What do you get when you pair up a sharp Israeli woman and cabbie with a very strong opinion? A very uncomfortable cab 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, ah – I felt proud. When she said she was from Israel, all hell broke loose! He said the rudest people were from Britain and then he said 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 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 anymore.
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 lightning he completely changed his course, apologized, and went into tour guide mode instantly.
I interrupt this story to tell you…I originally published this post in October 2010, it was actually my very first blog post ever. I reread it this weekend and got to thinking with all the discourse going on, both locally and globally, that the message may be more relevant now than ever before.
A couple of observations here …
1) We have the right to leave a conversation at any time.
2) We have the right to make our needs known.
3) Life gets better when we take action, forgive and move on.
I think this fellow was actually starved for some intellectual conversation. He was working on his Ph.D. in agriculture and was laid off from his corporate job, now he was working as a cabbie and getting, in his words, “no respect.” While I empathize with his plight, I don’t condone his behavior toward Lilach.
I (re)tell you this story so that if you find yourself in an upsetting conversation that you do not want or need to be having, you may remember 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 when we are in the throes of the ‘discussion’ and we don’t even think that we have 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.
It worked for us.
Hoping for peace, Steph