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Taxi Tales

[whitespace] By Jenn Shreve

I once had a cab driver confide in me that he kept a tape-recorder in the front seat of his cab. He'd just let it run the length of his shift. Then he'd take it home and play it back to his girlfriend. I told him he'd have a book's worth of content if he ever wished to publish the contents of those tapes, but he said he just enjoyed listening to them.

This driver's revelation reminded me that every cab driver is an accidental voyeur, forced to listen to snippets of other people's lives as he whisks them from point a to point b. I've spent many a minute in a backseat rambling on about this or that with a friend, often forgetting the driver is privy to all we say. But the best cab rides, to me, are when the driver breaks the wall of silence and voyerism, and adds his own reflections to the conversation going on in his car.

Recently I was taking a cab home with a co-worker following an office soiree. We were discussing the JonBenet Ramsay case. From the driver's seat came a voice exactly like Luca Brasi in The Godfather ("May your first child be a masculine child"): "What dey did to dat little girl is terrible. I hope dey find her." Stunned, we both looked up at the enormous driver, complete with two fist-fulls of knuckle rings. "How could anyone do dat to dat nice little girl. Dat is one sick induhvidual."

He went on to discuss, at length, the demise of little Miss Ramsay, the suspects and the various articles in Newsweek, Time and the National Enquirer. "Where you live?" he asked, after dropping off my co-worker. I told him my address, to which he responded, "Dat's a nice neighborhood."

Perhaps it was the numerous cocktails I'd consumed, or maybe his cliche of a demeanor put me at ease. I responded, "It's nice, but once I was masturbated at by this street person."

He stopped the car, flicked on the dome light and turned, giving me the full up-and-down. "Yeah, I could see dat. You're pretty good-lookin.' " Then he turned around, switched off the light and took me home.

As I paid him the fare, he handed me his card--"my personal numbah, if you wanna talk." I still have the card, but I never did call.

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From the March 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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