The quickest way to get to the Ljubljana airport from the city is by taxi, a half-hour ride outside the 200,000-strong capital city. Pity for people who don’t like taxi drivers.
The man who grabbed my luggage to stow in the back of his taxi immediately reminded me of Einstein. Long white hair stuck out in every direction, making his head appear to big for his own good.
He was naturally talkative in the late evening, as was I, so I hooked my arms around the chair in front of me so we could talk. Music was the first topic, because his chosen Slovenian radio station played American classic rock.
“Have you been to the U.S. before?”
“No, but I would visit just to see the Allman brothers.”
Einstein said he studied electrical engineering in his native Croatia when he was younger, perhaps 30 years ago. He aimed to work in R&D, but other things – things he could not control – got in the way. Croatians had felt threatened with the emergence of Slobodan Milosevic in neighboring Serbia soon after General Tito’s death. A Croatian nationalist party had become one of the most prominent by the end of the decade. Einstein had been laid off around this time.
Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia on the same day Slovenia did. I don’t know when Einstein had decided or eventually moved to Slovenia. Slovenia was spared much of the violence of the genocides and war of the 1990s.
Einstein had two kids, who were older than I was. His voice dropped as he told me they were not very well off or with good jobs. He said it was because they couldn’t afford the kind of education he had.
It was not a long taxi ride, but he seemed to open up quickly enough during the ride to stretch emotions from gleeful music to lost opportunities.
I asked where he wants to be most. He said he would retire in two years to Zadar, in Croatia. It’s a seaport city with gleaming white boats lining its now high-end coastline.
Einstein told me to look for him on the docks there in two years. That should be soon.