Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taxicab confessions

Time: 4:35 a.m.
Location: Taxi cab, upper Manhattan, near the George Washington Bridge.

"You like that neighborhood you live in? You like the city life?"


"I grew up there, you know. Quarter century ago. Moved out when the crime got bad. You going to stay there forever?"

"I don't know. Might move someday, who knows."

"Well, if you're looking for answers, did you know the bible is the only book that has accurately predicted every event that's happened in human history?"

And that's how the normal chit-chat between driver and passenger, the kind that's occurred countless times in any city that has adequate taxi service, turned into a literary defense of the bible and a plea for me to look at life through a different, more saved perspective. Accurately predicted every, did this mean Leviticus hinted at whether we should look for a two-bedroom apartment in the city or consider suburban options?

He talked and drove while I listened for 10 minutes. This is the first time I had this driver, though he's the second one I've had who apparently toils away late at night driving over the George Washington Bridge while waiting for the apocalypse. Must have a lot of time to think about the big issues at that time of night, the fares only coming every few hours while the doomsday dreams pop up every few minutes.

One of my other drivers entertains me with bedroom stories that would be called over the top by an editor of Penthouse Forum and now I've heard about life on the holier, more celibate side. We were close to the office and I still hadn't quite figured out how our polite but ultimately meaningless conversation about life in Inwood and Washington Heights turned into an examination of David, Solomon and Revelations. He kept talking about pestilence and earthquakes and how it's all been foretold (but did the Bible really warn about H1N1?) . I didn't agree with his conclusions, though I never had the opportunity to say that. But I admired his devotion to his studies and beliefs, no matter how much I might question his ultimate arguments.

After filling out my receipt, the kind gentleman thanked me for my time and my ear. He handed me a pamphlet that "provided some more answers" to questions I hadn't even thought to ask.

At 4:30 in the morning I'll listen to any conversation, primarily because I'm half-asleep while engaging with the driver. Again, though, as I wrote before, it's a bit disconcerting listening to someone talk about the end of the world and the apocalypse while they're in control of a vehicle traveling 60 miles an hour over a large, dirty body of water. If my guy was really eager to meet his maker and escape this land of pestilence, there wouldn't be much I could do about it if he took us into the Hudson, aside from hoping his pile of brochures and leaflets could be transformed into some type of rudimentary flotation device.

I do wonder how he would have reacted if I'd interrupted to tell him I was Jewish or a Scientologist. My guess is his lecture would have continued, with a sidebar about the dangers of worshiping Tom Cruise thrown in with the talk of locusts. It didn't really matter if he had a receptive audience, only that he had one. It's lonely on the road at 4:30 in the morning for this driver. Any listener is a good one, especially for someone who thinks the end of everything is closer than anyone thinks.

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