Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ahmadou from Guinea

I met a fantastic cabbie Friday night – Ahmadou from Guinea. First off, he speaks 8 languages – English, French, Arabic and a number of African languages that I’m too ignorant to have heard of before.

On cell phones:
Me: What do you think about the TLC banning cabbies from using cell phones?
Ahmadou: It can get very dull, driving. And talking on the phone to wives or children can help cabbies stay alert.
Spencer (my friend, also in the cab): I think banning cells is a terrible idea. Why should cabbies – the best drivers in New York – not be allowed to talk on the phone while everyone else still can?
Ahmadou: (nods his head)
Me: Who do you talk to on the phone?
Ahmadou: I talk to my wife. And when she goes to bed, I talk to my friend who is also a cab driver.
Spencer: It’s just stupid. This whole debate is just stupid. Let them use phones!

(Note: As I wrote earlier, I would prefer no drivers use phones, but Ahmadou made a good point.)

Talk radio:
Ahmadou listens to slews of talk radio in his cab. He listens to the BBC, French talk radio, and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer every day. At which point I interjected that I’m slated to be interviewed by Brian Lehrer for Taxi Confidential this Wednesday Oct. 28 (10:45 a.m., people, tune in!). We continued talking about our admiration for Brain Lehrer.

Pieces of Ahmadou’s story:
Ahmadou said people in his country learn many languages because they’re looking for work outside the country. Languages are the key.

His dad wanted him to learn Arabic and study the Koran. So he did. At the time, he did it to please his father. Now, he realizes how lucky he was that his father asked him to study Arabic, because of the world it opened up for him.

His father thought he should further his studies in Saudi Arabia, but Ahmadou wanted to go to England. His father relented. Ahmadou worked for 3 years as an Arabic teacher, but he just couldn’t get into England’s schools. Instead, he got the opportunity to come to the United States.

And he couldn’t be happier that things worked out this way. “It’s like my country,” he said regarding his feelings for the U.S. Here, he could enroll in college before he got his greencard (unlike his friends in England), and he could go out to clubs and live his life without constantly fearing deportation. Here, he met his wife, who is also from Guinea.

And then we reached my apartment, said how much we’d enjoyed he conversation, and said goodbye.


  1. Listening to you on Brian Lehrer right now. Congratulations! We enjoyed meeting you on Saturday night on Bergen St.--hope the new job is going well.


  2. Thanks guys! And it was good meeting you too. Hope you enjoyed the show!