No, I'm not talking about the Alaskan nature preserve some people want to rip open for a few years of oil. Anwar is an Egyptian man who drives a taxi cab in Chicago and hates it.

I've got a history of cab driver bonding. I worked a job in Boston that kept me at the office late with my cab rides home covered by my clients. I actually got to a point where I could call the dispatcher, and they'd know my voice: "Hey, Mr. Baratunde!! Where you going today?" I swear I could have run for office in Boston or Cambridge and won just with the cab driver vote.

This past Friday night in Chicago, I was forced to take a cab because the L made some sort of detour which put me as far away from home as the station where I boarded the train. I got off the train and into a cab, asking the driver to take me to a major intersection: North Ave and Western Ave.

"Ok, can you tell me how to get there?" he asked.

For my Boston readers, that's like asking for directions to Mass Ave and Newbury. For D.C. folks, maybe it's 14th & Pennsylvania Rd. For those who live elsewhere, you get the idea.

The driver did, however, have a TomTom GPS unit -- one that was very similar to the unit that was stolen from my car one week before. He plugged in the intersection and listened to modern technology for directions. He had been driving a cab for just one week.

It turns out Anwar doesn't really like driving a cab. I asked him why, and he answered so quickly and articulately, it was clear he thinks about it ALL THE TIME.

  1. He doesn't like the passengers

  2. Passengers are generally very rude and too stressed out

  3. Other cab drivers will do anything for money

Anwar has been in the US for one year. He's hear because, as he put it, "my wife was obsessed with moving to the United States. She insisted that there was more opportunity here. It was very annoying." They won the green card lottery and moved to Chicago. In Egypt, Anwar was a doctor and surgeon. He paid $100 per month to rent a spacious two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. In the U.S., he has to pass three medical exams before he's allowed to be a doctor here. He has passed the first two and is studying for the third. In the meantime, he drives a cab and pays $800 per month for a studio apartment.

Oh, and his English was incredible. Considering that one year ago he spoke no English at all, I was extra impressed. His grammar and pronunciation were great.

He talked to me about the misconceptions Americans have about the Middle East, especially Islam, and how the media just doesn't get it right. He also loved that I do comedy! Given the increasingly crazy political world we're in, he thought comedy was a great means to express certain ideas to the people.

I agree man!