The New York City Taxi Driver
Itís a week before Thanksgiving 1967. Iíve been busted down to PFC for saying goodbye to my Vietnamese girlfriend. Now itís time for me to separate from the Army and my friends in the 127th MP Co. All alone I leave Qui Nhon and arrive in Cam Ranh Bay for the return trip to "The World". A Northwest Airlines jet takes me to Okinawa for a one hour layover and then onto Washington state.
The next day at the United counter the young man suggests that we fly standby and save a few dollars. The GIs that Iíve shared a cab ride with to the airport are too anxious to get home and opt for full fare and go on their separate ways. Having lost some vacation pay as a result of my demotion, I queried the clerk and was assured that I would have no problem going standby. So standby it was to be. No one at home knows Iím on my way.
At a stopover at OíHare Airport, I order a bourbon sour. There are seven drinks placed in front of me. Everyone at the bar had bought me a round including the bartender. Itís time for me to catch my flight. Iím looped. The bartender refuses a tip. Iíve forgotten where I checked my bags. I find them just in time to board my flight. Itís a nearly empty plane in the early hours of the morning. The stewardess fixes me another drink and sits with me during the flight to La Guardia. Itís a little before dawn when I arrive in Queens. I flag a cab.
The cabby grabs my duffel bag and my awol bag and puts them in the trunk. I think to myself that that will be an added dollar to the fare. I tell him to take me to 125th Street and Broadway. He looks at me like Iím nuts. Thatís the West Side of Harlem. I explain that I live near there and this satisfies him. I look at his ID card fastened to the rear of the front seat. I remember itís a Jewish name. Strange that heís working the graveyard shift. At the Triboro Bridge, he pays the toll and we start across 125th Street heading West. He hasnít asked for the toll money. I figure he will tack it on to the fare with the baggage fee.
In front of my apartment building I note the fare and am about to pay him when he jumps out of the cab. He grabs my duffel bag, which is nearly as big as he is and he grabs the awol bag. He them proceeds into my building with the bags and me following. At the inside locked vestibule door he puts the bags down. He then asks for the fare and profusely apologizes for doing so explaining that he works for a company and has to collect the fare. He refuses a tip and doesnít charge me for the use of the trunk or for the toll across the bridge. Welcome home. Iíll never forget his kindness. Jim Bruno