The Russian Taxi Driver's Story
So anyway, I like talking to cab drivers. You can sort of feel out if a cabbie is into talking or not right away. All it takes is a 'How ya doin?' If you get a grunt or a straight out ignorement then that's that. No conversation. But if they engage at all I'm always game to see what's up with them. That's how I got this cool painting a while ago.
Anyway, last night I was in a cab and I started talking to the driver. He was a Russian dude with a fairly big accent. We chatted about the weather or whatever. This and that. General stuff. Then he asked me what I do for a living. This is always sort of a weird question for me. I told him I'm sort of a freelance animator and run a website. I didn't get into my whole story with everything but told him sometimes I do animation work for the news. This seemed to perk him up.
We're a couple minutes from my house and he looks at me in the rear view mirror and says, 'Do you write?' I'm like, 'About what?' He's like, 'Do you do alot of writing?' I'm like, 'Umm... I wouldn't say what I do is 'writing' but I write stuff and...' We pull down my street and he pulls over. He turns around and looks at me in the eye and says, 'I have a story to tell...' then he shuts off the meter and says, 'I have a story.'
I'm like, 'What?' He's like, 'Maybe you will write it.' I was like, 'Umm...' The meter was off and now we were talking on his time (and my time.) It was weird. Sort of too stranger humanly close for comfort. He told me he's been desperate to tell this story. And everyone will be interested in this story. But because he doesn't speak English well and doesn't write well he can't tell his story. He's all excited and sort of wild eyed. I ask him what the story is. He asks me if I'm willing to write the story. I'm like, 'I kind of need to know what the story is...' He nods and takes a breath.
At this point my mind was racing. I'm thinking, 'What kind of story does this cabbie have?' Maybe it's something awesome! A crazy murder mystery? Russian mafia stuff? Celebrity in his cab story? Maybe he knows secret government stuff! KGB! I imagined myself winning a Pulitzer prize!
He's like, 'Ok...' and gets ready to start in on his story. I'm hoping maybe it's gonna start in Moscow or something! He says, 'New York courts are corrupt against cab drivers. Do you know that 90% of all cases against cab drivers are guilty?! There is a conspiracy against cab drivers because we are weak! 90% convicted! It is like a dictatorship where we have no chance! This is America! We just have to pay and have no say! No rights! There is no court system in the world that has 90% conviction rate but for cab drivers it is 90%! I know this because I read this in the Wall Street Journal!!! Because we are foreign we lose our rights here! The police whether they show up for the case or not always win and...
My heart sort of sunk. I felt bad for this guy because he was so passionate about his case/cause. When he first started getting into it I sort of grabbed onto a thread of it thinking, 'ok maybe it's not a 'pulitzer' story but something maybe that could get in the NY Post or something'. But after he said the Wall Street Journal already covered it I was like... hmnm... this story is not a pulitzer at all. And now I'm just sitting in the back of an off-duty cab with a cabbie who is turning furious red as he tells me his 'story'. He's getting really worked up. Five minutes straight he's talking. I didn't know how to get out of there.
Eventually I sort of cut him off and told him I had to get going. He calmed down and was like, 'Ok ok... So you interested in writing this, yes?' I told him it's definitely a very interesting story but I don't do that kind of writing. I told him I wasn't a reporter. He seemed disappointed. Like yet someone else was shutting a door on him... but I couldn't help it. I got out of the cab and shut the door on him. (And in a way here I did go and write his story... sorta. So no guilt. Sorta.)
And as I walked toward my apartment building I stopped on the street to fake read a flyer on a telephone poll just to make sure that the cabbie had turned the corner before I headed up my front steps...
PS. Anyhoo, it seems like someone has already taken up the cause i think.