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The Taxi-Lives of International School Teachers

February 4, 2012

I imagine it’s raining. There are way too many substances in my blood, and I can’t separate my alterations. One moment I’m high as a kite flying on happy bliss, the next I’m weary and tetchy. Did I mention it’s raining? I’m just hardly on my feet – is it true that a giraffe’s offspring learns to walk just hours after it’s born? – If so, I haven’t advanced past my fetus state. It’s colder than yesterday when it was the coldest since the day before; I see where this is going. Then my savior is there. Just two steps away. And inside, relaxed on the backseat, the taxi drives away. The city and all its shining lights merge, as Amsterdam disappears in the background. There’s too much laughter, too many dogs barking, too much purple prose, women in barely nothing, and the men that haunt them. There’s the man selling Chinese proverbs, the woman selling flowers, selling madrigals, selling good time. I usually never take a taxi home, but sometimes nightlife just creeps under your skin, and you just need to get away, get somewhere, and get home. Shake off the cold, the night, the many impressions, the stale smell of balcony smokers, men in Nixon masks, and the women that admire them. And as the taxi stops right outside my door. I swear, next time I’ll take a bus. I won’t drink so much, and when I see the receipt from Taxi Company on my credit card statement, I won’t even remember the taxi ride home.

“I find the great thing in this world is, not so much where we stand, as in the direction we are moving.” Goethe.

I imagine it’s early morning. I’m in my newly ironed suit; my tie matches my polished shoes that match the brief case. There’s a taxi right in front of my compound. I get in, quietly give the driver my destination in English (though he doesn’t speak English very well at all), lean back, and start reading the newspaper. It’s mainly the financials, but I discretely smile at the candor of the comic strip. I never speak to the driver; he’s just here to get me from one destination to the next, smoothly with no major interruptions. It’s the easiest way to get around Shanghai. I sometimes take notion of the skylines, the people on the street, and the people in other taxis, but mostly I just read the paper. When I arrive at the international school that I work at, the driver opens my door, nods, and drives away. During the day there are several meetings around town, several of new taxi encounters, but the same customary every time.

“Life is like a taxi. The meter just keeps a-ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still.” Lou Erickson.

I imagine I’m late again. I’ll just tell my friends, “I took a cab.” He’s Armenian; his mother’s mother was an immigrant, who used to live in the Bronx, where she opened a small bakery. His dad was a son of a gun. It’s right next to the Guggenheim. I order a martini and soup. Next stop: my publisher somewhere on Manhattan. Some gypsy cab tries to convince me he’s cheaper, but I know better. She’s from Kansas, not much of a talker, her sign says Ada Mae. She tries to hard to hide the fact she’s not a New Yorker, but I know better. There’s a party tonight at some loft in Soho, “it’s better than New Year, it’s close to the metro, but just take a cab, it’s safer.” It’s the pre-release-party, but some bookstore in Brooklyn has already started selling the book, so I take a cab there, just to see my book in the window. I ask the driver to hold, but he’s very impatient. I eat half a cupcake I buy in some small coffee shop, the décor is very vintage, and I get the address to this flea market in Greenwich Village. If I hail a cab quickly, I can make it before I go home and get dressed for the party. The driver driving me to Soho is from Iraq, I don’t remember his name, but he quoted Mahatma Ghandi, something about happiness and harmony. I only have a few drinks, small talk with an architect who’s designing a new super mall in New Jersey, the florist who did the decoration, my publisher’s ex-wife who just shared a cab with Meryl Streep (they were apparently going in the same direction) and a woman I think I’ve dated a couple years ago. We share a taxi home.

“And a big yellow taxi took away my old man. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell.

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