in the business section of great metropolitan newspaper is an article about a
thirty-three year-old man who runs what is sometimes known as a car service. For
readers not from the New York area, a car service is an upgraded taxi operation
that operates by appointment. He calls it a delivery service, but without the
human interest, we’d be left with conversations with packages. Dull stuff.
a large above-the-fold photo, the man leans against his car – looking (grimacing
actually) skyward into the distance wearing a rumpled suit and sunglasses. The
photo would make a great poster for a Nicolas Cage or Harvey Keitel movie. All
that’s missing is a tag line like: “Patience can be Terminal” or “You know you’ll
never see him again.”
an old bartender’s joke that begins with a question: “What’s the difference between
a stagecoach driver and a bartender?” Usually the audience isn’t given too much
time to think before the punch line is delivered: “a stagecoach driver only has
to look at six horses’ asses during a shift.”
Here’s another: What’s the difference between a bartender and a taxi driver? Not
much. Both hear stories which almost always include much too much personal information.
These stories are sometimes enough to drive you to drink (requiring both drivers
to the story in the paper: In the caption, the young man is quoted as seeing himself
“more psychologist than driver.” Imagine Bob Newhart with sunglasses and a chauffeur’s
In the third paragraph of the article, he replies to the question
“You consider yourself to be a psychologist of sorts for your clients. What’s
that like? He admits that “I don’t know if it’s because they know they’re never
going to see me again, or…”
In paragraph six he repeats “I think a lot
of it has to do with they think they’re never going to see me again.”
Legions of cabdrivers and bartenders around the world will readily confirm that
the germ of most gut-spilling, forgiveness-seeking, confessional “conversations”
begin with the thought: “Hey, here’s somebody I’m never going to see again; what
an opportunity to spill my guts!”
ago, in a humid city that had something to do with the Space Program, I drove
a taxi. After experimenting with various parts of the city and deciding which
were less life-threatening and which 15 hours of the day I wanted to work, I chose
the airport run because a preliminary scan for weapons had been made.
One day I picked up a woman in her early 40s with no luggage (usually not a good
sign). I delivered her to a professional building on the far west side of town.
She asked if she might have trouble getting a cab back to the airport and I assured
her with an old cliché involving snowballs and Hell. I went to get something to
eat and returned an hour later to return her to the airport.
would have it, I picked her up again the following week. After the surprise of
the coincidence wore off, I took her to the same place which she allowed was her
psychologist’s office. I learned that she flew in weekly from Louisiana and was
discussing her troubled marriage. Her husband was a wealthy oilman who also happened
to be her childhood sweetheart.
asked my opinion and I gave it. She asked if I could meet her plane next week
and I did. She came out of that session and said she had a later flight and asked
if I would mind talking for an hour. I asked if the running meter would bother
her. It didn’t.
She said she got more out of our sessions than from her
“shrink.” I only opined that it seemed to me that her suddenly-wealthy husband
was probably a jerk indulging in adolescent fantasies and / or watching too much
Dallas. I said he’d probably snap out of it and advised her to stay in the marriage.
I can’t go into further detail without violating chauffeur / client privilege,
but eventually she stopped coming to sessions (shortly after Dallas went off the
air). Thereafter, on Tuesdays at 2 p.m. I had to transport other unhappy people
to and from the airport; but I like to think that she and her husband worked things
out and lived happily ever after (if that’s an option in Louisiana).
I can confirm to the young man in the newspaper story that chauffeurs and bartenders
around the world have heard it all. Except for the story that makes you say “Now,
I’ve heard everything!” Then you die.
The similarity between the sliding
door of the Catholic confessional booth and the Plexiglas shield in most taxis
is obvious but there’s one important difference. That would be the driver’s inside
The eyes in the mirror can provide understanding, agreement,
sympathy and even absolution – as long as it’s understood you’re never going to
see each other again.
Minutes of Separation"
May 15, 2012 column
Columns | TE
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