Taxi will always be that quick and secret glance at people's lives whether you want to hear or know it. They are there with you and intimacy is unavoidable. For those few minutes their breath is yours. A few of this weekend's many stories.
Very Unfriendly Fire
Taking the nearly-blind 1st Gulf-War veteran to his hotel from the VA Hospital, he tells me snippets of his sad story. While on intelligence duty he and and a handful of other soldiers were caught in a "friendly fire" incident, a fuel-air bomb (thermobaric weapon) blowing up, burning off his uniform and leaving second-degree burns over his entire body and additionally permanently injuring his optic nerves. Since that awful day his eyesight has progressively diminished. He is in Seattle due to excessive bleeding in one of his eyes. Fuel-air explosives (FAE) are the equivalent of nuclear bombs. They feed off of the oxygen in the air. Very deadly! He said he is a "high priority." I would hope so!
RB was drunk. The north-end hospital was paying his way down to the King County detox center on Boren. He was from Florida and had spent time in Boston. He did not like the people in Boston. He wanted to buy beer but I told him that didn't make much sense as he was on his way to sober up. He didn't respond.
The staff in the center stared at me, thinking I was requesting their assistance, somehow drunk but I wasn't the one staggering. "Get me out of here!" was my reaction. Why are people so damn hard! I will never forget their faces.
Green Bay Fan
He was five when he became a NFL Packer fan, a bloodied player impressing him. He had Green Bay pajamas as a child. Many years later, a friend, knowing his mania, promised he had tickets for a Seahawks vs Packers game. He was very excited but it wasn't true. His friend was lying. "I cried, I really cried!"
I took the Navy veteran (1958-62) home to Kent from the VA. He knew about cars, making a savvy observation about 478. He has stomach cancer and they can't operate. He is getting radiation instead. "That's all right, I am Christian. I know where I am going!" The prediction is that he has until December. Considering his situation, he was rather positive, still taking an interest in life.
Treated Like A ____________!
The guy flagged me at a bus stop. He just had a knee replacement. I took him to "The Cuff." Later I found his telephone in the back seat.
Getting a fare back to that area, I stop to return it. Popular even before I got to the door I quickly hand the phone to the doorman and get out of there. I was undressed! as too many eyes telling me what it must be like to be a woman passing a gang of men. Leave me alone! I am not your taxi center-fold, clothed or not!
Back in 1976 "The Cuff" was then "Oscar's Drum Broiler." The woman I later married worked there as a waitress. The men there were little better, buying and selling drugs and acting the fool. Times they ain't a'changin'.
Can't Stop Himself
Very last fare of the weekend. Coming from the bar, he acknowledges I really know West Seattle. I reply that I pretty much know the entire city. I tell him, "Yes, you live on Pigeon Hill." Still, after complimenting me, upon reaching SW Andover he says "turn right." Of course that's all we could do since he was going up the hill. It never ends, taxi an insult in the night. This is the way it is. And for the foreseeable future, the way it remains.