The taxi driver who picked is up at the hotel in Munich was neatly dressed in button-down shirt, slacks, suit-jacket and dress shoes. His salt and pepper hair was neatly trimmed. He was not friendly at first. I told him to take us to the central train station (about a mile away) and asked if he could get us close to the embarkation point for the shuttle bus to the airport (which is 17 miles from the train station). "Why you not take taxi to airport?" he asked brusquely. "Because the shuttle is only ten euros each." I explained. "How much will you take us to the airport for?" my wife asked. A brief negotiation ensued and we met at an acceptable price (since my wife was on crutches and had a cast on her leg, it was worth it to pay double and stay in the taxi rather than struggle with getting to/on/off the shuttle bus.
As we headed away from the city I broke the silence by asking the taxi driver where he was from. "Iran." he said curtly. "Ah, I have a friend from Iran." I said and provided the friend's name. The taxi driver suddenly warmed. We had a great conversation for the rest of the ride in which he told us some of his life story:
Mahmoud is sixty years old and has lived in Germany for twenty years. In Iran he was an engineer and oversaw a large staff at a factory that made automobile glass. This was during the reign of the Shah and life was pretty good. Then came the Islamic revolution. "The first year," said Mahmoud, "it was great." The Shah's repressive laws (some enacted as bulwarks against the Islamic movement) were lifted. "But then it got very bad." The new regime, under Ayatollah Khomeini, became far more repressive then the Shah had ever been. Mahmoud became afraid to speak any opinion that might be construed as dissent against the new government. Eight years of brutal war with Iraq devastated the Iranian people.
Somewhere along the line, Mahmoud made it to Munich with his wife and son and daughter. He and his wife (who had been a medical student before the revolution curtailed her education) live in an apartment. His children are adults now and have good careers. "So Germany has been good for them?" I asked. "Yes," he agreed, "but German people very cold to me. They look down upon me. I could not get hired, so I drive a taxi." Mahmoud summarized his life by saying "I went from here..." holding his hand up high, "...to here." swooshing his hand down low. He sighed. "I would go back to Iran..., if things changed there."
When we got to the airport I asked politely if he would mind if I gave him a tip. "No, no, is not necessary." he said, shaking his head. "Please." I insisted and as he relented I paid the full fare he had asked for prior to our negotiations. We shook hands. "You tell your Iranian friend in America that you met Mahmoud." he said, and then the engineer got in his taxi and drove away.