It's difficult to figure out just where taxi drivers acquired a reputation for wisdom. As one who made his living as a hack for seven years (and that's not counting the time I drove a cab -- ka-boom), I can confidently attest that taxi drivers, as a class, rank extremely low on the Lao-Tse Scale. Somewhere there may exist a phalanx of Checker-driving louts aflame with priceless insights, but it ain't in this city, pally.
In fact, when I summon remembrance of hack conversations past, what comes to mind is not so much the biting aphorism as the bovine grunt. "Pretty slow out there tonight" just about exhausted the dialectical skills of most of my fellow drivers. And conversations that started (as they invariably did) with "The asshole stiffed me!" or "I met this incredible chick last night" rarely proved enlightening or, in the latter case, credible.
True, the job did provide occasional flashes of Zen-like insight. I recall one memorable hoodtop colloquy on the crucial epistemological question of "Have you ever been so stoned that you..." (to be printed in next month's Social Text) in which one driver said, "Have you ever been so stoned that you're driving around empty, and the dispatcher calls out an intersection right near you, and you don't check in because you THINK you have a fare?" -- a parable that illuminated the human condition in a blinding flash. But such transcendent moments were lamentably rare.
Ú og tékkið á þessu, Newsweek í Evrópu, Asíu og Suður-Ameríku versus Newsweek í Bandaríkjunum. Frábært.