Monday, November 29, 2004

Conversations with Cabbies

"Where you headed?" in a faded east African accent.


A pause for a moment before starting the conversation. It is raining outside, but the window is cracked slightly to cut the stale cab odor that is characteristic of most taxis. Now, to the conversation:

"Where are you from?"

"Trinidad", or Somalia, or Eritrea, or some other country that is geographically large, located in Africa, and has an excellent public school system geared toward sending students to America to drive a cab.

"How long have you been here?" Fifteen years comes the reply, all of it in Queens or the Bronx, or some other geograhically large borough, located in New York, that has housing that is just perfect for an African cabbie.

"Are you married?", and here is where the conversation gets interesting.

"Yes, I have two wives."

"Two wives?" I say with a dash of incredulity and a smudgen of sympathetic admiration.

"Yes, they are both at home on the couch watching TV."

"How about children - do you have any kids."

"Two kids," comes the reply to my great relief - sure he has twice as many wives as me, but I am three months away from having twice as many kids. I am not sure why that is a win for me, exactly, but I'll take what I can get.

"I've got four kids, but only one wife."

"You ought to get another wife," comes the reply, as if it is like ordering a pizza. Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Hey, there is an attractive woman waiting to cross at the light. Would you mind stopping for a minute while I propose? I am still trying to figure how I bamboozled one woman to marry me, and this guy thinks getting another is easy pickins.

"No, if I got another wife, I'd probably end up with eight kids, and I couldn't handle that."

"And if you got a third wife, 12 kids." I let the math stop there, as I don't need to prove my arithmetic skill, and really in the end how would that compare to a man who has two wives?

All of which got me to thinking - in the high fallutin arguments over gay marriage, it is sometimes offered that if marriage is to be defined as a consensual relationship between loving adults, with gender being irrelevant, what bars polygamy from slipping in the same door? The response is usually one of either restricting marriage to two people, which seems to arbitrarily cut the definition of marriage to quell the argument, or that even if logically polygamy cannot be kept from creeping in, in practicality no one is seeking such rights.

But not so fast with the practicality argument - apparently some European countries are already facing a problem, as they have rather sizable Moslem populations that think rather highly of the idea of having two wives on the couch watching TV. As those populations grow, they'll be more vociforous in the demand for polygamy. And why not? They have as much science supporting the notion that men are evolutionarily wired for sex with multiple women as homosexuals do regarding the immutability of their sexual preference. A Moslem man cannot help falling in love with two women!


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