The Column About the Cab

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I’m trying to catch a cab. They whiz by me by the dozens, but none stop. It has nothing to do with my appearance, unless being non-ugly is a liability in New York City (which it might be). It’s because they already have passengers. Is it possible that a city that seems to have 2 million taxis actually doesn’t have enough?

It’s 10:30 p.m. — the time when shows are getting over and people are scattering throughout the city to do those “only in New York” things like eating at Sardi’s, strolling through Central Park, or shooting someone in the head. If I were a cab, there would be plenty of me to go around right now. In fact, even as a person, there’s plenty of me to go around right now. That’s what comes from eating out all the time and then only walking as far as the nearest taxi.

So I’m a little bothered, walking what will be 30 city blocks if I don’t find a cab first. I’m in a bit of a foul mood anyway, because the Off-Broadway show I just saw, “The Play About the Baby,” was an unpleasant experience. It’s one of those plays that doesn’t make any sense, and therefore you’re supposed to think it’s brilliant. Why? Because it’s written by Edward Albee, who you’ve been told is a great playwright, and based on his name recognition, he can get away with babbling madly for two hours and leaving it to everyone else to figure out what, if anything, the hell he’s talking about.

This is unfair. If I came to your house and started ranting like a madman, you wouldn’t say, “This is ridiculous and annoying, but hey, it’s Eric D. Snider, so if I’m not getting it, it must be my own fault.” No, you would call the police, and rightly so, as I’m sure to steal something if you let me in.

I have no problem with thought-provoking shows that are different from the norm. In fact, they are a welcome relief, coming as I do from a state where people consider themselves major supporters of the arts just because they watch “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” six times a year. But if “different from the norm” just means “senseless,” then it’s no better than sitting through “Forever Plaid” for the 800th time. Give me “the norm” over “naked people discussing relativism” any day.

So. How about that cab…? It’s a nice night, fortunately. The weather’s been nice the whole time I’ve been here, in fact — which, I hasten to point out in case the Fates are listening, does NOT mean I want to walk all the way back to the hotel. It rained a few days ago, just long enough for me to buy an umbrella on the street for $15, at which point it stopped raining. The umbrellas are sold by guys who normally sell watches. When the rain starts, the table of watches sinks into the sidewalk, and a new table with umbrellas rises up in its place, the way mad scientists’ secret inventions emerge from the floor when they pull a hidden lever. The umbrella I bought has Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” on it. Fifteen dollars might be a lot for an umbrella, but it’s a pretty good deal for a work of art like that.

Anyway, it seems odd that I’d be so eager to get a cab when riding in one is such a dangerous experience. Much has been said about cab drivers by far better writers than I — people like Dave Barry and Carrot Top — but I will say that I am very, very impressed with these drivers. Why don’t they get in more accidents? I know taxis do wreck now and then, but the way these guys drive, they should be ricocheting off each other like billiard balls. In fact, with traffic and crime the way they are in Manhattan, I’m surprised every New Yorker isn’t killed every single day. It’s amazing anyone continues to live.

Ah! Here is a taxi, and not a moment too soon. The driver’s name is heavy on consonants and light on vowels, so I know he’ll be a good one. I don’t really understand what he’s saying to me, but that’s probably my own fault. I’m sure it’s brilliant, whatever it is.

As I was walking and trying to catch a cab at the same time, I thought, "This seems like a column." Ironically, the things about it that seemed funny wound up not being in the column because they weren't funny after all, dealing as they did with minute details of walking the streets of New York. It was all "you had to be there" kind of stuff. So the column went the direction(s) seen here.

Note the sideways slam against Utah culture in the fifth paragraph. For many years, "Joseph" was by far the most popular show for community theaters to perform. I reviewed it something like 12 times over the course of five years. ("Forever Plaid" was a close runner-up for over-done shows.)

And the "Starry Night" umbrella! I loved that thing! It provided me with 5 1/2 years of good service until Dec. 14, 2006, when, after a screening of "Dreamgirls," I foolishly left it in the movie theater. When I returned the next day to retrieve it, there was no sign of it. (No one in Portland ever actually buys an umbrella; they just take turns stealing them from each other.) I miss it to this day.

(Actually, someone gave me a very stylish black umbrella once as a gift, probably in about 2002, and I used it for a while before losing it and going back to the Van Gogh. Come to think of it, I lost the black one in a movie theater, too. Hmm.)

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