10 May 2010 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
“Where you from? …. I think America?” The Malaysian taxi driver asked as I got situated in the back seat.
“Good guess!” I was impressed. It’s been ages since anyone guessed correctly – it’s usually UK or Australia. [bxA]
“I can tell by your slang.”
“Really? What slang gave it away?”
He paused then said, “You said ‘how much—‘ …you speak very simply…”
I flashed on myself marching up to the taxi queue outside the Suria KLCC mall and asking, “How much to take me to the Thai Embassy?”
He continued, “Brits are not simple they say many words,” then he mimicked a British accent, “hello, sir, I was wondering—“
I interjected in a British accent, “yes, good day sir, I was wondering if you could please tell me---" and we erupted into giggles, delighted by our terrible impersonations of proper Brits. I flashed back on my London days where I learned, begrudgingly, that I could only assign work to my analysts after I politely inquired about their weekend or some other polite pleasantry.
The taxi driver put his hand to his neck, touching his glands and continued, “Brits speak from the back of throat,” he said in a low, nearly inaudible throaty voice. I flashed on a very smart Thai woman, my Phuket tailor’s English speaking sister, who told me the exact same thing and did a brilliant impersonation of a British person speaking from the back of the throat, barely moving the lips. She had asked me to talk to her so she could listen to me enunciate my words.
He pointed to the radio and said it was American music. It was a female pop artist. I had just read an article at a Malaysian hair salon about someone named Kesha who I assumed was Lady Gaga since I don’t actually know what’s going on in that world.
“I like rock,” the taxi driver announced, “Scorpions, the Eagles, Hotel California, Rob—"
“Yeah, me too,” I concurred, “did you say Rob Zombie?”
“Yes, I like Rob Zombie.”
“We must be about the same age.”
“When I drink beer and whiskey, I listen to rock.”
“I don’t like whiskey. I like tequila.” I then giggled freely as if Alyssa were in the taxi with me, getting my inside joke.
“Ahh, Texas girl. Tequila. I like Chivas. And rock ‘n roll.”
He pulled up to the curbside next to the white stone walls around the Royal Thai Embassy. I handed him twenty ringgits.
“Kob khun ka,” I said in Thai as I got out of the car.
The embassy was closed for lunch so I found a little Persian restaurant in a small office building. It was freshly painted with enormous posters of Persian patterns and photographs of Iran covering the tall red walls. Malaysian women wearing uniform red polo shirts and red hijabs served Persian food prepared by Iranian men in proper chef’s hats.