Monday, May 22, 2017

Taxi philosophy.

Today, I have a four-page ad in "The New York Times," and "The Wall Street Journal."

As old and weather-beaten as I am, as obscure and defunct as print seems to be as a medium, as excruciating as various hours and days were leading to the ad, for me, a guy who was raised on print, there is little that compares to having an ad in the paper. Little that matches the feeling of having the Times delivered to your door and opening it up and seeing it there. Somehow, it never gets old, at least for me.

The other night, having logged 17 or 18 hours at work, I hadn't the patience to deal with my usual car service and decided instead to take a plain-old yellow taxi home.

It was one-AM and 11th Avenue, only barely part of Manhattan, was eerily deserted. Even the usual rats which roam the streets had decided to scavenge further east in the populated sections of town. There was little traffic on the street and it took me a good five minutes to bring down a cab.

Eventually, however, an old Checker stopped for me. I checked the driver's hack license and saw his number was in the high hundred-thousands. He had been driving, in other words, since before I was born, nearly 60 years ago.

He began the conversation.

"Verking late?" He drew heavily on a foot-long corona and exhaled a New Jersey-sized cloud of blue smoke that smelled like my father.

"What choice do I have," I answered as much like Philip Marlowe as I could.

"You do what for a living?" We were speeding up 10th Avenue at about 50 miles per against the empty roadway.

"I'm in advertising." I answered. "For now anyway. There's not much left of the business."

"Dere's not mooch leff of enny business," he said, turning east on 65th Street. "Butchoo like whatchoo do, or you woon't be doing it," he said.

I rolled that one around in my brain for a second trying to think of something witty to say.

"Beats unemployment," was the best I could come up with. I was working on very little sleep.

"Look," he said as he eased the cab in front of my apartment house. "This you should remember. If I were a philosopher instead of a cab driver, this would be on a bronze plaque in the museum of deep thoughts."

"G'wan," I said, exiting the vehicle.

"Remember this," he said. "Somedays you're the pigeon. Somedays, you're the statue."

And with that, his cab disappeared into the night.

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