The cleaning lady who did not approve of my use of salt also does not approve of my wearing flats without stockings, and the taxi man who has appointed himself my personal driver does not approve of my haircut. In this the cleaning lady is siding with my Mother on footwear standards, and the driver is siding with me on everything that is going wrong north of my neck.
It is very difficult to please everybody.
Perhaps you would like me to expand on the taxi driver who attached himself to me? His name is Gia. This will be short for Giorgi, which is the name of every Georgian man. Being the name of every Georgian man, the Georgian men must have some way to differentiate. And so the nicknames for Giorgi are basically any combination of G’s and vowels you can think of – a baby talk soup. I personally know the following Giorgi’s: Gaga, Gigi, Gia, Goga, Gogiko, Giga, Gio, and Gagi. But NOT, obviously, Gogo, which is patently absurd seeing as how it means girl. I was present when a visiting American of Indian extraction called Aparna was in town. The fact Goga called her “Apartheid” was considered by orders of magnitude less offensive than her dubbing him “Gogo.”
So Gia. Gia sits at the end of my street in his navy blue Opel and tells other people who want a taxi to go away because he is waiting for me. He beams up at me like a proud 60-something chain-smoking labrador when I arrive. It was all just an accident. He happens to hang out in his cab at the end of my street, and that’s where I go to catch cabs to work when I’m running late, which is always.
I don’t really speak Georgian. I speak restaurant-and-taxi-directions Georgian. I speak “yes you have a beautiful country and yes I have a Giant Fake Husband” Georgian. Gia does not care, expanding upon the news of the day, asking me who knows what. I’m passable in Russian and tried to convey this fact. Gia does not care about this either, being less interested in the exchange of thoughts than in the act of ferrying me to my office and, as mentioned, expanding upon the news of the day, asking me who knows what.
I warned Gia that I would be gone for Christmas for three weeks, at which point he made the polite inquiries about my family that Georgians, sweetly and (it seems to me) sincerely, always do. It was not until February that Gia reappeared in my life, however. Down to the end of the street. Hailing the cab. And then a man appears. He has jumped out of his navy blue Opel and has come across the street to shake my hand. “Go away” – he shoos the taxi driver that I just flagged down. “This way!” he says, with that labrador grin.
Reunited, we swap Christmas notes. As it so happens, both were “good.” In a further coincidence, we both ate food. This line of inquiry was interrupted for Gia to express a grave disappointment in my hair, to which I could only concur. And then he launched into his Gia chatter. I once shared a taxi with an American friend who marveled at my advanced ability to understand Georgian. “I don’t understand anything,” I told him. “I have an advanced ability to BS.” I can tell with absolute precision precisely how to modulate my “mmhmms” and my “wow!”s and my “really?”s. I can give a very convincing impression of comprehension, and it works a wonder with taxi drivers who only really want you to pay heed anyway. I quake in fear of questions, but otherwise it works out fine. So it went with Gia, me agreeing and murmuring, when suddenly he turned around to face me with his birds nest eyebrows raised to say: “Yes?! Really?”
Screeeeeech rewind! What had he been saying? My mind quickly tracked back to key words. Teacher…. English… “Only if you have time!” Gia wagged his finger at me. Then he said: “What a lovely teacher I will have!”
And so I decided at once that it would sadly be necessary for me to avoid Gia from this point forward. It is unfortunate. He was sweet and kind. I didn’t have to haggle over prices or explain where to go. He only smoked sometimes and usually opened the window first. But we crossed the point of no return. I don’t have time to be an English teacher and I don’t have the vocabulary to say why not. Maybe there’s another Gia out there for me somewhere. Or a Giga. Or a Gogi. Or a Gogiko.