Perhaps the greatest perk of my job is the opportunity to readily interact with strangers. Also, I get to observe our fair city from every conceivable angle afforded to a gravity-obeying mammal. Most times, it beats the hell out of the cubicle I sat in before I became a taxi driver. And sometimes, through the circumstances of my job, I’m graced with unique moments of magnificent transcendence.So I had just dropped off some relatively affable businesspeople at the airport and I called the dispatcher to let him know that I was empty. He told me that there was a fare at the La Quinta Inn at The International Center (that’s the tight grouping of motels, hotels and businesses just west of the airport). I turned west just as the sun came out of the clouds and was about to set. Seeing as how it had rained for three or four days straight, I should’ve been stoked to even see the sun, but given the fact that it was screaming straight into my eyes, I cursed it and pulled on my made-for-women sunglasses.
As I slowed the car up to the front of the motel, there was a girl curbside wearing a form-fitting black dress and red boots. Generally, when a pretty girl is about to get into my cab, garden-variety nervousness (gulp) renders me a tad skittish and I have to concentrate on keeping cool. However, for whatever reason, I felt remarkably calm.
“Mind if I sit up front?” asked the pretty girl as she opened the passenger door.
Scooting over my backpack and books to make room for her, I said, “Nah, it’s cool.”
She smelled like a cinnamon roll somehow and there was a huge bruise on her left knee.
“Where do you need to go?”
“The avenues, about 4th and D.” And so we went.
Over the chatter of NPR, and after I had posited the usual “How’s it going?” query, she informed me that she had just made 800 dollars off of some rich asshole and that she was, rightfully so, taking the rest of the night off. A working girl. That’s been another perk of my year of cab driving, meeting escorts and hearing their very un-boring stories. And they’ve always tipped very, very well.
“Can we listen to something else? I need music.”
I conceded and began flipping through the channels on the low-budget AM/FM radio. On one channel (I ain’t gonna give a plug for it, fuck corporate radio), I instantly recognized the drum/guitar buildup at the start of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. I paused and hoped that she would want me to stop.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stop. I love this song,” she said.
“Me, too,” said I and turned it up as we accelerated up the freeway ramp … and then …
“HOLY SHIT!!!” she screamed in a wholly gleeful, eruptive manner.
Yes, holy shit indeed. The sunset behind us was bouncing impossible pastel brilliance off of the glass on the buildings downtown in front of us. The mountains were black-eye blue under the purple and grey cloud cover, capped and dusted with the dirty-cocaine whiteness of six months of snow. There was a perfect rainbow spanning regally from Murray to Bountiful like a homosexual smile upside down. And there were whispers of misty rainfall oozing out of the canyons. It was more than enough to make a postcard jealous. It was unspeakably devastating. It was hard for me to breathe. I noticed pretty girl’s fist clench and her body melted into the seat like she had just been sucker-punched. And then the chorus hit (… Love, love will tear us apart again …). I understandably forgot that I was driving (70 mph at that) as I shivered and sizzled and didn’t dare budge. And then, completely involuntarily, I began to cry, not teenage girl sobbing, but more subdued. It’s just that I hadn’t seen anything that beautiful in months, and coupled with the melancholy of Joy Division … well, damn. Neither of us spoke a word as we sped along. It made me want to indulge in all the happy clich’s to explode, to change the world, to be a better person, to call everybody I know and tell them that I love them, that everything’s going to be OK, enormous. All of it. And I did everything I could to burn it into my brain forever.
The perfect eyeful lasted about as long as the song and we finally came to a stop at the light at 300 West and 600 South as we got off the freeway. I turned down the volume as the insipid DJ came on to announce the next song. I looked over at pretty girl and she had, amazingly, been crying, too. I suddenly felt awkward as hell. I tried to think of something to say and then realized my sunglasses were hiding my damp eyes. Cool. Maybe she hadn’t noticed. I half-smiled and merely asked if everything was OK. She, of course, said that everything was fine. And that was that. -The Incredulous Gadianton.