Lebanese cab drivers don't get enough credit. Sure, cab drivers anywhere in the world treat you with respect and, for the most part, perform their services with professionalism. But do any of them expect to be called "ammo" (uncle)? I didn't think so.
There are, of course, many serious risks that come with overwhelmingly unregulated taxi services, like verbal and sexual harassment, and sometimes even kidnapping. These are not to be discounted in any way and the state absolutely must do more to regulate public transport (including buses, by the way).
Still, the overwhelming majority of taxi drivers in Lebanon are just trying to make ends meet. Many are senior citizens and drive the red-plated cars around because our state doesn't afford them a decent retirement fund. And many insist on enjoying the finer things in life amid the toxic fumes of traffic jams. In the process, they make your life more pleasant, too.
1. They're your friend, if only for the 10 minute ride
If you're in a cab with a Lebanese cab driver, without fail he will ask you a whole bunch of questions based on your location. For example, if you're going to university, they'll ask what year you're in, what you're studying, what your family thinks and so on and so forth. Eventually, you find yourself in the middle of your life story and the taxi driver nodding understandingly, calling you "habibi" like you've known them your entire life. They will also somehow know if you're out of town (even if your arabic is perfect) and will welcome you to Lebanon personally.
While most cabs will ask you if you prefer the windows down or the air conditioning, will they ask you if you'd like a cup of coffee off the road with them? No, this is a Lebanon exclusive. He'll even yell to the shop owner your exact coffee order if he particularly likes you.
3. They offer astute political analysis
No one knows the worst of Lebanon's political, societal and environmental situations like a cab driver. Show a polite interest and they will tell you all you need to know. This conversation usually follows with many "weyniye idawle?" and it sounds like the staccato of spoken word poetry. It also includes many colorful visuals about the drivers around him, the trash crisis and, if you're lucky, hilarious anecdotes about past passengers.
4. They possess the secret art of Zawrabeh
If you're worried about being late to a certain event, don't worry! Your cab drivers knows secret alleyways and back streets you've never heard of to get you to your destination on time. It's the secret art of Zawrabeh. The shortcuts might leave you dizzy and discombobulated, and a little afraid if you have no faith in your driver. However, the minute you think you're going to be late, he swerves into a familiar lane and BAM, you're there.
It's an awesome fact that if you're short on cash, you can pay a cab 2,000 Lebanese lira to get to wherever you want, as long as you share the cab with other people. It's economically and environmentally sound. At most, if you're going somewhere really far, they'll ask for servicein (4,000 Lebanese lira) and you're on your way. Lebanon ... making that broke life a little easier.