Take A Chance On Me

I am convinced that train schedules are developed by meteorologists seeking a change in career. At best, times are approximate. At worst, pure guess work.

“Maybe the train will run on time. Maybe it will be there to pick up passengers at the given time. Who knows? Maybe the train will leave a few minutes early…you know, to beat the rush. You’re inconvenienced? Not our problem. Back to you, Rick!”

Upon arrival, I have exactly enough time to walk from the train station to work. Assuming the train arrives on time. If I walk at an alarming pace, I can recover 2-3 minutes. Anything beyond that and I will be late. Some days, I just arrive late. Only a couple minutes. Some days, I take a taxi.

For me, taxi drivers provide endless entertainment. I find that most drivers are typically in one of two groups.

The Conscientious Cabbie

In an endless attempt to offend the least number of riders, The Conscientious Cabbie puts on NPR at a reasonable volume. He drives at 10 & 2. He calls you “Boss” or “Big Guy”. He takes an interest in the local sports team and supports the same political party as you.

The Long Distance Caller

Believing passengers to be a serious inconvenience, The Long Distance Caller’s numbered Prius is nothing more than a warm location to hold lengthy conversations in his native tongue. His frustration at having you interrupt his call with trivial matters such as payment is abundantly clear. He won’t greet you, he becomes volatile if you don’t pay cash, but he cannot break a 20.

He plays no music. It interferes with his yelling. And he is always yelling. The entirety of his call, which is always over 10 hours in length regardless of time of day. The Long Distance Caller dismisses you the same way he welcomes you, without a word. And when you exit, passersby pity you because they think the angry driver was yelling at you.

And maybe he was. It’s difficult to tell.

On occasion, your driver won’t fit into either of the two standard groups. He might listen to loud hip-hop. Or refuse to unlock the door or turn off the meter until you acknowledge the fact that the heightened production value of BBC America shows seriously detracts from the characteristic British charm. And you have to threaten to yell “fire” before he’ll let you swipe your card.

Or he’ll announce each street in a loud voice like a cheeky, TV butler announcing guests.

But if fate smiles upon you, your driver will be The Super Trouper.

No better driver exists, anywhere in the known universe. Not much is known about the Super Trouper. I presume from his Driver ID that he is Middle Eastern. I presume from his beaded seat cover that he prefers comfort to style. I presume from his continuous playing of ABBA Gold, that he has great taste in music. And it never changes. For the Super Trouper, only Benny and Bjorn will do.

The Super Trouper rolls down his window and lets his long black beard and silky rendition of Fernando flow in the wind. And he can’t be stopped. Even at red lights. The Super Trouper locks eyes with the other drivers and makes them believe that they are, each of them, Dancing Queens.

Hoping that each fare is a fan of the Swedish Hit Machine, he pulls into Milennium Station and waits. And when I enter his pristine SUV, he nods knowingly and turns up his radio. For the 5-7 minute cab ride from the station to my building, we make beautiful music together. His favorite is Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! His rich, booming tremolo cuts through the morning mist as he demands a man after midnight.

My favorite is Waterloo. Really gets my blood flowing before 7:00 am.

But there is nothing more beautiful than the phlegmy pre-dawn tenor of a 30 year old American male and the heavily accented baritone of a workaholic 50 year old cab driver in perfect harmony singing Chiquitita amidst the congested rush hour of the Windy City.

Nothing.

I am proud to say the Super Trouper took a chance on me. And when we arrive at my destination, he turns off the meter. And before he collects my money, (money, money) we finish the song together and enjoy a brief moment of reflection. We smile as I exit.

And the Super Trouper keeps on singing, his soul very much alive.

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