I am not a habitual taxi-taker. In fact, I’m the opposite – usually walking home with my guitar at 1 a.m. after playing at Lindsay’s bar of choice.
Every so often the need arises. Like a few weeks ago, heading home from work sick.
Months ago I meant to write about one driver in specific. He was the old, whiskey-soaked sort of driver you see in movies and not in actual taxis much anymore.
“I used to drive in Atlantic City,” he confided, “until one night I picked up this fare, and I knew something wasn’t right.
“Sure enough, at the first red light we hit he held a gun to the back of my head and told me to hand back all of my cash.
“I was sure he was going to kill me,” he said, as I stared at the back of his head, riveted. “But, he just waited until I had handed it all back to him, and then he just opened the door and got out.
“So I stopped driving in Atlantic City.”
As the numbers on Washington ave slid every-lower we talked about guns and people, and which is the real killer. We talked about how life is valuable.
When he left me on my step I half imagined that I would turn to find his cab nowhere in sight, as if he was some gossamer coachman emerged from the night just for that conversation.
This Thursday night on the way home from our band rehearsal my driver was Russian, and not sure how to get to my house from the Kimmel Center. Another recent transplant, perhaps?
After I pointed him in the right direction, he began to speak – unselfconsciously, not in a making conversation sort of way.
“My good friend from home played jee-tar,” he told me, turning onto Broad. “His mother, his father, both are deaf, and I think he not hear so well. But, he could play the jee-tar so well. His hands move so quick on… what do you say? The long part. For me it is [?].”
“Yes, the neck. His hands move so quick on the neck. My friend’s jee-tar, made from before revolution.”
(I inwardly winced, remembering the t-shirt I had almost worn, but didn’t, knowing for certain that Gina would wear it instead (and she did).)
I found myself telling him how I like to play acoustic because I like to feel the music through my body, because you never need an amplifier that way.
“This week, the stars,” he said as we turned onto Washington. “How do you say? You have a saying.”
“Yes, yes, but when they fall…”
“Yes. A shower of stars this week.”
“You have to get out of the city,” I implored him. “They aren’t the same with the lights. You need to find somewhere where it’s really night.”
The ride seemed long for the conversation, but the fare was inexplicably cheap. Maybe he doesn’t know how to work the meter yet, i thought.
“Good luck with your show,” he said after i left him his tip.
“Good luck with your stars,” I told him.
This one I’m sure was real.