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I was 22 when I took my first solo cab ride. I was 22 and a half when I hailed my first taxi. I was 23 when I was first certain I was being ripped off by a driver. ($25 to get from Park Slope to Bushwick? Really?)

There are no taxis where I come from. There are trucks. And 8-wheeled trailers. And four-wheeler ATVs. Growing up, the closest I came to a yellow cab was sitting in a bucket seat surrounded by peeling buttercup paint on my father’s farm-use vehicle. In a small town with no public transportation (aside from school buses), there was no need for taxis. Everyone had their own wheels. And you better believe tractors count.

After I left the county with no stoplights, I moved to Washington D.C. Then Chicago. Then New York City. As I gradually increased the size of the population around me, I also increased the frequency with which I take taxis.

I like cabs. They generally make me carsick, but I find that they’re a great place to have… moments.

One of my favorite rituals was taking a taxi from Midway airport up Lake Shore Drive and to Lincoln Park, where I lived in Chicago. My apartment was about three blocks from the water, so most of the trip was spent with glorious high rises on my left and steely Lake Michigan on my right. I usually flew back in the evening, so all the buildings were lit, and most of them were close to the road. I loved feeling the dark, moving expanse of the lake on one side and catching glimpses of fancy art and track lighting on the other.

It was on that same Lake Shore Drive that I was once taking a cab with three visiting friends. It was a frigid — and I mean bone-freezing — January day and we were off to meet other friends at the Shedd Aquarium. We’d taken the bus downtown, but due to my er, miscalculations, we overshot Shedd and couldn’t bear to stand outside waiting for a bus in the opposite direction. After an icy ten minutes, once our arms were frozen in an upright position, a cab finally stopped and we clambered in, all yodeling for the driver to turn up the heat. It couldn’t have been ten minutes later that we merged onto Lake Shore Drive and blew a tire. The driver pulled over. Philip, one of my friends, gallantly offered to help repair the tire. Rachael, Jen and I stayed in the car. Philip and the driver soon gave up and we were told to get out and find another vehicle. Chivalrous (and shiver-rous) Phil stood on the narrow strip of snow beside a streaming highway for almost 20 minutes trying to get an empty cab to stop on the side. Finally he did. Memories.

I’ve been in cabs that hit other cars. I’ve been in ones that came so close to crashing that one of my impeccably mannered New England WASP friends, who never says anything more offensive than “oh, shoot” exclaimed “Jesus Christ! Are you a maniac?!”

I was in a cab, coming home from a bar with a friend I was preeeetty sure was intrigued when I invited him back to my apartment. “Two stops,” was his only response.

A taxi was taking me to a cocktail party (I was wearing impossibly high heels, poorly suited to subway surfing) when I found out one of my best friends was engaged.

As I get older and spend more time in transport in taxis, I can’t help but feel a fondness for them. They’ve been around for some of my finest moments.

1 Comment

  • Briggsie

    January 24, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    The Cheetah, your father’s Farm-Use Vehicle, is not buttercup yellow and has a bench seat, not buckets. When I read this piece to The Cheetah, he/she roared indignantly and drove off to nurse his/her sorrows in the closest mud hole.
    For the record, The Cheetah is big-cat yellow and one dare not mess with his/hers fanginess.

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