Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Ten Minute Ride

I was stressed and I have only been out of my apartment on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for two hours. I grabbed the cab from the corner Broadway and 79th. It swerved from the west end of the before it stopped to pick me up. The driver is an ancient pale man with a smile who greeted me good afternoon as soon as I slammed the door.

“How are you today?” is a typical New Yorker greeting to strangers. Sometimes we mean it and often it is nothing but lip service. Today I wasn’t in the mood for banter – my head was still throbbing from a painful amateur psychoanalysis over lunch with my paranoid and neurotic relative.

He smiled and adjusted his rear view mirror and said “he could find it for me”. “I’m sorry?” I asked, not paying attention to what he had just said and to what he was responding to. For a moment I thought he was on his cellphone as most cab drivers are anyway. Then he repeated the directions I had just given him and to emphasize his point, noted again that he could take me there.

In my own paranoid way, I looked up to his driver identification and read that his name was Murray Jacobs. He was making small talk, I realized. He wanted to know if it was OK for me to have him cross the park at 86th and I told him I’d trust he would know the best way to take me to my destination.

And then he told me that he had been driving a cab for the past 49 years. That’s half a century I noted. He went on to say that he was just waiting for his gold watch, which he would get next year and then he was ready to turn it in. “Maybe sell the gold watch for a million dollars,” he chuckled. Yeah, right, I laughed.

In his many years behind the wheel he told me that he had seen and heard it all. Luckily, he has had relatively a safe career. He was held up once and one time the robbers took his cab, one that he owned. I sighed, realizing the downside of his career. But he laughs it off, stating that those he lost are all material and that he was grateful that he had survived both experiences unscathed. I liked his optimism. I liked that he confided that after so many years, he has learned to trust his ‘gut feel’ about people. The boys who took his cab, he said, he knew they were no good as soon as they stepped in but it was too late.

As I arrived at my destination, I wished him well and told him I hoped 50 more years of safe driving ahead. I also hoped he would stay safe.

“What I haven’t seen yet I will see today and what I haven’t heard yet, I will hear today!” he said as he handed me my change less my fare and his tip. As he sped away, he stuck his arm out to wave goodbye to me.

My afternoon was better.