman with an opinionated cabbie? A very uncomfortable taxi ride, that’s what.
I was sharing a pleasant cab ride in San Fransisco with a lovely woman from Israel when the cabbie asked where we were from. When I told him Canada he said his most polite customers were from there, and I felt proud.
When my fellow passenger said she was from Israel, all hell broke loose. The cabbie said the rudest people were from Britain and the second rudest were from Israel. Yes, he actually said that – out loud!
From the back seat my new friend, Lilach, didn’t quite hear him and asked him to repeat himself, at which time I interrupted him and repeated something more flattering.
Then, the cabbie started ripping into her about the Israeli government and the relationship with Palestine and the war and the history and on and on and on.
Poor Lilach was getting so upset and the voices were getting louder, each impassioned towards their cause. I sat in silence with my jaw hanging open until I could not stand it any more.
Finally, I raised my hand to the cabbie.
“Stop. I have to interrupt you for a moment,” I said firmly.
I turned to Lilach.
“Do you want to be having this conversation with him?” I asked.
“No,” she said shaking her head, visibly distraught.
To the cabbie I asserted, “Can you please stop talking about this with her, she is on vacation.”
As if he had been suddenly struck by a bolt of lightening he completely changed his course, apologized and went in to tour guide mode instantly.
A couple of observations here:
1) We have the right to leave a conversation at any time.
2) We must make our needs known.
3) We must forgive and move on.
I think this fellow was actually starved for some intellectual conversation. He was working on his PhD in agriculture and was laid off from his corporate job; now he works as a cabbie and gets, in his words, “no respect.” While I empathize with his plight, I don’t condone his treatment.
I tell you this story so that if you find yourself in an upsetting conversation you do not want or need to be in, know that you have the right to step up, speak out and put a stop to it.
If it’s a difficult conversation that needs to be had but the person is confrontational, rude or out of control, you have the right to postpone or delay the conversation until tempers have calmed down.
Sometimes we are in the throes of a discussion and we don’t think there is a choice. There is always a choice, it may be between good and bad, it may be between not-so-good and worse – but there is always a choice. Exercise it.