I picked up a guy a week or two ago who was in his mid 30s that looked a little scruffy, covered in tats and a very wild and woolly beard. He wanted to go to a low-budget, no-name, mom-and-pop motel a few miles away. He looked a little sketchy, but I noticed that he had the eagle and anchor Marine Corps emblem tattooed on his forearm, and I said, “Marine Corps, huh?”
He said, “Yes Sir, two tours in Afghanistan.”
As I have said before, I always thank a member of our military whenever I encounter them, and I said, “Thank you for your service. I think you should hear that every damn day for the rest of your life, and your first beer should be free anywhere you go.” He said he really liked that idea.
So we are chatting on the way, and it turns out he is on an interesting bucket-list sojourn. He is a huge baseball fan, and has decided to spend the summer traveling the country, and he is going to see a game in every MLB stadium in America. While I am not a big baseball fan, that does sound like a really awesome thing to do. So after talking to him for a few minutes, I decided that this scruffy looking guy was actually pretty cool. He told me that he just decided one day to stop shaving and go on this adventure in baseball, and that explained his wild, unkempt beard.
So we were driving to his destination, and he used a bit of taxi driver lingo that surprised me. He asked me if I was “making a good book”. That is taxidriver speak for “are you making good money”.
I said, “Oh, you have driven a taxi before…”
He replied, Yes Sir… six years as a hack…”
I said, “The Marine Corps AND taxi driving? You must be a serious glutton for punishment… what the hell is wrong with you?”
He laughed and said, “I don’t know, man…” I asked what he thought was crazier, taxi driving or Afghanistan, and he said, “That’s a tough call… this is one fucked up way to make a living…”
I said, “Finally, someone who can relate to this job! I tell people all the time how crazy this gig is but they just don’t really get it. I was never in the military, but I would bet that one similarity between the military and driving a taxi is that you can listen to your Uncle Joe tell you stories about Vietnam, but unless you have been down in the mud and the crud and the blood, you really don’t understand…”
He laughed, and said that was a very astute observation. “And the later it gets, the more whacked out the people get.”
I replied, “You got that right… but I get crazies at all times of the day… it just blows my mind. Back when I started this job, I thought my dispatcher was intentionally steering me the freaks to see if the new guy could cut it… but then I realized that the people I pick up in front of bars are just as freaky as the people he was sending me to get. And this town isn’t some huge metropolis… I can’t imagine doing this job in Vegas or Miami or New York or LA… what kinda shit show must that be…?”
The guy is laughing, and I asked, “Where did you drive?”
He looked at me and said flatly, “New Orleans.”
I busted out laughing and said, “Dude! Holy shit! That’s like Seal Team Six taxi driving! I’m not qualified… I’m in the presence of greatness… Your stories have to blow mine away…”
He laughed, and I regret that we don’t have time for him to tell me some of his stories, as we are at his destination. He gave me twenty bucks on an eleven dollar fare, and I gave him a card for my blog and told him to post up a comment so I would know he had visited, but I haven’t seen him yet.
Dude, if you read this, post up a comment… I’d be thrilled to post some of your stories here, if you would like to write them down…