I was in a bad mood last night; I won't tell you why. Just leave it that I was spitting nails.
It was nine-o'clock and I was just getting out of work. That should tell you something. Filling a bucket with sand using a thimble. Emptying the bucket. And filling it again.
You know the drill. We all do.
In any event, my arm went up and a cab without an illuminated off-duty light slowed, checked me out (after 31 years in advertising, I dress and act more like a vagrant than most vagrants). When it appeared I was neither crazy, nor dangerous, nor indigent, he rolled to about five-miles-per and waved me into the back seat of his Crown Vic.
I did what I do, checking his name and his medallion number. It was in the low 500s. He'd been driving for about a dozen years.
He had long white hair and a friendly face.
"Where to, mi amigo?"
"83rd and York."
"You are drinking at the bar there? I go with you."
"No, I live there," I answered. "But if you want to drink, I'll take the cab for the night."
That handed him a laugh.
"I just got on duty," he said "you are only my second fare of the night. I will drink a long time."
"And I'll have some stories to tell."
I opened up. "I'm a little pissed at my wife," I said. "She's always trying to drag me to things I wouldn't want to touch with a ten-foot goat."
"I know what you mean, amigo. I am married 51 years. I have 11 children and 27 grandchildren."
"You've got me beat. I've been married 31 years and know every wife joke ever uttered."
"Tell me one," he asked.
"I haven't spoken to my wife in ten years," I monologued. "I don't want to interrupt her."
"Here's one for the Jews," I continued.
"I'm Jewish," he said. We fist bumped through the bullet-proof glass.
"Why do Jewish men die early? They marry Jewish women."
"I came here October 6, 1957," he began, "from the littlest town in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Have you been to Puerto Rico," he asked. "I go three times a year. Now my kids send me because they are professionals. They all went to college."
"I've been twice," I answered. "To the old city, to San Juan proper, and to a little town in the southwest called Guanica."
"San Juan is just like Manhattan," he said.
"I call Manhattan 'Little San Juan,'" I joked.
He laughed, "I'm taking that from you. I like that."
We had reached my apartment. The meter read $13.80.
"I am giving you a big tip," I said, handing him a $20. "You made me laugh tonight."
We shook hands again through the bullet-proof.
We went our separate ways.