Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Worst Cab Ride Ever! The Best Cab Ride Ever!

It was Friday night and I had just left work, looking for a warm cab and a Pity Party for One. I had been working long hours and as the World's Oldest Living Systems Analyst III, was feeling very unappreciated at the Big Humanitarian Non-Profit. Did I say I was exhausted and more than a little cranky? Riding the Metro was not an option tonight, no siree. Riding the Metro was only an option if you wanted to read Saturday headlines of "Manic Systems Analyst III Mutilates Metro Manager with SmartTrip Card Machete" or "They Said He Could Give a Look That Kills So He Did."

Climbing into the nearest cab which was fortunately quite toasty I grumbled something about the freaking cold weather.

"But February is the coldest month, right sir?" the cabby said in an odd sing-song manner.

"Oh great," I thought, "a chatty cab driver." I needed this like I needed another 1.75 % merit increase since I am "at the top of the salary band for your grade." Whatever. Suck it Human Resources.

"Sometimes January is colder" I said as patronizingly as possible, pretending to apply for a very complex commercial mortgage on my cell phone keypad.

"But the song says February makes me shiver."


"Is it okay if I sing it for you?"

Before I could finish miming typing "Debt service coverage ratio" and yell "NO!" he launched into singing in his high pitched lightly accented style.

A long, long time ago...
I can still remember
How that music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver.
Bad news on the doorstep;
I couldn't take one more step.

Suddenly I recognized the tune. This can't be true?


(If so I wanted to have a long man-to-man with Ashton and get a really good closeup look of Demi for signs of recent plastic surgery or the receipt for the sale of her soul but that was beside the point.)

I was tired.

And angry.

I just wanted to get home!

He stopped singing for a minute to explain.

"I am from West Africa and we sing all the time. When I moved here I learned your English by singing American songs. That is how you learn the language and the soul of a culture."

He resumed singing:

I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie...

The traffic was slowly moving up 20th St and he turned around and said,"You can join me."

This can't be happening! This cheerfully demented West African Mary Poppins is going to sing the entirety of "American Pie" and he wants me to sing the chorus with him?

This was looking to be the worst cab ride of my life.

Or the best.

So I joined him singing...

"Bye-bye, Miss American Pie."
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
Them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
And singin, "This'll be the day that I die.
This'll be the day that I die."

Traffic was terrible as we painstakingly sang our way through Dupont Circle and the history of the 50s and 60s. Somewhere around 18th and Q, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost had caught the last train for the coast and we finished the song with both of us bursting out laughing.

"See," he said "You hardly noticed the bad traffic."

Traffic? Work? This was better than any Happy Hour! He sang a bit of Glenn Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" and John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" before pulling in front of my house.

"Now we will sing the song every child knows" he instructed.

"Itsy Bitsy spider climbed up the water spout..."

Parked with the interior lights on for all to see, my West African Mary Poppins of a cab driver and I sang that childhood favorite--complete with hand gestures.

It was the best cab ride of my life! I emptied my wallet and gave him a $20 tip wishing I had more money to offer.

Did I mention it was the best cab ride ever!

I smiled all weekend.

And I'm smiling now...

And they were singing,
"Bye-bye, Miss American Pie."
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry.
And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye
Singin', "This'll be the day that I die.
This'll be the day that I die."


Smarts said...


Malnurtured Snay said...

That's a great song! And tomorrow IS the 50th Anniversary of the Day the Music Died!

lacochran said...

Great story! We need more community sings. :)

Scenic Wheaton said...

This is a totally amazing story.

Katherine said...

Hand gestures? You did the hand gestures?

Please tell me you got this cabbie's name and number so you can call him in the future? PLEASE!