I step out to the line of waiting taxis, the drivers beeping their horns and waving me over. I know how cabs work, I think. Stop honking at me. It makes me a little crazy.

The cab driver at the front of the line looks up and smiles as I walk toward his car. I get in. He is holding a yellow legal pad and a green pen, and I can see several pages filled with green writing.

“Hi there! Where can I take you today?”

He is in his sixties, I would guess, and is wearing the large plastic framed glasses that most fathers seem to prefer. It’s immediately clear to me that cab driving is not his primary profession. He is too friendly, has too much energy, and doesn’t race in between stoplights in the nausea-inducing fashion that is de rigueur in the professional cabbie community.

“So you heading home, or to work?” he asks.

“Work,” I reply.

“And what line of work are you in?”

Whenever I get that question, I think about how nice it must be to have a job that people outside the industry understand, and usually I just say something like “marketing” or “software,” neither of which is exactly true, but both of which are much easier to explain. But I’m in no hurry, so I give him a more accurate description.

“And what about you? How long have you been driving a cab?”

A little over a year, he tells me. He used to be a CFO, but was let go. He won $600,000 in a wrongful termination lawsuit, so he’s okay for money, but likes to keep busy so he took the job driving a cab, and also does some financial consulting on the side.

“I was working on a client proposal when you stepped in my cab.”

I ask him how he likes it, driving a cab. He tells me there are good things and bad things about it, just like any job. He likes women customers much better than men. Women are just so much more interesting, he says, and I don’t disagree.

“For every ten interesting women I meet, I run across one, maybe two men at the most who are interesting.”

We start to hit traffic, and agree that Lower Wacker will be the best way to get downtown. He mentions his daughter and asks me if I have children. I say no, and pause.

“I have cats.”

He asks if I’m married, and I want desperately for the conversation to not become awkward. I say no, and catch myself holding my breath for his response. He says he is shocked to hear that. I must have to beat them off with sticks, he imagines. A thin laugh escapes from my lips as my gaze alternates between the window and the rear view mirror. It hasn’t come to that yet, I reply.

We have exited Lower Wacker, and are coming up on my street, which is when he comments on my red hair.

“My hair isn’t red,” I say, but then immediately wish I had just nodded. He tells me it looks red, and says he wants to do a study to see if there really are personality differences in people based on natural hair color.

“You know, do blondes really have a different temperament than brunettes or redheads? Of course there are all the stereotypes of the serious brunette and flighty blonde and the wild redhead, but are there legitimate differences, not just based on gross stereotypes?”

Stop, I think. Don’t make this weird. Please don’t be creepy. You had a legal pad and a green pen. We had an understanding.

He tells me that his daughter is a psychologist, and maybe he’ll run the idea for the research project past her.

“Right here is just fine, thanks.”

“All right, then! Been nice talking to you. See what I mean? The women are always more interesting than the men.”

13 Responses to “CFO”

  1. Ignominious Idiot Says:

    You have the most amazingly lucid dreams.

  2. Dave2 Says:

    I’m not anti-social or anything… but I really, REALLY don’t like the chit-chat with taxi drivers. If they want to talk about themselves, that’s cool. I’m happy to listen. But making me talk about myself is paramount to torture. I’m just not in the general habit of talking about my life to strangers. If they’re interested, they can just read my blog! :-)

  3. Sarah Says:

    The last time I was in a taxi, he got us lost because he kept staring down my shirt in the rear view mirror.

    That was a little awkward.

  4. jenny Says:

    igno-bob: my real encounters are often far more entertaining than my dreams, that’s for sure. (and have you permanently changed your name, or did “remember me” in comments mess you up again?)

    dave: so when people try to engage you in conversation, do you just hand them your URL?

    sarah: uh, yeah. that’s when you do a shoulder roll out of the car as soon as he slows down.

  5. delmer Says:

    I don’t ride in a lot of cabs but when I do I don’t talk too much as most of what I’d say would be things like, “I don’t think you’re going to make it,” and “Nice move” … both of which might be distracting to the driver.

  6. Don Says:

    Being a Cali boy I’ve never been in a cab except in foreign countries and once in New Orleans (same thing). Nicely written, and I agree with him and you about all that stuff.

  7. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    So, is there an Upper Wacker?

    I like to try to out-creep certain cab drivers by volleying their crazy with some imaginative crazy of my own, then seeing how they react. See, some cab drivers are much more interesting than others. Mostly the blonde ones, but some of the brown-haired ones are OK, too. The redheaded ones are certifiably psycho, though. I should get married, have a daughter, then make her become a psychologist so I can offer her a hair-color based project that she can submit to the NIH as a pointless grant.

  8. shari Says:

    “Yo Pops, I’m really happy for you and Ima letchoo finish driving, but Disco Cab had one of the best cab drivers of ALL TIME.”

  9. Jenni Says:

    Wow. I’m such an introvert, I wouldn’t have carried on a conversation… I would have just pretended to be on the phone or listening to my iPod.

  10. claire Says:

    “which is when he comments on my red hair.” Before I even got to your reply, I thought, “Jenny’s hair’s not red. ……….. Right? Well, all her photobooth shots are in black & white and red goes black. Hmm.” Then I read, “My hair isn’t red,” and figured I wasn’t any more crazy than usual.

    Also, pretty sure they’ve already done that study.

    As for cabs, I hate having to take them. Goes against my don’t-get-into-strangers’-cars upbringing.

    @Dave2: which is hilarious because you’re always saying on your blog how you don’t write about anything personal or work.

    However, I do agree: the questions strangers tend to ask are torture.

  11. Anecdote Says:

    Were you waiting for the lights to go off and hear the words – “You’re in the cash cab!” Love that show. It’s prolly the only cab I’d be willing to get into in NYC. Not that I get a chance to take many cabs nowadays seeing as I live in a small town in South East Connecticut now and can’t even remember the last time I was in NYC…Shame really, ‘cos I would love a cab ride…Some people just don’t know how good they’ve got it. :D (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)
    P.S. I worked in New York for a CFO for ten years…nearly killed me! lol Wait a minute, did he have red hair?

  12. vahid Says:

    I’m reminded of our cab driver on the way back to the Las Vegas airport who asked where we were flying off to, and when we each named different cities we explained it with “It’s an Internet thing” and let him make of that what he would.

  13. jenny Says:

    delmer: often, i just close my eyes and hope i make it to my destination.

    don: people don’t take cabs in california? now *that’s* like a foreign country to me.

    sir: in fact, there’s an upper wacker, lower wacker, east wacker, west wacker, north wacker and south wacker. and i’m not even kidding. it’s our plot to confuse all tourists.

    shari/kanye: it’s true. there will never be another disco cab!

    jenni: it all depends on my mood. there are definitely times when in my head, i just keep saying, “stop talking to me. stop talking to me. stop talking to me.”

    claire: this guy is going to be heartbroken that his groundbreaking research study has already been done. it’s best if i don’t tell him…

    anecdote: his hair was white. giant glasses. wait… are you the reason he got fired?!

    vahid: oh yeah! that was another time where i was almost scared of where a cabbie was taking the conversation. i remember him dropping the f-bomb a lot.

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