I never like seeing the donation box in the cashier's window because it always means that another taxi colleague has died. This time is was the very courteous gentleman, Kassahun Desta, who succumbed last week to either heart attack or stroke. Like many of the thousand or so drivers that pass through the taxi night I didn't know him but did mentally record a number of times his smiling presence. I note his passing in part to again repeat that taxi driving is an unhealthy occupation. If one is not extremely careful it will literally kill you. Mister Desta, may you rest in eternal peace.
Saturday night I had one of those fares taking me back thirteen to fourteen years when medical package delivery was commonplace. It would not be unusual to have five to eight or even more medical or hospital related package deliveries. For the most part they have disappeared, mostly taken up by lower cost courier services. Call it Saturday but it was actually very early Sunday morning that I had a round-trip package delivery beginning at First Hill Swedish and going about an eighth of a mile to the Puget Sound Blood Center then back again to the Swedish Hospital C-Floor lab. Entering the lower bowels of the hospital I turned the corner hoping beyond hope that a print portraying a pond with a turtle sunning atop a log while a duck passed by still hung upon the antiseptic hospital wall. I must have passed that print hundreds of times over the years and always found it cheering when I was exceedingly dismal. That it was gone I suppose not surprising as it appears Swedish removed all of its artwork from the lower levels. I am sure it was placed where more patients and their families could enjoy it but I will continue to miss a glimmer of sanity that was truly sustaining. At least for me a blank white wall is uninspiring which explains why I dislike the work of Clyfford Still or Mark Rothko or Robert Motherwell and the many other color field or non-representational painters who attempt to sell large planes of blank brush strokes as illuminating an ideal. Give me a duck or even a chicken. Give me something living amidst a dying culture that endorses unconvincing artifice over nature and the natural world.
As I have said and will continue to say there is nothing like the interactions that occur in the taxi. Two examples will suffice as I am getting tired.
The two older Chinese sisters get in the cab going perhaps a mile as the taxi flies. One begins immediately directing me so I ask for the address to be written down. Fine, they are going from the 6300 block of California SW to the 7500 block of 35 SW. I made every attempt to calm them down and thought I had succeeded when as I approached 35th SW and clearly taking my right hand turn the flighty sister began saying "Turn right, turn right!" And of course I say "No, no!" which prompts the sisters to jump out of the taxi. I beckoned them back in and pointed out that I was turning right. I drove them the remaining 7 1/2 blocks and "Sorry, so sorry!" they said as they departed. And I got seven dollars too.
It was 6:30 PM Sunday and I am heading down Columbia to the viaduct ramp and my restoring sauna at the West Seattle YMCA when a gentleman flagged me down wanting to go to the Renton Highlands. I said "Sure!" and off we went as he told me about his travails resulting in him staying for too many hours at the King County Jail. He was a bit frantic which was fine. But all hell broke loose when he got overly excited when directing me to take a left turn off of the part of Martin Luther King Way South that is almost freeway speed and suddenly my windshield is fogged and I can't see a damn thing where I was going. He began shouting "Turn! Turn!" with me responding by hitting my brakes and shouting back that I couldn't see, finally tiring of his manic insistence. He started to leap out of the taxi into traffic which I responded by grabbing his arm. I thought he still had my cell phone as I had allowed him to call his mother. The last thing I needed was my telephone to vanish into the night. Once he got back in and I made the turn he started commenting about my driving etc which was again too much to take. After about a mile of coaxing he calmed down and suddenly again we were the best of friends with him adding six on top of the forty-four which more or less made the trauma worth it. He even requested my card. Hey you should hear some of the shouting matches "she-who-can't-be named" and I have had. So what is a little yelling? Sounds like taxi to me!