Monday, November 3, 2008


His name is Yamasaki.

Yamasaki is a Japanese name (it means "mountain top," more or less), but the guy's Mexican.

But that's not the only interesting duality in Yamasaki's life: He's a taxi driver, and he's also a TV news producer. Go figure.

I met Yamasaki this morning. I was running and he was driving his cab. The first time Yamasaki waved at me, I turned up the music on my iPod and ignored him. I've had enough less-than-desirable incidents involving Mexican men yelling at me from vehicles to know better. Just ask my friends in Querétaro.

But Yamasaki was persistent. He followed me in his cab. He kept waving. I thought that perhaps he needed directions, but then thought better: Why the hell would a taxi driver need directions? From a freckle-faced, blonde-ponytailed gringa gal who is so obviously not a local? At 7 a.m.?

I ran faster.

Finally, curiosity and Yamasaki's persistence got the best of me. I stopped, paused my watch, and pulled out my earbuds. I was sweaty, out of breath and irritated. You don't stop me in the middle of a run for no good reason.

"Good morning. Sorry to bother you," he said pleasantly, getting out of the cab to cross the street, presumably to be able to talk to me without yelling. "Maybe you're in a hurry? I just want to ask you a quick question."

"I AM kind of in a hurry," I said shortly. The skeptical Chicagoan in me was rearing her ugly head. What, exactly, did this guy want from me? He'd better talk fast.

Yamasaki explained that when he isn't moonlighting as a cab driver, he actually reports for a local TV news channel. He's been working on a segment on physical activity. He sees me running in the mornings and wonders if jog daily...

My eyes widened. This guy has been following me every morning. What a creep.

Sensing my alarm, Yamasaki quickly backpedaled.

"It's just that my taxi route seems to be your running route..."

Okay, yes, I run every morning. So what? I made a mental note to change my running route. STAT.

"So I'm working on this segment. I've already interviewed a cyclist, a soccer player, a gymnast...but I'm missing a runner."

Oh God, did he want me to be The Runner?

He gave me his card. "It's just that people here in Oaxaca don't really exercise, and the station is trying to put together this public awareness campaign about health and fitness, and we'd really love it if you could give us a hand..."

He didn't just pull the "give us a hand" line, did he? My mind drifted back to my PR days with the American Heart Association, putting together similar public awareness campaigns, and to all of the people -- our volunteers -- that I'd desperately suckered into doing crack-of-dawn TV interviews with Chicago news stations, using that exact same line. What goes around comes's called karma, baby.

"Will the interview be in Spanish? It's just that my Spanish isn't so good..." I said, laying on the thickest gringa accent I could, my last hope for possibly getting out of this.

"Yes, but I love the North American accent. And your Spanish is very good."

Ah, linguistic flattery. He got me there. I gave him my email address, figuring if the guy was making the whole thing up, I'd still give him major points for creativity.

So it looks like I'm going to be on Huajuapeño TV, folks. Will keep you posted on the segment shoot and air date. If you tune in, we can double Huajuapan's market rating in one night.

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