It all comes down to a matter of minutes, really. Five minutes earlier, five minutes later, everything’s different.
I was five minutes late meeting up with Dee-Dee and Natasha for dinner on Thursday. Dee-Dee had received some good news recently, so we wanted to celebrate at a new restaurant.
I waved to them as I walked into the train station, where we then exited and started to hail a cab. A utility truck had just pulled up and parked on the corner, making it difficult for cabs to see us on the sidewalk, so several whizzed past. A yellow cab slowed down and halted in front of two fifty-something women to my left who had more aggressively staked their claim in the street .
“So we’re up next?” asked Nat.
“Looks that way,” I replied.
A couple more cabs passed by, until Dee-Dee spied a uniquely decorated PT Cruiser pulling up to us. The three of us looked at each other briefly before piling into the unorthodox taxi.
“Ooh, are we in London?” Nat laughed, as she scooted across the bench seat.
On the dashboard sat four small sequined high-heeled shoes. A neon-colored fan was clipped to the sun visor in the passenger seat. I glanced in the back window and saw two shiny disco balls.
“Wow – you’ve really got your cab decked out!”
At that moment, the cab driver looked back at Natasha, paused a minute, and then quickly donned a rainbow sequined cap. We cheered in approval, then told him our destination. As he pulled away from the train station, he asked simply, “Mambo, salsa, or disco?”
Again, the three of us looked at each other for a moment, and then Dee said, “Mambo?”
With that, the cab driver cranked the speakers to eleven and blasted out the loudest mambo music I had ever heard coming from a glittery PT Cruiser. The back seat became a surreal mobile dance club as he flipped on some neon lights, activated the disco balls, and switched on a strobe light that began pulsating by Nat’s feet from beneath the front passenger seat.
At the first stoplight, the cab driver reached over and handed us some maracas, two tambourines, and one of those metal ridged things you play with a stick (or a Bic pen, in this case). It was at exactly that moment that I thanked the universe for reminding me to bring my camera along.
We violated no less than forty-seven traffic laws during the course of our ride, the least of which was our lack of seatbelts, the greatest of which was the driver’s lack of hands on the steering wheel while he played the drums.
We entertained the south Loop, west Loop, north Loop, all the way up to Rush Street as we shucka-shuckad and ching-chinged our way through the crowded streets of Chicago. Never in my life have I seen so many other cab drivers or passengers smiling and laughing. It started to rain – hard – and our cab driver turned the music down briefly to show us how to roll the windows up.
”But only if you want to,” he said.
We didn’t.
My shirt got soaked and Nat’s sweater was soggy, but it didn’t matter because we were jamming to the beat of a funked up version of “Mambo Italiano,” and we wanted the whole world to know it.
I was actually a little happy when he couldn’t find the restaurant right away – it gave me more time to perfect my off-beat tambourine rhythms. As he pulled over to the curb to let us off, Dee-Dee handed him the fare plus a 100% tip, thus ending the dream sequence of our evening.
We quickly darted into the restaurant and found ourselves a bit discombobulated by the stark reality of a mambo-less world. Once we had regained our composure and received our first round of drinks, we raised our glasses in celebration.
Blueberry cosmo
“That would only happen to the three of us.”
“To think we almost got stuck in a yellow cab.”
“We are so lucky.”

26 Responses to “Minutes”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I miss Chicago. :(((

  2. shari Says:

    You ARE so lucky! I might visit Chicago afterall — despite the dangers of revolving doors — if it means I can experience a mambo/disco taxi. Great story!!

  3. Tracy Lynn Says:

    OMG, Jen, you are like my own personal Fairy Princess. That is the best.

  4. jenny Says:

    Sarah: Well, maybe Michigan will get a disco cab driver of its own someday. Maybe you could talk to your alderman?
    shari: I’ll make sure you don’t get smooshed in the revolving doors. I’d like to hear him play salsa next time…
    Tracy Lynn: [twirls magic wand and tosses fairy dust in the air as she flies off in a magical PT Cruiser]

  5. adena Says:

    THAT is a smart cab driver!
    Not only is he having fun, he’s pretty much ensuring that he gets a ridiculously good tip.

