At least once a shift, somebody in the cab is hell-bent on pounding somebody.
“I swear to God, I’d pound him. I’d fucking pound him.”
The customer sitting next to me was livid, in the grip of red-hot anger. At least once a shift, somebody in the cab is hell-bent on pounding somebody. This is usually not a problem so long as the designated poundee is not actually present in the vehicle with the would-be pounder.
“How can a person steal a jacket from a bar?” my seatmate continued. His rant was directed mostly to his compadre in the back seat. “What a fucking worm. So much for Burlington, Dan.”
“Somebody stole your coat from What Ales You?” I asked.
From the rear, Dan interjected, “Not his coat — mine.”
“Your coat? So, how come you’re so chill about it and he’s ready to kill?”
“I guess you got to ask that to Larry,” Dan replied with a chuckle.
I glanced over to see a half-smile come upon Larry’s face, signaling the worst was over. “Larry,” I said, “you got to let it go, brother. You gots to let it go.”
“Do you mind if I light up a cigarette?” he asked.
I replied, “If I say ‘no,’ I’m afraid you’re gonna pound me.”
All three of us laughed, dissipating the last of Larry’s ire. When I dropped them at McKee’s on the Winooski roundabout, all was good, and I gave Larry my card in case they needed another ride.
Back in downtown Burlington 20 minutes later, I took a phone call. “Hey, this is Larry, the guy you just dropped in Winooski.” The man sounded agitated again. “I think I left my glasses in your cab. Could you check? They’re new prescription glasses.”
“Sure,” I said, and switched on the dome light, leaned over and carefully checked on, around and under the shotgun seat. “Sorry, Larry,” I said. “I checked and I don’t see ’em.”
“Could you come back to McKee’s so I could check myself?”
“I can, but I’ll have to charge you, and I don’t want to waste your money.”
“Don’t worry about that. Just come.”
Larry was waiting at the curb when I pulled in front of the bar. He opened the passenger door and spent a good three minutes fruitlessly scouring the front and back seats. Finally he said, “Can I give you my number? I live in Schenectady and I’m going back tomorrow. You can call me if they turn up.”
“Sure, man. No problem,” I assented, thinking, Let it go, Larry. The glasses are as gone as the jacket.
The remainder of the night went smoothly — no further pounders or poundees. We’re beginning to emerge from the long winter; people’s spirits were high. My last fare wanted to get to Colchester Point, but he asked me to go via North Avenue.
I said, “The connector’ll be faster, you know.”
“I need to stop at the ATM in the shopping center.”
Why not a downtown ATM while we’re here? I thought, but I let it go — practicing what I preach for a change.
When we pulled out of the bank and back onto North Avenue, there was a car in front of us going 22 miles per hour. It was three in the morning. “Could they go any slower?” I asked rhetorically, to no one in particular.
When we reached Plattsburgh Avenue, they took the right. Great. We continued to follow behind as the car maintained a galling pace between 20 and 23 mph. Sure enough, when we reached the light at the intersection with Porters Point Road — the road that also gets you to Colchester Point — great God, they took the left onto Porters Point. I was about to blow the proverbial gasket when James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You)” came on the radio.
“Dude — I love this song,” said my customer. “I know just who he’s singing about, too, ’cause I got the same girl in my life.” He began to sing along with James: “I needed the shelter of someone’s arms, and there you were. I needed someone to understand my ups and downs, and there you were.”
The guy’s voice was wonderful, so sweet and soulful that I found myself letting go of my frustration with the slowpoke in front of us. “You are great, man,” I said. “I mean, with pipes like that, you should really sing in a band.”
My customer smiled. “I do sing in a band,” he said. “I’ve been singing pretty much my whole life.”
Late the following morning, just a couple minutes after I turned on my phone for the day, Larry called again. “Any sighting of my glasses?” he asked, slightly delusional, it seemed to me, in his optimism.
“Sorry, man,” I replied. “They haven’t turned up. Have you tried What Ales You, or the police station, for that matter?”
“Yeah, I have. I can’t believe it. I was so sure I left them in your cab. They were, like, expensive glasses.”
Later that afternoon, I bought a slice of pizza and scarfed it down unceremoniously. Apparently it was a little too spicy for my blood, because I found myself reaching down for the small container of Rolaids I keep in the open compartment of the console that divides the seats. Lodged in a slim gap between the console and the passenger seat was a folded pair of prescription glasses. The frames were smoky gray, as are the seats and the console, which is why neither Larry nor I was able to pick them out the night before. I immediately got on the horn to Larry.
“What’s up?” he whispered. “I’m at a meeting, but I stepped out to take your call.”
“Guess what? I found your specs! They were wedged between the center console and your seat.”
“Oh, that is awesome! Do they say ‘DKNY’ in small letters on the frame?”
I checked. “They most certainly do,” I said. “Give me your address in Schenectady and I’ll mail ’em out to you. By the way, I never lost faith. It’s not like I thought you were drunk and a little OCD or anything.”
Larry chuckled. “Oh, yeah,” he said, “I’m sure you didn’t.”
?“Hackie” is a biweekly column. To reach Jernigan Pontiac, email email@example.com.