"I knew they'd rescind the ban eventually," Franny said. "Jeezum, it's not like I shot somebody."
My customer was sitting next to me as I drove her back downtown from a friend's house in Williston, me perched in my "captain's seat." I've had taxicabs with a front bench seat, but I much prefer the clear boundary provided by a captain's seat. After all, am I not the captain of my cab?
"How long has it been?" I asked.
"Four frickin' years! Do you believe it? All for flashing my boobs at their customers. Hell, the guys loved it. Some of the women, too."
Though I'd not had the pleasure, I didn't doubt her one bit. Franny was a looker. In her early forties, she was now a little long in the tooth for the boob-flashing routine, but that's just as well. I'm not a prude, but public exhibitionism can't be a healthy behavior at any age. Thus spoke the captain.
"Where ya working these days, Franny?" I asked.
"I'm between jobs. Somebody stole my purse, which had my Social Security card, ID and my birth certificate. So I had to contact my old hometown city hall to apply for a new birth certificate, which is this whole rigmarole. Anyway, until I receive it and get a new ID, I can't apply for work."
That sounds about right, I thought as we turned onto Industrial Avenue. Nothing was easy or simple for this woman; she was like a canoeist perpetually consigned to white water, one wrong paddle away from crashing on the rocks.
Franny pointed out a small house on Williston Road. "That's where my son lives with his wife and infant daughter. The poor guy works two jobs, day and night. And my daughter-in-law is so frickin' bossy with him, constantly ordering him around. Of course, I can't say a word about it or she'll ban me from seeing my granddaughter."
"No, you're right about that," I agreed, while thinking, I've never met another person so consumed with the issue of banning. "For sure, you got to keep your nose out of their marriage and concentrate on being a good grandmother," I added by way of suggestion. (I may not be an actual psychologist, but I play one in the taxi.)
Thinking of my satellite radio's endless music choices, I asked Franny for her favorite genre.
"Oh, anything heavy metal. Maybe the hair bands or something like that."
"Coming right up," I said, clicking through the channels. "How about this — Ozzy's Boneyard?"
"Sounds like just what the doctor ordered," she replied, chuckling. "Crank that mother up!"
Over the dulcet stylings of Ozzy Osborne, I asked Franny about her last job. "I seem to remember you were a cashier or something?"
"Don't get me started," she said, clearly started. "I was working at this convenience store in Milton. Every night this 75-year-old guy, Jack, would come in to buy beer, and we got to talking. Turns out, he's a retired podiatrist. That's the foot doctor, right? Anyway, we began to get together for coffee during the day. He seemed kind of lonely, and I appreciated his company because he would, like, help me with my sobriety."
"I can guess where this is going," I interjected.
"Well, just wait for it. One night, while he was in the store getting his beer and hanging out with me, an old drinking buddy came in and I flashed him — you know, for old time's sake. So, this must have awakened something in Jack's libido, if that's the right word, because every time I see him after this, he wants to talk about my boobs. So, this guy who I considered a friend and confidante turned out to be just another dirty dog."
"Oh, that's too bad, Franny. So, you stopped socializing with him?"
"No, I still see him now and then. But I'll tell you this. I'm not one for, like, taking advantage of another person, but if he's so hot to see my body, he's gonna have to pay for it."
I considered Franny's situation. On one level, what she said made sense — a simple case of quid pro quo. On the other hand, a different word for the exchange she was contemplating might be "hooking."
I harbored no moral judgment about this. For reals — who am I to judge? What did concern me was the impact on Franny's spirit. I cared about this feisty, troubled, sparkly eyed woman. In my view, trading her body for money demeans and dishonors that spirit, dulling its incandescence. And that's really what it was about for me: I just like to see Franny's light shine.
We arrived downtown and I pulled up to Franny's favorite watering hole, her drinking privileges newly reinstated. "Gosh, I've missed this place," she said. "The old crowd is still hanging out."
"I'll tell ya what," I offered as she paid the fare. "If you find yourself feeling frisky, maybe just blow kisses at the boys."
"I'll try to remember that, Jernigan," she said with a laugh. "But I'm not making any promises."
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.