Taxiii . . .
When I returned from Vietnam I held many different jobs for short periods of time. For more years than I can remember I drove a New York City taxicab at nights and had a multitude of memorable experiences doing so.
I once picked up three young people, a woman and two men in the wee hours of the night and drove them down to Soho. They were smoking marijuana and offered me some. I’d like to say I declined and we laughed and joked all the way to their destination. They got out and one of the men poked his head back in through the open window and said, “You have just had Patty Hearst in your cab”. Afterwards I thought the FBI might be tailing me. I’m happy to say that thought didn’t stick around for very long.
One late afternoon five guys jumped in and I drove them to a boarded up building in the middle of the South Bronx. In every direction, as far as I could see, all the buildings appeared to be burned out and unoccupied. I remember thinking it looked like a war zone. The men got out and one of them said, “I’m leaving my jacket here, so you know we’ll be back to pay you in a few minutes.”
I reached back, heaved the jacket through the window and headed back downtown.
There was a period of unconsciousness when I threw safety out the door and caution to the wind. I once screeched to a halt in front of a couple that had stepped out of a midtown hotel. They got in and I pulled away from the curb before their passenger door was fully closed. The man fell back on top of his female companion and from there blurted out an address in the West Village. We were weaving in and out of traffic, just fast enough to catch the lights turning yellow. I shot through a couple of red ones too. I glanced at them through the rear view mirror. Her eyes were staring ahead, tea saucer wide. He was sitting forward, frozen, gripping the back of the front seat. It was all cool. I knew what I was doing. They just didn’t know I knew. He didn’t tip me.
I had conversations with a number of notable people. Let’s see. There was Aretha Franklin, Walter Cronkite and the Rifleman, Chuck Conners. There were others but as the passing years fade, so do the memories.