Taxi Cab Confessions

Remember the old days before mobile phones, smart phones and  iPads when while riding in a taxi basically meant you had two choices: 1) look out the window and enjoy the scenery or 2) have a conversation with your driver.

It seems hard to imagine now that we are so busy filling our transit time with “urgent” cell phone calls or compulsive play on BrickBraker, Solitaire on whatever game we have handy.

I am guilty of this behavior, but I am starting to rethink it.

A few weeks ago after returning from a London Trip late at night I got into my XYZ limousine and after a few perfunctory sentences to my driver I began to play Solitaire. To be honest, it was the impending doom of the low battery message on my iPad that caused me to close the machine and strike up a conversation with my the gentleman behind the wheel.

And boy am I glad I did.

In the course of a 45 minute ride from the airport to my suburban home, I learned a lot.

My driver was originally from Egypt, with the majority of his family still in his homeland. We talked about the revolution, about the impact of Face Book and how the Egyptians he knew were coping. From this discussion I got some insights beyond the platitudes of the nightly news.

I then asked him about his business, whether he was feeling signs of an economic recovery and how he liked working as a driver.  Again, more meaningful insights.

We’re so busy being busy these days, that I think we often overlook the benefit of simple human interaction.

And if you are in marketing like me, I think it’s even more important to put the device down and connect with people…after all they are the ones that buy products and services.

I’ve also observed this behavior from Sir Richard Branson, a great entrepreneur and someone I’ve had the pleasure to work for these last 4 years. Richard always talks to the driver. In fact more often than not, he sits in the front seat next to the driver – and not in the back like most CEOs.

Recently on a trip to Indianapolis I had the same driver the day after he drove Richard to the airport. I asked the driver about his trip and he said that, as I suspected, Richard sat in the front and spent most of the time talking to him about Somalia (the driver’s home country) and asking his view on Africa, life as a small business owner (the driver owned his own limousine company) and his hopes for his kids.

This is, of course, not the only factor that makes SRB so succesful, but I believe this constant reaching out to real people is a big contributor.

I know nothing I am saying here is rocket science, but I think it’s worth repeating and remembering.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?

When’s the last time you talked to your driver?

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