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Hackie: Goodbye, B-Town

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"Hey, Jernigan — how are you tonight?"

It was Roseanna Kinnear on the line. Even absent my cellphone's caller ID, her voice was immediately familiar to me.

"Good as gold, Roseanna. How you doing, dear?"

For 20 years, I've been the designated cabdriver for Roseanna and her husband, James. And they go out a lot. To employ a betting term, I'd say the "over and under" on how many times I've transported this couple is 500.

"Oh, I'm just fine," she replied. "You busy tonight? James and I are at ArtsRiot."

"ArtsRiot?" I repeated with a laugh. "My, my — aren't you two the hipsters? I am impressed. I'll meet you in the parking lot in 10 minutes."

When I arrived at the club, Roseanna and James were waiting outside for me, along with a young man, maybe 30, with dark hair and a trim beard.

I pushed the dashboard button that magically (all technology is essentially magic to me) slides open the side door — a feature my customers often seem to appreciate to a degree vastly out of proportion with the minor convenience it provides. My guess is it feels very Starship Enterprise-y. James, as was his habit, took the shotgun seat, while his wife and their friend climbed into the rear.

"So, Jernigan," James said by way of introduction, "this is our friend, Daniel. Daniel, Jernigan."

I reached back and shook hands with the smiling young man.

"We'll drop Daniel off at Manhattan Pizza on the way to our place, if that's OK with you. And we'll pick up the extra fare."

"Aw, James — that's so kind of you," Daniel said. "I appreciate you guys."

Now on my 501st trip with this twosome, I was familiar with their generosity. James and Roseanna were outgoing, gregarious people who avidly connect with friends and strangers alike, without regard to ethnicity, social class or age. That they counted as a friend this man perhaps half their age was unremarkable for this remarkable couple.

When we pulled up to Manhattan Pizza, James said, "We gave Daniel your phone number, so he'll be calling you for a ride home later." Daniel hugged Roseanna and kissed her warmly on the cheek before exiting the cab. Through James' open window, the two men executed a fingers-up soul handshake, starting with two hands but quickly engaging all four — a sure demonstration of manly affection.

We drove up North Avenue to the Kinnears' home in the Lakewood Parkway development. In their driveway, James passed me his credit card, saying, "Make sure to include enough to cover Daniel's fare home later tonight."

"Jeez, James," I said, "you are the man. You know that?"

A couple hours later, Daniel called me from Manhattan Pizza for his ride home. I told him to meet me in 10 minutes under the Flynn Center marquee, an easier pick-up point and one that would offer shelter from the evening rain shower that was kicking up.

In front of the Flynn, Daniel climbed in beside me and gave me his address — on Woodbury Road in the New North End, like the Kinnears'. As we got under way, he said, "So, you've been driving James and Roseanna for many years, I guess. They are just flat-out good people, aren't they?"

"The best," I agreed.

"I became friends with them when I arrived here from Quincy a few years ago. I'm only 33, but I enjoy the company of older folks. I've been that way since I was a kid. Somebody once told me I'm an old soul, or something like that. Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era. It extends to, like, everything. I like working on old cars and motorcycles, and my musical sweet spot is classic rock."

I chuckled, saying, "I've heard similar sentiments from other young people. I'm sure you would have made a stellar baby boomer. So, I take it you're happy about your relocation from Massachusetts?"

"I have enjoyed living in Vermont, but I'm moving back down to Mass next week. I work in product design, and I landed a great job in Arlington with Puma — you know, the sneaker company."

"Wow, that does sound like a terrific opportunity."

"The thing is, I'll also be able to help take care of my 92-year-old grandfather who lives there. He's recently undergone some cancer treatments, but he seems to be doing well."

"Does he still have, like, most of his marbles?"

"Oh, man — he's sharp as a tack. The last time I was down there, we split a fifth of Jameson. The old dude can still drink me under the table."

We made it to Daniel's apartment, and he reached for his wallet, a moment I had been looking forward to. "Hey, put that thing away," I mock-admonished him. I enjoyed his look of confusion for a few beats before explaining, "Actually, James and Roseanna picked up this fare."

"Wait — I knew they paid for my ride to Manhattan Pizza. Are you telling me they paid for this ride, as well?"

"That's right, brother. With a good tip, too. So, you don't owe a thing."

Daniel could only shake his head, and I watched his eyes get a little misty. "That is too freaking much," he said. "I am really going to miss Burlington."

All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.

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