For anyone who owns a smart phone AND lives in a big city– like NYC or DC– the term Uber is a familiar one. Uber is a cab or car service that utilizes the GPS in one’s smartphone to get to them at any location, and from there, take them just about anywhere. I’ve had positive experiences with Uber drivers so far, and this morning I got into the car to be greeted by a man with a rough, angry-sounding voice.
I told him where I needed to go, and he immediately seemed frustrated and pulled over, talking to himself and hitting buttons on his GPS. This of course, made me feel slightly uncomfortable, as I hate to feel like I’m causing the driver to be irritated by my simple request. It also caused me to have an immediate judgement– that perhaps this man wasn’t very nice, or good at his job for that matter.
Once we were en route and my driver was clear about where we were going, I settled into my usual passenger experience: being quiet and looking through different apps on my IPhone. Occasionally drivers will ask me questions, but most of the time they remain silent, and in turn, so do I. This man, once his irritation about the directions had melted away, spoke, asking me questions about my major and why I study Spanish.
“I’ve been taking it for years. I just really enjoy it,” I had replied when he asked me if I had a Spanish background.
“Ah, well I grew up in Uruguay,” The driver had smiled (I could see his grin in the mirror) as he conversed.
He went on to tell me about how he was originally from Turkey, but had spent his childhood and young adulthood in Uruguay. He informed me that in Uruguay the Spanish is very different from other South American countries, a fact I hadn’t known. He said that Uruguay has an Italian influence, so they speak more harshly and animatedly. They often use their hands and “sing their words.”
Given that I want to do my term abroad in South America, I found this really interesting. I love meeting other people from different countries and different points of view. I could hear the Turkish sound in his accent when he spoke English, but I also could see how the harshness of Italian-influenced Spanish in Uruguay could make him sound angrier than he was. So what I had initially interpreted as anger and irritation was probably just his inflection (although I do believe he was frustrated about which route to take to get to my intended destination). I had thought for a moment that I should feel uneasy in his presence, when in reality, it was simply the way his loud voice and tone had come off, due to his varied background. Amazing what some cross-cultural information can do to change one’s experience and viewing of another person.
I’m glad I got to chat with an interesting person today– and learn something new about Uruguay– as well as judgement.