A colleague of mine who was also going to Philadelphia suggested that, instead of driving, we take the train. Seemed like a pretty civilized idea to me. We would meet in Newark’s Penn Station and go from there.
I decided that, rather than arrange for a limousine to take me into Newark (Mrs. Parkway flat out refuses to drive into Newark), I would call the local cab company. I called a couple days in advance to make a reservation. They called 45 minutes before the scheduled pickup and asked if it would OK if they picked me up a little earlier. “It would really help us out,” the dispatcher said.
I was ready to go anyway, so I agreed.
I was picked up in a very old, very run down Lincoln Town Car that needed body work. The crumbs all over the seat told me that a previous passenger must have eaten a hard roll on the way to his or her destination. The windshield was badly cracked and the wipers were stuck in the vertical position. The driver was a local oldish guy. I’ve seen him and some of his fellow drivers in the local 7-11 from time to time buying coffee, presumably between fares.
I asked, “You guys real busy in the mornings?”
“Oh yeah. Lotsa airport work. Which airline are you going to?”
“No, I’m going to Penn Station in Newark.” I guess he’d forgotten. I liked the guy.
I said, “I see you guys dropping off the old ladies at the beauty parlors in town.”
“Oh yeah. We do a lotsa dat, but a little later in the day. We also do lots of doctor appointments. One lady walks sideways all da time.”
“Yeah, it’s really crazy. She comes outta da house sideways. Walks down da stairs sideways, and when I help her outta da cab, she walks into the doctor’s office sideways. Must be something wrong with her legs.”
“Damn, that’s pretty weird.”
“Then there was da lady who passed out on da curb.”
“Yeah, she opened da door, and then I hear da door slam shut. I start to pull away; I look in the mirror, and she’s not in the car. She was passed out on the curb.”
“Holy crap. What did you do?”
“I told her I would take her to da emergency room, but she didn’t wanna go. She said she was just a little dizzy is all. So I took her to da beauty parlor like she wanted.”
Throughout all this, the two-way radio was blasting, with another driver asking about traffic on Route 78.
“We got seven drivers, and all ya hear on da radio is dat guy. He loves to hear himself talk on da radio. “
“Is he a new guy?”
“Nah, he’s been around for years. One time, a lady wanted him to drive her to Chicago.”
“A cab ride to Chicago? Are you kidding me? The lady must be crazy.”
“Yeah, she probably is nuts, but he drove her there. Drove all night, except for a twenty-minute nap in a rest stop.”
After a bit of chitchat about gas prices, I arrived at Penn Station. The car was grubby, the ride was about one-third the price of a limousine, but it was definitely more interesting.
I’ll have to keep my eyes open around town for the sideways walking lady.