Saturday, July 26, 2008
Place: Atlanta, GA
I made an appointment to have a taxi pick me up from my house and take me to the airport. Atlanta is a city that prefers to drive rather than take mass transit, and as a result, the quality of taxi service is sporadic. Most taxi drivers are like the horses at a horseback riding stable. They’re used to taking the same route over and over. Any deviation is resisted. In Atlanta that means most taxis go from the airport to the downtown hotels and back again and nowhere else. I worried that the taxi driver would never find my house.
In fact, a few years ago, my wife ordered a taxi and the driver called from the front of our house and said he couldn’t find our street. My wife told him where he was and he refused to believe her.
“You are parked by our mailbox, which by the way, has our name on it. Can’t you see me waving at you from the front porch?” my wife said on the phone.
“I’m nowhere near your house,” the cab driver said. “I’m telling you I can’t find your street anywhere.”
I was pleasantly surprised when my taxi not only showed up, but arrived an hour early. The driver looked to be in his 60s. He was a white guy with a sparse beard, a raspy voice, and the worst cough I’ve ever heard. I honestly thought he was going to keel over dead any minute. I think he said his name was Corey, but he was very hard to understand.
Once we got my suitcase in the trunk and got going, Corey started talking and didn’t hardly let up the whole trip. I learned that the reason he arrived early was because the fare before me cancelled at the last minute. Corey was royally pissed about it too.
“I was supposed to pick up this woman that lives in Dunwoody,” Corey said. “I get to her house and ask where she wants to go. She says to me, ‘I refuse to ride with a driver that don’t speak English.’ I said, ‘Lady, what the hell do you think I’m talking right now?’”
Corey repeated this story three times before I understood what he was saying. Between his cough ravaged voice and an accent from God knows where, he might as well have been speaking another language. Perhaps one from another planet.
There was nothing exotic about Corey. He wasn't from another country. His accent might have been from the South, or not. He spoke American English, but in a way that was damn near impossible to follow.
After Corey shared some rather indecent opinions about gay men, and how much he hated that they made up most of his fares, I asked Corey what was the shortest route to take to the airport.
“I don’t want to kiss you,” Corey said, “so I won’t fuck you.”
“I appreciate that,” I said.
As it turned out, Corey knew a route that was much easier and quicker than the way I had been driving to the airport. In fact, I still use his route to get to the airport from my house. But I digress. Back to the cab ride…
Corey is driving. I’m sitting in the back seat. It’s a lovely morning. Corey coughs, then looks at me in the rear view mirror.
“You know what?” he said. “You and I are on crack?”
“Excuse me?” I said.
“You..and..me,” Corey said, pointing first to me and then to himself. “We..are..on…crack.”
“No,” I said. “I don’t do crack.”
I wondered if maybe he was on crack right then, which might explain the cough.
“You’re sitting down, aren’t you?” Corey said.
“Sitting down?” I asked.
“We’re both sitting down,” Corey said. “So we’re both on crack.”
Oh of course. We were both sitting on our butt cracks, thus Corey and I were on crack. Not quite a knee slapper, but clever all the same.
“Did you go to college?” Corey asked.
“Yes, I did,” I said.
“I thought so,” he said.
Oh of course. Corey was implying that I was too overeducated to understand a salt of the earth, blue collar joke. Actually, I was too used to people speaking English coherently.
“Tell your wife that joke,” Corey said. “She’ll get it.”
I did tell my wife that joke. She didn’t get it.