The weeks encompassing the Vermont foliage season are among the busiest (read: lucrative) of the year for us B-town cabbies. Everything is happening: students partying; tourists peeping; weddings; college homecomings; business conferences; Flynn and Memorial concerts - it's a friggin' bonanza.
This past weekend I was miserable with a head cold. Like sick people everywhere, I would like nothing better than to regale you with the rundown of my symptoms in icky detail. But as I am feeling better as I write this today, I shall be merciful and simply mention that it involved all the usual suspects - the sinuses, the throat, the glands - all behaving badly. On another, less busy weekend, I might have packed it in, but I was determined to get my share of the foliage dollar. ("The foliage dollar" - doesn't that just sap the romance out of the season?)
So, work I did - late into the night on Friday and one more time on Saturday. Yes, the fares were plentiful and the money much-needed. But as the bars closed on Saturday night - which, calling a spade a spade, is really Sunday morning - I was a wreck.
When your body is telling you, close it down, buddy, and get under the blankets with a hot toddy, and with your mind you respond, screw that, full speed ahead - this attitude takes a toll. As the ancient Chinese sages have told us, mind and body are not two. When we live as if they are, bad things ensue.
I dropped my last fare sometime after 3 a.m., and almost began to weep with relief. As I approached the homestead, my cellular rang. A regular customer, Charlie, along with his girlfriend and another friend, needed a ride to Cumberland Farms and to the friend's house. Just great.
I rounded up the threesome and, on the way to Cumby's, a fleet taxi was ahead of me on Pine Street going about 30 m.p.h. And that was what pushed me over the edge.
"How the fuck does this mother-fucker call himself a cabdriver?" I asked, rhetorically, I guess, to my captive audience in the cab. "Could he go a little slower? I mean, couldn't he drive, like, 20 m.p.h.?"
"Uh, Jernigan," Charlie gingerly spoke up from the shotgun seat. "Isn't the speed limit 30 on Pine?"
"Yeah, Charlie - the speed limit is 30 on Pine Street. But who the hell goes 30 at 3 in the morning? Especially a fuckin' cab. Do you get my point?"
"I get your point, man."
Charlie looked over his shoulder making eye contact with the women. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, Oh yeah, this is that cool cabdriver I've been telling you about.
I managed to stifle myself for the rest of my time with these folks. I hadn't entirely lost it; I retained enough self-awareness to know I was inappropriately taking out my misery on three entirely innocent people.
When we finally arrived at the friend's house, Charlie paid the fare, sighed a little, and said, "It's been real."
I said, "It's been realer than real."
Charlie bent down through his open front door, put a gentle hand on my shoulder and said, "Jernigan, I don't think that's exactly possible."