This is a Valentine’s story if there ever was one.
Everything surreal happens to me in taxis. My driver today was cast in the true Taxi Driver mold of De Niro—bald head, mad twinkle in the eye, and a scowl that won’t quit. Being a cautious gal, I took pains to enunciate my destination clearly and made sure I had the exact change in advance. I sure didn’t want to argue with this sort of guy.
And boy, was he a gruff one. A red light at the intersection caught us and the pickup truck in front, and we had to wait it out. He grumbled that the pickup driver wasn’t fast enough; we could have gotten through if he just floored it a little. Prudently, I kept my opinions to the contrary to myself.
Just as we turned into the next lane, taxi driver’s cell phone rings. He grunts and the scowl deepens a few more centimeters. Roughly transcribed, the one-sided conversation I eavesdropped on went like so:
“What, what do you want?” Pause.
“Uhuh uhuh. I have a passenger.” Pause.
“I tell you, I’m on the road.” Exasperated pause.
“Yes, I will be home later.” Aha.
(Stage whisper) “I can’t, I tell you I have a passenger.” I smile now.
“Yes. I know. Me too. Later.” Oh bigger smile.
“Later, later later. Later OK.” By this time, I make no effort to hide my grin.
It amuses me no end to see a grown man, bald as a bowling ball and tough as a carburetor squirm with what looks to be embarrassment.
He lets the car roll to a gentle stop at the curb. I hand him the exact change I had prepared and say loudly, “Happy Valentine’s, manong!”
He had the grace to look sheepish, but he gave me a great big smile.