Look no hands!
When I used to take taxis in Beirut, curious for clues about the real identities of the drivers, I got into the habit of checking the rear-view mirror, or rather what was hanging from it: a crucifix, prayer beads, a charm to ward off the evil eye, an orange shaped air freshener. What did their talisman say about their life beyond the wheel?
These days I am usually too busy entertaining the baby and forget to look. But today on the way home from the supermarket it was the glove compartment I should have kept my eye on, not the mirror, as it was from there that our driver/children’s entertainer/daredevil stuntman, pulled out a blue KFC balloon to blow up when we stopped briefly at a junction. No red light lasts long in Lebanon and before he could tie a knot in it the traffic was on the move again.
Did the driver let the balloon go?
Did he hold it in one hand until the next time we stopped?
Did he, god forbid, keep other cars waiting while he tied it?
No, no and no! He kept driving, with no hands, across a busy intersection until he had safely secured the balloon and passed it proudly to the baby in the back. This is Lebanon after all, where possibly the love of children is stronger than the fear of death.
I hadn’t the heart (or the Arabic) to tell him, that possibly, the baby’s love of the contents of my shopping bag is stronger than her love of balloons.