Saturday, August 23, 2008

Riding with the King

"Reverse floor," says the taxi driver.

"What's that?" I say, leaning in closer so I can hear. Chad and Howie and Haviva are talking in the back seat as we fight our way through Friday night traffic.

Jalan Sudirman, photographed from a pedestrian bridge

"Reverse ... reverse ... floor," he says, louder this time. "What mean?"

Now the back seat is listening too. "Reverse flow?" Chad suggests. Why would a taxi driver be asking about hydrology, though? "Reverse flu," says someone else, but nobody can figure out what that means.

It all becomes clear when the driver begins to croon. "Like a reverse flooooor .... sholy to the seeee ...."

"River flows!" I say excitedly. "Like a river flows!" We all begin to sing:

Like a river flows
Surely to the sea

Darling so it goes
Some things were meant to be ...

I translate the part about the river for him. When I look in the dictionary later, I'm surprised to discover I got it more or less right.

"Elvis," I say. "Falling in Love -- Jatuh Cinta."

"Yes. Elvis." The driver seems content. We go on to discuss John Lennon, Elton John, and Tom Jones: which of them are American? Which are British? He is so focused on old pop singers I worry that he's forgotten about taking us to our destination, but miraculously, we wind up at the Vietnamese restaurant we were heading to.

"Reverse floor," he says with a big smile as we get out of the cab, and I don't have the heart to correct him. I hum right through dinner, from the banana flower salad all the way to the mung bean and tapioca pudding.

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