For a Montréal taxi run, this one was unusual in that the customer, Anastasia (aka Annie) King, had requested a round-trip. Zane, her newly minted boyfriend, would be arriving at Trudeau Airport on a late-night flight. She booked me to drive her up to meet him, then reverse course and drive the two of them back to Burlington.
Though it would be tiring, late night was the ideal time for a gig like this. The plane's 11:45 p.m. ETA would mean sparse traffic, both at the Canada-U.S. border crossing and around Montréal. Plus, it would allow me to service my local daily customers before I got out of Dodge.
On the scheduled night, I pulled to a stop in front of Annie's modest Kennedy Drive living quarters. When she walked out of her condo and approached my taxi, I thought, Wowza. This woman was exceptionally attractive; I'm speaking of the 1 percent demographic of physical beauty. Not that such triviality means anything to me, but still — wowza.
"Good to meet you, Jernigan," she said as, with my OK, she climbed into the shotgun seat.
"Good to meet you, too," I reciprocated as we shook hands.
"I must be crazy," she said, buckling up. "I've barely been on two dates with this guy, and now I'll be spending the weekend with him. But I know he's a good man, and it doesn't hurt that he's gorgeous. Oh, well — nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?"
"Absolutely," I agreed, chuckling. "What's this dude do for work?"
"He's a property developer, mostly in his hometown of Detroit. But he also has some international projects, most recently an apartment complex, I believe, in Mumbai."
"And you're a local girl, right? You grew up in Vermont?"
"Well, I grew up here, but I've been away since my teen years. I just gave up my tech job at Google, and I spent the winter on a boat in the Caribbean before renting the place in South Burlington."
"Were you working on the boat or just vacationing?"
"God, no," she replied with a laugh. "It belonged to a friend of mine. I didn't have anything to do with operating the thing. I just loved being out on the water, drifting from island to island. But I'm ready now to get back to work. At this point, I think I want to get a job at a nonprofit, right here in Vermont. I've done well in the tech world — at Google, I was director of corporate sales — but I'm over it."
Oh, my goodness, I thought. This is one of those tech-wealthy millennials I've been hearing about! I had always wanted to meet one in person, and here she was.
On the highway heading north, we continued chatting. Annie told me about her two marriages: the first, when she was quite young, to a Sephardic Jewish man whose mother ostentatiously sobbed during the wedding ceremony because her son was marrying a non-Jew; and the second to her teenage sweetheart who turned out to be controlling, if not abusive. Unsurprisingly, both marriages ended badly.
Here's the thing: I found myself unable to connect with Annie. As she discussed her failed relationships, I had a hard time grasping her meaning. I don't know if it was the generational gap or if she was intellectualizing in a way I couldn't follow. I found myself writing her off, consigning her to a box. This is a typical rich girl, I thought, probably born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth.
"So, do you have any siblings?" I asked, changing the subject.
"I have a twin sister. We're fraternal, not identical, though we could just as well be identical, we look so much alike."
"And you both grew up in Vermont?"
"Yes, but not together. My mother was 15 when she had us, and we were split up when we went into foster care. I lived in a series of homes, mostly in Franklin County."
My head did a spin like Michael Keaton's character, Beetlejuice, in that '80s comedy. Silver spoon? How wrong was I? I felt like a judgmental idiot, probably because I was being a judgmental idiot.
"Annie, I have mad respect for you," I said, my heart opening with humility. "With a rough upbringing like that, you could easily have fallen into a marginal existence, but instead it sounds like you've done great for yourself. You must have a really strong spirit."
"I guess," she said, smiling at me. "Thanks."
We talked the rest of the way to the airport about, well, everything. Since dropping my unfounded preconceptions, relating to her became natural and easy. It turned out that, among other proclivities, she was an aspiring writer and had been receiving attention and input from an iconic editor at the New Yorker magazine. She read me one of her short stories she had stored on her phone, and I thought it was excellent, if not precisely my cup of tea.
At Trudeau Airport, we checked the board in the terminal, which indicated that Zane's flight had touched down 15 minutes earlier. She took up a position at the international arrivals gate. I cautioned her that it takes some time to clear customs, so he could be 10 minutes or an hour.
"Zane's a type-A personality like me," she said, chuckling. "Knowing him, he'll be first through.
She was wrong: He was second through.
Annie stood there beaming as Zane — tall, handsome and confident-looking — strode toward her. As they embraced with some laughter and a bit of charming awkwardness, this thought came to mind: How lucky was this man to be met at the gate by this strong-willed, raven-haired beauty?
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.