I saw him being passed up by a Northend Taxi at the intersection of NE 125th & 15th NE at about 1:30 in the morning just this past Saturday. I pulled just past of the intersection and stopped, adjacent to the 7-11 store, waiting for him to cross the street. "Are you stopping for me," he asked? And, "Of course I am," I said, "where are you going?" He seemed uncertain then said to take him up to NE 145th & 15th NE. On this rainy and chilly evening he had on a heavy cotton shirt but no jacket nor hat. A bit shabby perhaps but not unlike myself, as I am more bum than bank executive. He mentioned about the other taxi but I reassured him that it appeared to me that he was on his way to a call. He then mentioned that he was treated poorly in the 7-11, having just gone there to get something to eat. He was browbeaten and downcast. He then said take me to the QFC, the grocery store located at the previously mentioned corner. I responded give me Five and be done with it.
A minute into the ride he asked if I knew where the tent city was, that being where he currently lives. He muttered 'tent city, tent city" a couple of times. As we neared the QFC he said it was hard to stay warm in a tent. Exiting the taxi he repeated more than once how much he appreciated that I had picked him up, that other taxi drivers had kept driving by. I responded it was nothing, and besides, that was what I am doing in the taxi, there to provide rides to those who required them. I told him that he looked okay, that I was experienced and that there was absolutely no reason for anyone to not pick him up. I watched as he steadied himself and began walking toward a destination he had no desire whatsoever to reach.
Sure, I drive taxi to make money and support myself while I continue to strive toward complete writing independence. But meeting this fellow explains to myself why I am still doing this, perhaps being the major (and solitary) reason: I am here to interact with the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. Oddly the money, and I did make a small fortune this weekend is secondary to that kind of quick and momentary relationship. His emotional state reminds me of the true state of the species and the world. Privilege, even my own hard-earned ease holds a value that deserves daily examination, of how we justify our culture's goals and manifestations while the majority (this fellow & the developing world) peer in from the outside at the unattainable. Empathy is what is called for, not the celebration of someone who cultivates chain hamburgers and eat-to-you-explode pizza as successful life and business formulas. Clearly I despise this reality I reside and dwell, at least pleased that I can at step on 478's accelerator and temporary fly up and past the next desolate and despondent corner.
What Drivers Truly Believe
Waiting at the cashier's window today a fellow directly in front of me, a Bulgarian immigrant, was holding his young son, perhaps age 3 or 4, truly a cute tyke. I hesitated then said, wondering what the reaction might be, that the child was possibly a future taxi driver. Immediately two drivers reacted strongly, saying let him be a doctor or lawayer, anything but a taxi driver, one gentleman saying that there had to be a reason to justify all the pain we experience. That, in a taxi nutshell, is the true unadulterated opinion of perhaps all of us taxi warriors. Wednesday night, as I was passing taxi 366 to Thomas, a long-time taxi veteran, he proudly told me that his 25 year old son had just passed the State of New York bar. My friend John has a son, Sebastien, who is a junior at MIT. The simple unblemished reality is that taxi is hell, plain and simple. If I wasn't writing, I too would be gone tomorrow, the gutter an improvement upon unbridled insult. Oh yes, you say, Mr. Blondo is so melodramatic! Yes, that must be the explanation.