“No hablo español,” I explained to the driver as my daughter left after giving him our address and some general directions for getting me home.
The trip to her workplace was my first solo taxi ride in Guadalajara, taking me on roads I didn’t know and on a route I wouldn’t be able to help with if the driver took a wrong turn or ended up at the wrong place. I had prepared the best I could. The addresses of both my daughter’s workplace and our home were written out in block letters in my purse. And that morning I had asked her how much the taxi rides would cost.
“Between 70 and 100 pesos each way,” she said. “But if you pay 100, you’re paying too much.”
My first driver charged me 100 pesos.
“Do you like Guadalajara?” my new driver asked as we pulled away.
I told him I liked it a lot. Even better now that I knew he spoke English.
“Todo bien,” he said. “It means all good. Learn one word at a time. Now you say it.”
“Todo bien,” I repeated. “Is that how you learned English? One word at a time?”
He smiled and asked if I liked the Beatles. Before I could answer, he pulled into the right-hand lane, took a handful of change from the glove compartment, and gave it to a man selling paper flowers on the street. Waving off the flower and driving on.
He reached to the floor and handed me a thick xeroxed copy of a Beatles’ songbook that had Spanish and English translations of every song side by side.
“I keep the original at home,” he said. “I bring this one with me. It is how I learn English. One word at a time. Until I know all the songs.”
We talked for the rest of the ride. About his family, the places he had been in the United States, learning a language, the good things about Guadalajara, and quite a bit about the Beatles.
I asked him how he could learn English from a songbook and not end up talking in lyrics.
“With a little help from my friends,” he said with a grin.
By the time we pulled in front of my house, I had learned a few more Spanish words and more than a little about the generosity of this country.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked.
He didn’t give me a number. Instead he asked how much I usually pay for a ride.
“One hundred pesos,” I said.
Jeanne is a transplanted Illinoisian who arrived in Guadalajara hoping for siestas. She was sad to discover that siestas are a thing of the past, but is still finding lots to love about Mexico.