The Effects Of Long-Term Sleep Deprivation On Indo-Surinamese Taxicab Drivers: A Case Study

When you are a captive audience, so to speak, for someone for some period of time, it allows you to gain a great deal of insight into their thinking and way of operating.  Now, it will come as little surprise that I have frequently found myself to be an observer of the quirkiness of people around me [1].  It is easy, when one is quirky, for one to observe the habits of others.  But one must be aware of the fact that when one observes the character of others that one is being observed in turn.  The following observations are, it should be noted, that of the researcher himself and are therefore qualitative and somewhat subjective in nature, as is the case with all naturalistic observations.

The interaction began auspiciously enough.  I had gone down from my hotel room to wait for the taxi, which was supposed to arrive by 4AM so that I could get to the airport by 5AM, to check in three hours ahead of time per regulations to sit around and wait for an 8AM flight.  Hurry up and wait is the order of the day, and so when I met the driver, he had come at 3:45AM to the hotel and was mildly (but apparently pleasantly) surprised that I was waiting for him as he usually has to wait for his fares to get ready and come downstairs.  I had paid the hotelier for the taxi ride last night, which at $30 was not a bad deal, since the usual price for foreigners is $40 when one does not have local connections or local knowledge, and the taxi driver inquired about that, as well as about much else, like normal, such as my reason for going to Suriname.  I quickly found out, though, that this taxi driver was the sort of person who liked to talk.  A lot.  Normally this is not a huge problem, as I tend to talk a lot myself.  When I am tired, as I was, having only gotten about three to four hours of sleep last night, I tend to be somewhat silent and reflective, but this man was sleep-deprived and very chatty about it, and much else.  He spent nearly the entire hour talking, to which I replied in helpful and mild ways to show that I was paying attention politely and was at least mildly interested in what he had to say.

Given the wide-ranging nature of the taxi driver’s complaints, it was impossible to keep track of all of the varied matters that came across his mind.  For example, he complained about how bad the president was and what a scoundrel he had been the first two times he had been in office, when there had been coups (including a telephone coup) and also a problem with the country being under martial law and the business life of the country being harmed.  He also complained that the president was stealing all of the money from the country and putting it in his foreign bank accounts.  Given what I have read about Suriname’s president and his connection with drug trafficking, this is not an unreasonable complaint.  This was only the first of many subjects that he complained about, though, which included the crazy schedule of a cab driver, the fact that he did not get as many fares as he wanted to, the fact that his wife wanted to travel to the Netherlands, which was a place that he did not have any fondness for, perhaps still harboring some animosity from the colonial period, as well as the Guyanese and Trinidadian way of using mint and yogurt in curry dishes.  Needless to say, this researcher found this to be quite interesting.

Of course, the behavior of the taxi cab driver was very interesting.  How much of this is due to his native personality and how much due to his extreme state of sleep deprivation is hard to tell.  The cab driver drove in the middle of the road most of the time, and had to slow down to avoid a dead stray dog in the street.  He reported only having had an hour of sleep within the past day and to look forward to getting a nap before picking up some more people to go to later flights to the airport.  He was coughing a bit and drank water, a habit which caused him to need to evacuate his bladder during the course of the trip, when he had to make an emergency pit stop on the side of the road shortly before we arrived at the airport [2].  Additionally, the driver behaved somewhat suspiciously in at least two ways.  For one, he turned off his meter during the course of the trip so that they (the identity of the they involved is unclear) would not know where he was going.  This could have been ominous, but ended up not being so.  Likewise, the taxi cab driver initially showed paranoid behavior about the presence of another car from the same garage also heading to the airport at the same time, which arrived just ahead of us due to the unscheduled pit stop, until realizing that the other driver was someone he was friendly with.

What can be said about this case study?  For one, the cab driver indicated that his sleep deprivation was chronic.  He commented that his usual sleeping habits were to sleep a couple of hours during the day and a couple hours at night.  Given the high levels of paranoia and generally dyspeptic opinions of the driver, this researcher indicates that the amount of sleep the driver gets is insufficient to maintain a proper view of the world and the people in it.  Perhaps he will complain about the taciturn and silent English person who was in his cab to others in the future as he complained about the German fare he had the previous day who did not believe he was a native Surinamer.  At any rate, although he bragged about his success in building relationships with Brazilian travelers to and from the airport, he seemed to be far more interested in complaining than bragging.  This researcher is unsure which approach would have been better, although it would likely have been a more pleasant (if less interesting) ride if the driver had decided to follow Thumper’s Mother’s Rule and remain silent if nothing kind could be said at all.  Of course, if this researcher followed that rule as well, there would likely be very little that could be written, so let he who is without sin throw the first stone.

[1] See, for example:

[2] Lest the reader view this too negatively, it should be noted that it is very common for people who grow up in rural and isolated areas to be used to public urination and defecation because available restrooms are limited in such areas.  This researcher can attest to the difficulty of finding available restrooms early in the morning in Suriname, and so the taxi cab driver’s habits are merely noted, and not viewed with a sense of contempt or outrage.  One has to do what one has to do.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to The Effects Of Long-Term Sleep Deprivation On Indo-Surinamese Taxicab Drivers: A Case Study

  1. Pingback: Viajes Con Mis Padres | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Adventures In Awkward Communication | Edge Induced Cohesion

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