Archive for the 'drivers' Category

in a cab

On the radio, there’s some talk show banter going on. A new study says men who kiss their wives every morning live five years longer than the ones who don’t.

The driver says to me, “I’d kiss my wife every morning if she’d let me!” He’s got a sweet laugh. A small guy, bundled against the cold. He touches his chin. “In fact this morning I told her this was her last chance to kiss my smooth cheek until summer. I’m gonna grow a beard to keep warm. Never had a beard before but I gotta do something, I freeze in these cars.”

“Did she kiss you?”

“Yeah, she’s a good girl, my wife. We couldn’t be more different. She reads books all the time, I don’t touch the stuff. I never even went to high school, but somehow we get along real good.”

We’re driving along the river, the traffic is slow. I’m watching his pitted face, his shy smile. “I met her in the car. A customer. I picked her up by the hospital and we talked so much I forgot where I was supposed to be driving her! She said that was alright. We had breakfast the next couple mornings and then she moved in. Eight years.”

He’s on a roll now, and I’ve no inclination to stop him. He’s telling the kind of stories I always think the cabbies might be making up. The kind that are a little too cute. But I believe him.

“I grew up over there,” he says, pointing across the river to a row of project towers. “I started dealing drugs when I was 12. I tell you, drugs gave me a good life. I had money, I went all over the world. I went places I don’t remember going but people tell me I was there.”

“Then I had to get cleaned up. My clock ran down. So here I am. I’m doing ok. I work, people work.”

This looks bitter on the page but he’s not. He is laughing his sweet laugh. He is, I find out later, dying slowly of the things you would expect. His liver, he says, but not his heart.


on the subway

On this line, you never get that chipper automated voice announcing the stops, and on this particular morning, it’s my favorite conductor. The one who sounds as smooth and easy as a 70s radio DJ, or rather, a teenager impersonating one. His voice isn’t quite deep enough. He speaks as though it were not only his duty to inform you of your location under the grid of the city, but also to ease your hard journey through the tunnels, and by consequence through your life.

Today he says, “Good morning, and welcome to day number four of the work, school, and play week. A big congratulations goes out to the NY Yankees.” And then his voice breaks character and squeaks, as though in parentheses, “Yay!”

We’re rushing into a station, he goes on. He knows exactly how much time he’s got until the doors open. “Don’t forget there’s a tickertape parade tomorrow, everyone come out and cheer. It’s now nine am exactly. Have a good one out there.”

Next to me, a woman gasps. “Shit,” she says. “I’m so late.”

in a taxi

He’s from Cairo, and mostly what I can see from the back seat is the gorgeous brown of his bald head. He’s been here eleven years. “I won the lottery,” he tells me.

“Really?” I ask, looking around at the dingy cab.

“The other lottery. The green card, not the green money.”

Now he lives in a Portuguese neighborhood. “Their food,” he says. “Everything they do on a grill is so good, beautiful. And near me is a pizza guy, so good all the cars double park outside and make everybody mad. So thin crust.”

“You’re making me hungry,” I say, and he turns around with the most pitiful hangdog eyes. I’m startled, and then all the sudden I get it. It’s Ramadan. “How long until sunset?”

“Three hours.”

“So you’re just making yourself hungry until then?”

“Talking is ok. I can talk, I just can’t eat. But maybe you have a point. So, no more food. What do you do?”

“I make ads. For the internet. You know how when you read the newspaper there’s this annoying thing off to the side?”

He’s laughing. “The flashing things. You get paid to annoy people?”

“Yes,” I say. “I get paid to annoy people.”

“At least you better make it funny. You make it funny, right?”

in a cab

Driver asks if I’m married. I say no. “Women get married,” he tells me, tossing his head back to make sure I hear, “Women get married because they want extra aggravation. You’re smart.”

in a french taxi (recalled)

Riding into Nice from the airport, on a road hugging the bright blue water, the driver wanted to talk, so much so that he tolerated my halting French. I told him I was writing a novel, and he said, “I’ve had such a life, I should write about it someday.” I asked about the life and he said, “Oh, it’s a long story,” waving it off. I said, “Aren’t they all long stories?” But he still wouldn’t tell me.

in a taxi

In front of my house, the driver says, “Is this a safe neighborhood?” I tell him yes. He says, “Are you sure? It looks a little…heavy.”