Mr. Chan... my taxi driver... and my friend
by Mr. Larry
My Friend... Mr. Chan
A decade or so ago, I spent a lot of time "on the road". One of the places I was privileged to see was Malaysia. In particular, that Malaysian jewel, the island of Penang. I did not just spend a few nights there. I spent several months there over multiple trips. While in Georgetown, I preferred taking a taxi to and from work and the many places I visited.
At first, I always chose the drivers that my hotel recommended. (And they were good drivers too, polite, prompt, respectful.) But, for whatever reason, at some point, I chose to get into a cab driven by a man that I know as "Mr. Chan". Little did I know that first trip, that this man would become my friend and someone that I feel contributed only good to my life.
At first, it was just that he was always on time... prompt and courteous. But, when I started to recommend him and his friends, to my co-workers... they felt so much more comfortable with him than with other drivers. His English language skills were good, he was attentive, he was polite. All of my co-workers were happy when I recommended him to be their driver. Somehow, I knew that this gentleman was more than just a polite taxi driver.
Over time...in Mr. Chan's taxi, we shared enough stories and information to become friends. It was my habit to call Mr. Chan as late late as 2:00 AM to come and fetch me from my work. Not only did he show up, he showed up with a smile.
On the long trip back from my work site, we would share stories. In particular, I remember Mr. Chan being intrigued when I said I had several apple trees in the yard at my home in the U.S. Why is this important? Only because it was of interest to both of us... the talk that friends make.
Often, I would invite my friend, Mr. Chan, to dine with my co-workers and myself. He would cheerfully recommend a restaurant... some new experience... but he and his fellow cab drivers would always sit a bit distanced from us... Years later, I see how classy and proper his choices were for these large-group events.
But, when it was just Mr. Chan and myself, we spoke of our families, our wives, our children. We spoke as FRIENDS... we talked the talk that men who have known each other since childhood talk.
Mr. Chan showed me all of the best sights and made sure that I dined at all the best restaurants of Penang. But more than anything else... he shared with me a friendship... true tales of his life... and he listened to my tales of growing up poor in a land so far away.
When I left for the what was likely the last time. Mr. Chan presented me with a gift that literally "rocked my world". He gave me a figure of General Kwong (spelling? Please forgive me if this is not correct).
In my house, to this day, is displayed this gift from my friend Mr. Chan. Whenever I am given the opportunity, I tell the tale of my friend, Mr. Chan who lives in Penang, Malaysia.
This is one of my most special memories because it happened half a world away from where I was born... in Penang, Malaysia. And it was all about meeting a friend... who grew up in a different culture, but who shared so much in common with a boy born in the Appalachian mountains of the the U.S.A.
P.S. I hope my friend forgives me for posting a picture of him without my first asking him. It is my only picture of him and I think it is important to this story.l