Monday, September 14, 2009

The High Way to the Airport

I picked up a newlywed couple at a Noe Valley bar. He was sixty and dressed like Willie Nelson. She was nineteen and looked like a sixties' flower girl. They were high and they lit up everyone around them. The people in the bar come out to see them off as if they'd just been married in a church.

He said he was a cameraman and was having trouble getting work so he had to move back to his hated L.A. . When I later took film courses, I learned that he was one of the half-dozen cinematographers who had created the 70's film "look." She was exited to be with the great man and he was in love.

As soon as they stepped into the cab they invited me to the party. I usually don't indulge when I drive but they were having so much fun I had to join them. It turned out to be awesome weed.

I don't know if I've ever been happier in my work. Everything we said was hilarious. I told cab stories. He told "on the shoot" stories. She told hippie stories. I have no idea what we were talking about. We just laughed and laughed and laughed.

It suddenly seemed to me like we'd been driving for a long time. We should already have been at SFO. I looked up and realized that we were on the Oregon Expressway in Palo Alto. I'd missed the airport by like thirty miles.

I turned around and tried to explain:

"I'm sorry. I musta lost focus. We'll even it up."

They were so into each other they didn't even hear me.

"I'm sorry, man," I repeated, "we'll even it up."

They couldn't have cared less. I could've driven them to L.A. and they wouldn't have known the difference.

They kept up the jokes but I let it wash over me. I had to concentrate. To miss the airport once was bad enough: to miss it twice would have been unprofessional. I was too filled with anxiety to laugh.

Somehow I managed to get them to their airline although I dropped them at "arrivals" instead of "departures." It seemed like too much trouble to drive up hill.

The meter read $80 and change.

"It should only be like $30," I explained, "I made a little mistake."

He gave me a hundred.

"Don't be cheap," she told him. They had a little spat.

"Ask him what he thinks of a twenty-dollar tip," the cameraman told her.

"No ... I lost focus," I said, "it should just be thirty."

"You're right, baby," he said as he handed me another ten.

"No - no," I said as I tried to hand the money back, "I mean the total should just be -"

But they couldn't hear me. They were walking away kissing and making up.

I understood then that I shouldn't be driving. But I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle the loop back to the taxicab waiting lot. I didn't want to be busted.

I headed for home ... hoping I could find it.


  1. This is really a good story, well told. I don't approve of drugs, so kinda took a deep breath, but the way you told the story softened the effect. Honesty works! Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the good words. I don't approve of drugs either. Just tellin' a story.