Tuesday, July 29, 2008
THE HEAD TAXI DRIVER
Near the end of my vacation in Hawaii, I decided to hike up to the edge of the Diamond Head Crater. I'd been to Diamond Head eleven years previously but my parents weren't interested in the hike up to the crater summit, leaving my sister and I just to take in summit floor. This time around, I wasn't going to miss the whole deal.
Joining me on the hike was John, my travel partner, the best man for the wedding, and fellow EA software engineer. The hike itself was great and I recommend it for anyone who's into hiking. It's about a million times easier than the Grouse Grind with a view that's about a million times better too. I'll post picture when I get the chance.
To get back to the hotel, we decided to take a taxi since we didn't feel like waiting for the bus nor did we have exact change on us. Since it's a pretty touristy area, there's always taxis waiting for people, so we jumped into the first one in the line.
After getting our destination out of the way, our cabbie asked us where we were from. We said Vancouver and he mentioned his fondness for Canadians. He also immediately launched into what would become a fully narrated ride back to our hotel. He started giving us statistics about the ethnic breakdown of Oahu. It sounds plausible but I didn't check his numbers afterwards. Did you know Asian ethnic groups outnumber white people on Oahu?
By this time, I knew this guy was no ordinary cab driver, so I looked at his taxi license on the dashboard so I could get his name. Our tour guide for this trip was named Rudy. He was older, perhaps in his 50s and had salt and pepper hair. As with most locals, he had a pretty nice tan. Rudy went on to give us a rundown on the great influence the Japanese had on Hawaii. He listed the number of Japanese colleges on Oahu and what each one specialized in teaching (mostly tourism related areas). Rudy then said that most of the large hotels in Honolulu were owned by Japanese companies with they Hyatt, I believe, being the only one not Japanese-controlled. I could be wrong about that.
I was rather amused by Rudy as he was clearly the most entertaining taxi driver I've had on the island. Rudy then gave us a glimpse of his own personal life. I believe he was born on another island, Maui I think but then moved to Oahu when he still young. When he was four years old, he climbed a mango tree just outside his home. A neighbour, a woman, saw him up in the tree and yelled for him to climb down. Rudy fell trying to adhere to her wishes. He hit his head badly. Help was summoned but as he put it, there was very little to no signs of life in his young body. They were about to declare him deceased when one of his relatives began a prayer to a Hawaiian god. Now, as Rudy tells the tale, when the prayer was finished, Rudy began to stir. I'm sure he took him a long time to heal but I'm just relaying what he said to us.
Now the story of his fall doesn't end there. Rudy then had a most odd request for me.
"Give me your hand."
Without taking his eyes off the road, Rudy had reached back behind his seat with his right hand, just behind his head. I was speechless for a second and I really wanted to say...
The words didn't escape my mouth however and all I could do was look at John briefly with a WTF look. A second later, I realized I was on vacation and this would probably wind up to be an interesting anecdote, so I thought why not. I placed my open right hand into his. He took my hand and moved it onto the back of his head. I felt my hand mat down his hair and then I touched his head. With my palm and fingers, I felt a sizeable depression in his skull. It was not deep but definitely noticeable. It must have measured almost four inches square or so.
With that, he released my hand.
"You, you give me your hand as well."
Having seen my hand returned to me safely, John decided it was ok, so he outstretched his hand as well. John got the same feel as I did.
Moving on, Rudy extolled the virtues of noni juice, crediting it with enhancing the health of all who drink it. He also quoted the prices of noni juice for both on and off the island. It's much more expensive on the mainland by the way.
In an extremely rare lull in the conversation, I asked Rudy if he had any kids. He pointed to a picture on the dashboard. He was a father of several children but the picture showed a grown daughter with her own daughter. Rudy was a grandfather as well.
Soon afterwards, we arrived at our hotel. Since Rudy had been such a pleasant and memorable taxi driver, I decided to tip him well, perhaps around the 30% mark. He wished us a pleasant rest of our stay and we returned the gesture.
If you're ever in Honolulu and you get in a taxi with a Rudy, ask him about his head.
posted by Erwin |