A Man Gets Into a Cab at the Airport
A man gets into a cab at the airport.
The man -- Adam McArthur -- had a baby face, but the bluish shadows under his eyes and the heavy creases of his brows made him appear much older. He wore a smart camel overcoat, navy suit, dark skinny tie, and black boots. The cab driver's -- Donnie Howard -- eye caught the gleam of an enormous gold watch as Adam slid into the backseat and placed his duffle bag onto the floor. 'Rich guy, huh?' Donnie thought as he absentmindedly traced the face of his own beat-up old Timex.
"Where to?" Donnie looked into his rearview window, but Adam's eyes were locked onto the screen of his smartphone. Taxis next in the pick-up line honked impatiently while a traffic monitor ushered him forward. Donnie rolled his eyes and asked a bit louder, "Hey, buddy, where to?"
Adam finally found what he was looking for and pressed his phone against the plexiglass partition. "Do you know where this is?"
Donnie squinted his eyes to focus on the tiny print of the address. 'Howe Street?' He knew the whereabouts. "Sure, I can get you there." Donnie pulled away from the curb and followed the familiar directions to the freeway.
In the backseat, Adam gazed out the window, his eyes scanning the buildings and new developments. "Wow, this place has changed," he said in a small voice.
"Yeah, lots of changes all over town. You from here?" Donnie asked.
"Born and raised."
"No kidding? Me, too. At least you got out," Donnie laughed.
Adam's face flushed slightly. "Yeah, I guess you could say so."
A strained silence spiraled uncomfortably in the cab until Donnie couldn't stand it any longer. "So...you here for the holidays?"
'Whatever,' Donnie thought after failing to get a response and turned the volume up on the radio to fill the void.
Donnie periodically shifted his gaze to the backseat, but Adam continued to stare out the window. 'What, too good to talk to an old cabbie?' Donnie thought bitterly. Adam was the third business-type passenger to ride in Donnie's cab that day, and the two before him had hardly spoken a word to him. 'Whatever happened to the human connection? Especially around the holidays, for Chrissake!'
Donnie was what his grandkids would call an "old-fashioned man." His children had tried to give him an iPhone for his birthday, but he took it back to the store because it was "too complicated" for the old timer. Now, his contracting company had installed new fandangled GPS units into all the cabs and encouraged drivers to use those instead of radioing into the office for directions. Donnie's rheumatic fingers struggled with the buttons on his GPS unit, but his boss insisted they were "the future" and something about keeping up with "those Ubers."
"Hey, buddy, we're getting close. What was that address again on Howe?"
"Fifty-four ninety-two, Howe Street."
Donnie clumsily punched the numbers into the keypad and eyed the screen while it buffered. "In eight hundred feet, turn left onto Hightower Road," a gentle yet cold female voice informed him.
"It's crazy what these little machines can do. When I was a kid, we'd just use a map! Now your generation would be up a creek without those thing-a-ma-jigs in your pocket!" Donnie looked back and caught Adam's taut lips upturn into a weak grin.
"My Pop says that all the time."
"Ah, one of the old boys, yeah?" Donnie chuckled. "Well, he ain't wrong."
"In five hundred feet, turn left onto Grand Avenue."
"Unfortunately, we're a dying breed, ya know?"
Adam nodded. "It's a damn shame."
"In six hundred feet, turn right onto Rosecrans Boulevard."
"I hope you enjoy your time with your family." Donnie tapped the steering wheel in time with the turn signal. "That's what the holidays are all about, you know?"
"Yeah, I'll do that."
Donnie looked up at the wrought-iron gate, and his heart sank.
"You have arrived at your destination: St. Mary's Cemetary."
Donnie stole a glance in his mirror at the young man's impassive face.
"Christmas is -- was -- Pop's favorite time of year."
"I'm sorry, buddy. I bet your Pop was a good man."
"He was." Adam reached into his back pocket to pull out a worn leather wallet and tried to read the fare on the meter. "How much do I owe you?"
Donnie shut off the meter. "It's an even twenty."
Adam handed him the cash and grabbed his duffle. "Thanks for the ride."
His hand hovered over the door handle, but Adam couldn't seem to open the door. He continued to stare up at the chapel on the hill where, inevitably, Donnie knew his Pop would be waiting for him.
"Take your time, I'm in no hurry."
For another few minutes, Adam sat in the back of Donnie's cab, his hand wavering over the door handle until he was ready. Once he had left, Donnie gave him a little wave through the window and watched him trudge up the hill towards the chapel to say goodbye.
Donnie looked down at his watch to check the time, shook his head in disbelief, and then smiled to himself. He reached up and pulled down his visor; a faded photo of his wife Betsy smiled back.
"Well played, old gal."
Donnie grabbed his worn woolen coat and trapper cap from the trunk and made the same trek up the hill to say hello.