"Hey, you paying in cash, right? I don't take credit cards."
That was my first indication that this NYC cabbie was not like the others. Most of them have the credit-swipe machines and the TVs in the back that play light news reports and late-night talk show snippets. This guy had a gray screen and attitude.
I winced and got out. But fortunately, UncMo's Favorite Person was standing there seeing me off, and had cash for the fare. So back into the cab I went.
Like many cabs in NYC, this one was driven by an Arab gentleman. Unlike many cabs in NYC, it featured a soundtrack of Shinedown. At first, I thought it was just the radio, but no -- this guy was rocking the full CD, skipping songs he didn't like and humming quietly to the ones he did.
This cabbie was angry-lite. He alternated between humming to the power ballads, cursing other drivers ("The sign says Monday through Friday asshole! I'll kick your ass!") and inquiring about my relationship.
"Where are you going? Can I drop you off at Seventh?" he asked.
"Amtrak," I said. There was silence. "Seventh Avenue is fine, whatever's easiest."
"You can get Amtrak from any entrance," he said, which was clearly a "you are dumb and I don't care" statement, because any cabbie knows that "Amtrak" means "Eighth Avenue or as close as you can get to it." I did not respond.
But now he wanted to know: "You going to New Jersey?"
"No, D.C.," I said.
"Oh. That's where you from? Was that your boyfriend?" he asked. Mr. Shinedown had gone suddenly from angry to inquisitive.
I answered him. Long-distance relationship? Yes.
"Looks like it," he said coldly. I wasn't sure what that meant.
"My girlfriend is in New Jersey, and sometimes that's too far for me," he said. "Sometimes I just don't feel like going out there.
"She wants to live together, but I say no. I come to see you, and you come to see me, and that's it. You live together, and that's when the problems start," he said.
"Maybe," I said.
"Unless you get married, that's something else," he said.
I kept quiet.
We pulled up to the LIRR entrance to Penn Station, which was about a block and a half from where I needed to be.
"Is this OK? You can get to Amtrak from here," he said.
This cabbie was a d.b. I knew this, but actually ended up giving him a really good tip, because my a-la-minute math skills were not subtle enough to calculate the exact amount that says, "you weren't terrible enough for me to stiff you, but you don't deserve a good tip, so I'm giving you this middling amount," but also because he had managed to remind me that even though I was bummed in that moment to be leaving NYC, I was still a lot happier than, say, this guy.
He drove off and I trudged over to Eighth and 33rd, half annoyed and half amused.
Music: "Call Me"