  6. Dustin Says:

    Somehow I’m thinking that wouldn’t fly here in New York. Well, maybe in the Village…but definitely not Wall Street.
    How come you cool stuff always happens to you. (/pouty face)

  7. Dave2 Says:

    Sweet! This kind of insanity has me wanting TequilaCon!! Have we got a date yet?!?

  8. heather anne Says:

    You have to get on The Fur Bus in The ATL for that kind of excitement! I’m super glad you missed the yellow cab. :)

  9. jg Says:

    oh. my. GOD.
    if you didn’t have pictures, I’d think you were making that up.

  10. sandra Says:

    Oh my god, he sounds so fantastic! I heard urban legends about the “disco cab driver” when I lived in Chicago and wonder if this was the same guy…in any case: fabulous.

  11. Karen Says:

    That is awesome!
    I’ve got to get to Chicago sometime soon.

  12. Karl Says:

    Damn, the fun finds you wherever you go, eh?

  13. jenny Says:

    adena: No kidding – he definitely earned every penny of that tip! Although, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are not in the mood to play the tambourines on their way to the airport…
    Dustin: Just darn lucky, I guess! :)
    Dave2: This is just a taste of what you can expect at TC07 – the date is still TBA, but should be finalized soon.
    Heather Anne: The “Fur Bus?” I must know more – do tell!
    jg: I know! No one would’ve believed me!
    sandra: Well, he gave us his card, and I think it said “disco cab” on it – could there be another?
    karen: Absolutely! Although most cab drivers here will simply drive like maniacs and talk on their cell phones the entire time.
    Karl: Somehow, it does. No matter how hard I try to hide. :)

  14. rarity Says:

    That’s a once in a lifetime – what a great memory!

  15. Kevin Says:

    The only thing that would’ve been better would be NYC’s Cash Cab. Free money goes a long way with me.

  16. mike Says:

    Around here, the only offers we get are: “the smell of feet, poop, or old newspapers and nicotine?” (I go for the feet.)
    Your cabbie must have some PR plan in place, eh?

  17. Ariana Says:

    That is an amazing ride, alright! I thought you were making it up before I scrolled down to the pictures. Good thing you did have your camera. Disco balls! Too funny! I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and I’ve never seen a cab like that.

  18. dee-dee Says:

    I still can’t believe it happened…the pictures turned out great!

  19. Jessica Says:

    This is unbelievably wonderful and I couldn’t agree more that it would only happen to the three of you – too fun!
    My favorite part of the picture of Nat and Dee-Dee is that you can see the stark contrast with the non-Mambo playing Mr. Grumpy Face in the plain ol’ white, boring cab behind Nat.

  20. adena Says:

    Alas, at Tequila Con 2007, you’re not going to get a lot of fun cab rides, because no one really does cabs in Portland.
    Altho, I suppose you could find a fun Tri-Met driver…..Ahhhh, nevermind. :)

  21. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    It’s true– this could only have happened to you three. Hurrah for finding adventure in all the unsuspecting places.

  22. jenny Says:

    rarity: I hope it’s not once in a lifetime – he gave us his card! :)
    Kevin: I had to look up Cash Cab since I had never heard of it – I suck at trivia, though, so I guess I’ll stick to percussion instruments.
    mike: I’m more than a bit disturbed by the fact that you chose feet smell over newspapers and nicotine. Canada is in the running for TequilaCon ’08, you know – your entire country is counting on you to sway the votes! You’re not building a very strong case here.
    Ariana: I wouldn’t have believed it either w/o the pictures!
    dee-dee: I love that your mad tambourine skillz were captured on film (pixels).
    Jess: Actually, I really wish I would’ve been able to capture the other cabbies cracking up at us!
    adena: No cabs in Portland? What the-? I distinctly remember requesting a taxicab city! BRANDON!!!
    Viv: Just wait ’til you come visit next month – I may give him a call…

  23. Rarity Says:

    Really? He gave you his card? So cool!
    That means that if I ever come to Chicago I can get hold of this cab – through you (you should become his middle (wo-)man and get ten percent)

  24. ashbloem Says:

    I love disco cabs.

  25. adena Says:

    Well, there ARE cabs, Radio Taxi, etc…
    However, they don’t get much use, because everyone takes the mass transit system, which is actually pretty good.
    So, cabs wind up charging you all your appendages.

  26. TCho Says:

    Wow. You never see that in NY.