Him: Where to?
Me: The airport.
Him: Where are you going?
Him: Just for the day?
Me: Actually I live in Brussels.
Him: Department of Foreign Affairs?
Me: Er, no (elaborate on current job).
Him: They speak Flemish there, don’t they?
Me: Some elaboration on the Belgian language regime.
Him: Je ne parler pas Francez.
Me : Oh well, never mind.
Him: Aber ich kann sehr gut Deutsch sprechen.
Me (surprised): Ich habe Deutsch an der Schule gelernt aber jetzt sprech ich sehr slecht Deutsch.
Him: Long and apparently fluent spiel auf Deutsch which is almost entirely unintelligible to me.
Me: Oh right.
Him (starting a new tack): Was Santy good to you?
Me: Er, alright. Was he good to you?
Him: He was good to the wife, she got a Fendi bag, an iPod nano, a big gift set of beauty care things and a diamond ring [carats specified but now forgotten by me] mounted in platinum. The wife has a few nice pieces. [Reminisces] I was in Antwerp in the diamond district once and I got two diamonds [again, carats specified but now forgotten by me] and then I had them mounted in platinum earrings by a friend who’s a jeweller here. Oh yes, the wife has a few nice pieces.
Me (reeling): Gosh and um, what did Santa bring to the children?
Him: A 28inch flat screen wall mounted television for their bedroom, a Wii (?) player, stocking fillers and the rest.
Me (reeling further): And what did you get yourself?
Him: A gun.
Me (faintly): Oh yes.
Him: Full details of the gun.
Me: Where do you shoot?
Him: Open land.
Me: What do you get?
Him: Rabbits, hares, deer, pheasants, ducks.
Me: Do you eat them all?
Him: Long description of how to gut and hang animals followed by information on some of his favourite recipes. They were having venison burgers the following night.
Me: Isn’t venison tough?
Him: Very detailed recipe.
Him: The young fella (9) had a day off school yesterday for a teacher training day so I took him shooting with me and we bagged nine hares. He’s an excellent shot.
Me (making mental note to stay off open land all the same): Good for him. How did you learn to shoot? Did you grow up on a farm?
Him: No, no, Dublin born and bred. I was in the army for 15 and a half years.
Me: Ah right.
Him: Medical discharge, got blown up in the Lebanon. Was in the Lebanon twice, Kosovo once and Somalia. [This was covered at some length, I have compressed it for you. I am merciful].
Me: What was the Lebanon like? How did you get on with the Israelis?
Him: We had this guy used to come and do our washing. We called him Paddy Joe, he called himself Paddy Joe [I doubt this somehow, not to his family and friends]; he was a nice old fella, seven or eight children. We were driving along the road one day and we saw him with all his gear on his ancient van. The CO said to pull over and we did and asked what happened. The Israelis had flattened his house that morning. We had a whip round for him; it wasn’t much but there were tears in his eyes when we gave him the money.
Me: There aren’t many Irish soldiers who have been in the Lebanon who have fond memories of the Israelis.
Him (indignantly): They were always shooting at us.
Me: Do you miss the army?
Him (a bit sadly): I do, yeah. You’d miss the old camaraderie and that.
Me (bracingly): Well, I’m sure that driving a taxi in Dublin is interesting too. Did you start when they deregulated?
Him: I did but they’ve handled that very badly.
Me: Have they? Why?
Him: Do you want the politically correct version or the real version?
Me (hopefully): The politically correct version.
Him: Momentarily nonplussed
Me: Alright, tell me.
Him: I’m not xenophobic or homophobic or anything like that. But the taxi regulator doesn’t do background checks on foreigners [or gays, clearly]. A woman is entitled to know she is safe in a taxi. I had a girl before Christmas, a big girl, who told me that a black taxi driver asked to touch her breasts.
Me: A foreign black taxi driver?
Him: They could be putting people in taxis who have previous convictions for rape or sexual assault, look at this.
He points me towards an article about a Czech national who has been convicted of raping and murdering a 37 year old mother of two.
Me: Was he a taxi driver?
Him: No, but he was a foreign national he should have been checked, the guards should have known where he was.
Me (leaving aside the questions of penal policy and its efficacy): Well, he was from an EU member state and, you know, we have the right to move freely in all the EU member states and it’s reciprocal. I mean, there could well be Irish rapists in the Czech Republic.
Him: I lived in Germany and they checked my papers all the time.
Me: And those of the Germans too, they have an ID card system. Would you like us to have an ID card system?
Me: Silent smugness as I feel I backed him into a corner. There is no way a taxi driver wants ID cards. It’s just against nature.
Him (new tack): Are you from the Southside?
Me: Very southside, I’m from Cork.
Him: Went to Cork on holidays a couple of years back. Beautiful place. After Dublin, I’d like to live there.
Me: Restrain myself from pointing out the error of his ways.
Him: We’re going to Majorca this summer.
Me: Very nice too, I’m sure.
Him: The wife went to book in December, do you know how much it cost for two adults and three children?
Me: No (though I am sure you are going to tell me).
Me: Gosh, that is dear.
Him: That’s what I thought so I was down at the wife’s parents on new year’s night, just looking at the computer, right, and do you know what I found? Two weeks in a villa with a pool and a hired car and room for all of us an the wife’s parents as well. Guess how much?
Me: I couldn’t.
Him: : €3,900
Me (thinking): YOU”RE A TAXI DRIVER. WHAT DOES YOUR WIFE DO?
Me (saying): God, that was fantastic.
Him (clearly psychic): I won’t be driving the old taxi for much longer now.
Him: No, I’m starting my own business.
Me: What are you doing?
Him: I’ve patented a system for sorting municipal waste. My accountant has raised €5 million capital.
Me: Gobsmacked silence.
On recounting this to Mr. Waffle, he said that when the taxi driver asked where I worked, I should have said that I worked for the revenue, audit division.