Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This city's cab drivers

Still without a car, I have gotten to know my city's cab drivers, all three of them, quite well. The first couldn't find the main street bordering the university and went to the library instead. One, a former Brooklynite, pulled out photocopies of Civil War photographs. The third guy never showed up. Another, an older man, told me segregation stories, virtually bursting from excitement and pride when Obama was nominated--once he'd figured out I wasn't a Republican. One asked me if I knew the fastest way home from the airport (my response: No, but if you take the long way, I'll be annoyed). This was about five minutes before his cab broke down in the dead of the night on a deserted six-lane street. Of course, I immediately called a friend to make sure people would know where to start looking for my body.

What a relief then to be in NY for a week-end where you can flag down a cab instead of waiting at a corner for a half hour for a no-show and, best: I understand the drivers, or at least at a higher rate than here. This time, the cab driver taking me to a friend's wedding in New York asked me happily if I, too, was going to "the wedding". It turned out on the previous day, he'd driven out one of the musicians who'd gotten the time wrong. And when I meant that she should have known that Jewish weddings rarely take place on Shabbat, he smiled and said: Well, I knew that, but I wasn't gonna tell her, was I? Besides, you know, sometimes, they have a Bar or Bas Mitzvah, and then they do have musicians, too, sometimes... Oh, how I felt homesick for the Big Apple at that moment!

Today was another big cab day. I had to go to the DMV to hand in the impressive pile of documents necessary to get my license transferred (not yet! still missing one signature), then home and back to school. When I climed into the cab, I noticed that this one had a rather nice wooden rosary hanging from the rear mirror, a rare sight here. The driver was also unusually jumpy for a southerner, and, sure enough, turned out to be from Brooklyn. After hearing that I was new in town and in a slight non sequitur, he announced that Tuesday would be a big day for the Jews: It'll be Rosh Hashoneh, you know. When I responded that my students would be completely unfamiliar with the term, he exclaimed: They never heard from Rosh Hashone? They must not be from New York. Then he told me about his Jewish mother (hence the Yiddish pronounciation), and his love for the Church ("It's not too big, but I dig it"), pointing out this or that church on the way.

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