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After Work: A Ramadan Encounter

As Dona Gibbs heads downtown for a haircut she chats to a New York cab driver who has every reason to be thinking longingly about food.

For more of Dona's engaging columns please click on After Work in the menu on this page.

I hailed a cab on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan a few days ago. I was on my way downtown for a haircut.

I could have gotten a haircut right around the corner. There are many, many beauty salons, but I chose to go to a new place that had just opened down in the West Village. I thought it might promise something a little more au courant, something with more edge- and I’ll get to the real reason- younger that the First Lady style I was sporting.

The driver nodded at the address and explained in great detail the route he planned to take.

Now that I am retired (dreadful term) I never really care what route a cab takes and I’ve seen some streets that were so fascinating that later I’ve tackled them on foot. Take it from me: if you see lots of interesting shops, hail a cab. It’ll be less expensive.

I’m used to having lots of conversation with cab drivers and other people I really don’t know. There must be something unthreatening in my demeanor. Or if I’m thinking darkly, others crazies see the craziness and know I’ll listen.

Anyway, after I give him the address, he begins to talk. And talk.

“Are you going downtown to lunch with a friend?” he asks peering at me in the rear view mirror.

“No,” I reply, “I’m going for a haircut.”

“Ah,” he says and then runs a hand over his shaved head, “A hair cut. And then you’ll be going for lunch?”

‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it. Maybe, I reply.”

“Did you have breakfast?”

“Coffee,” I answer and then I steel myself for what I guess correctly is coming next. And it does in a torrent, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Health is the most important thing you have blah. Blah, blah.”

I know he’s right.

I had nodded and mmm-ed in all the right places.

“Do you live near where I picked you up?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered with what I thought what the right amount of school-marm curtness.

“If I’m going to treat myself to a piece of pizza I’ll go to Arturo’s. You know, they’re right on the corner of York and 85th. They make really great pizza. I can find a parking space and park the cab there legally. I’m off the meter. I don’t care about the money once in a while. I sit down and have a nice slice of pizza.”

While performing this soliloquy, he patted his belly with one hand.

“You know what my favorite kind of food is?”

I shook my head.

“It’s the best. They only use olive oil. Healthy and light ingredients.”

I glanced at his name placard on the back of the front seat barrier.

“Excuse me,” I asked, “What nationality are you?”

“I’m Pakistani.”

Pakistani? Olive oil?

“I love Lebanese food! I could take you to my favorite restaurant sometime. You and your husband! I love Lebanese food! He pounded the steering wheel. My wife and I would join you.

We had reached my destination. I paid and slid across the seat.

He beamed, but looked, in spite off his girth, starving. Then I remembered, it was Ramadan, the Muslim period of fasting and he had six long hours to go.

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