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 Newarkâ€™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. â€œIt would really help us out,â€ 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. Iâ€™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, â€œYou guys real busy in the mornings?â€
â€œOh yeah. Lotsa airport work. Which airline are you going to?â€
â€œNo, Iâ€™m going to Penn Station in Newark.â€ I guess heâ€™d forgotten. I liked the guy.
I said, â€œI see you guys dropping off the old ladies at the beauty parlors in town.â€
â€œOh 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.â€
â€œYeah, itâ€™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 doctorâ€™s office sideways. Must be something wrong with her legs.â€
â€œDamn, thatâ€™s pretty weird.â€
â€œThen there was da lady who passed out on da curb.â€
â€œYeah, she opened da door, and then I hear da door slam shut. I start to pull away; I look in the mirror, and sheâ€™s not in the car. She was passed out on the curb.â€
â€œHoly crap. What did you do?â€
â€œI told her I would take her to da emergency room, but she didnâ€™t wanna go. She said she was just a little dizzy is all. So I took her to da beauty parlor like she wanted.â€
Throughout all this, the two-way radio was blasting, with another driver asking about traffic on Route 78.
â€œWe got seven drivers, and all ya hear on da radio is dat guy. He loves to hear himself talk on da radio. â€œ
â€œIs he a new guy?â€
â€œNah, heâ€™s been around for years. One time, a lady wanted him to drive her to Chicago.â€
â€œA cab ride to Chicago? Are you kidding me? The lady must be crazy.â€
â€œYeah, she probably is nuts, but he drove her there. Drove all night, except for a twenty-minute nap in a rest stop.â€
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.
Iâ€™ll have to keep my eyes open around town for the sideways walking lady.