Mrs. Angus and I took a few cab rides while in SF last week. In one case we were treated to a detailed analysis of the historical inaccuracies in the movie 300 along with a description of Spartan military techniques. In another case, the driver had a homemade berimbau in the passenger seat which launched a lively discussion of musical instruments. Another trip found us with a cabbie telling us about how he left Peru to study in Barcelona during Franco's regime in Spain.
In my experience, this just doesn't happen in other large American cities. It used to somewhat in the Manhattan of my youth, but not anymore.
I wonder why? Are the drivers unionized? Is there a (high) minimum wage for cabbies? Are medallions restricted enough that the cab business is so profitable that some dough trickles down to the drivers? Does the city subsidize colorful cabbies like Switzerland subsidizes traditional dairy farmers in the Alps?