Life Lessons from Mom and Sis
I have such incredibly fond (and fun) memories of growing up outside of my mom’s native Manhattan, especially at Christmastime. I believe I was 4 years-old the first time I rode in a taxi. Something about that experience stuck with me all these years. We had a tradition of heading into “the City” a few days before Christmas to visit Macy’s at Herald Square where the one and only Santa spends his final few weeks before jetting out on Christmas Eve to deliver toys around the world. Oh believe me, even as a tot I had worked out the details. Clearly the big guy had left the workshop in the capable hands of Mrs. Claus and some elves. It was very important to him to be in New York and all. Our trips invariably involved a cab ride from say, Macy’s at 34th and 5th to Rockefeller Center (47th and 6th). There was something mystical about my mom or my older sister hailing that cab. I took in every detail for I knew I would do this myself one day. It was my heritage as a son of a daughter of the Big Apple. She would step ever so slightly toward the curb, right arm firmly raised, a look of determination on her suddenly steely face with a touch of no-nonsense attitude exuding from her person. With this transformation in her form she could get a stranger to remove his car from four lanes of jam-packed traffic and come directly to us. I listened as she said in a most commanding voice “Rockefeller Center, please – get us right up to the tree if you can, and avoid 6th. Nothing but tourists this time of year.” And like that we were whisked away through the magnificently gritty canyons of the greatest city on earth.
Many years later I would employ that same technique while working in Manhattan. When I wasn’t feeling the overexertion of my legs or just didn’t want to go down the subway steps, or had been at a bar with friends I’d step out toward the curb and raise my right arm just the way they had years early. There is a trick to it. You have to lean in just the right way, you see.
You also have to be white and well dressed.
Then they’ll do anything for you. I swear it’s true.
Never in all those adventures did I see myself driving other people as a glorified cabby. And yet the world of ridesharing beckoned and I answered the call. Unlike the cabbies of my childhood I will let anyone in my ride. I mean, this is Texas after all. Tejanos, Anglos, Kenyans, Seventh Day Adventists… It’s not like your fare isn’t already secured before I pick you up and hey, you don’t have to hail me. I’ll come right to your door and flash a smile too. Look Mom, I did it! Where was I? Ah yes…
This guy has it all wrong… Photo credit
Back to the Grind
My second day of driving went pretty well. I can’t complain. Being Saturday afternoon things were a bit slower. The wife, ever so tender in her encouragement, walked past me in our kitchen, slapped me on the butt, and said: “Get out there and earn, stud.” Honestly I wasn’t sure where she was going with that at first. Am I being prostituted? St. Nicholas, help us… He’s the patron saint of reformed prostitutes, by the way. By the way, there’s no evidence that there’s anything “reformed” about me.
My first fare was a lady and her teenage daughter waiting at a dentist office nearby. They needed a ride to a shoe store. Duh. If I had a dime for every time I ran out to Shoe Carnival right after a root canal I’d be filthy rich. This was one of those short rides the rideshare companies are famous for. In fact I think somewhere around 50% of their rides are under two miles. Not a problem, though, since I got pinged right away. My next fare was a woman in the shopping plaza across the highway. She wanted a ride home (also about two miles away). She also wanted a driver who spoke Ecuadorian. I faked it. It worked.
Now my third and final ride of the afternoon was a lovely couple heading to an office Christmas party downtown. They reminded me instantly of the couple in O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi in that he had to call upon his experience as a fighter pilot in the war and she on her skill as a stewardess to land a doomed jetliner in Chicago. Also, he wore no pocket watch and her hair was disgusting. They boarded the vehicle and — I’m sorry, I’ve just been informed the couple previously described are actually Ted and Elaine from the movie Airplane! No difference. These two were quite intriguing.
We circled the block on our way back out to the main street. Immediately I heard their whispered conversation. “You want me to drop you back at home?” said the husband. She mumbled something indistinct. I’m not sure but it may have had something to do with a twisted ankle. “Seriously, I can drop you off or we can just cancel,” he continued. I was getting a little nervous. Was something wrong with my car? With me? “Hold up,” he said to me while raising his arm. I stopped the car. They whispered more to each other for about thirty seconds. Then he waved his arm and gave me the go-ahead. I still have no idea what that was about but I worried the whole ride that they would find some great fault with my driving or my car or my hair and give me a bad review.
And this, my friends, is why the emotionally fragile should not take on jobs where they have to not care what people think of them. Where was that rock-solid beacon of confidence my mother raised so well? Where was the guy who, even though he may have had one too many gin and tonic’s, still had the perfect right-arm-raise, steely and determined gaze and posture to get a man in a yellow car to cut across three lanes of traffic to take me to Penn Station? What happened to him?!
Oh that’s right. White and well-dressed.
I dropped them off.
They gave me five stars.
I need to stop caring what people think about me. I’m a flawless driver and my car smells of Christmas and Jesus. They are lucky to have been in my presence.
I think I’ll try doing a few airport runs in my other car. It seats more, is almost brand new, and it’s black. That apparently gets you a higher fare.
O. Henry, eat your skanky heart out.