A while back, a buddy – frustrated and tired – texted me late at night, telling me he chauffeured his teenage son and his friends to skating parties and teen clubs, morning through night.
“I was dad the driver today,” he wrote. “Sheesh. Drove my son and his friends all around. Got home at 1:20 a.m. I’m now tired and pissed!”
I laughed. Ah, the taxi-driving days. All those memories come rushing back to me.
I pick up the kid in front of the high school and she jumps in says, “my friends are coming over to the house.” It’s not a question. It’s a statement. And before I say anything her three friends pile into the backseat, and she’s switched the radio station from a gentle Sarah McLachlan to the angry rap of 50 Cent on 106 KMEL, and cranks the volume level up about a hundred decibels.
I pull into the street and she shouts, “Can we go to Taco Bell?” So I go through the drive-thru, and it’s the biggest frickin’ order of my life and I have to wait forever for a) them to figure out what they want, and b) for the food to be made. And of course, the other kids don’t have money. I hear the jingle of coins in the backseat as they count their change. But their orders are only a few dollars each – they are dainty girls after all – so I front the money.
“Thanks, Mr. Wong!”
The food arrives, and as I drive home, it’s chaos in the car as food exchanges hands. “Pass the chalupa!” one witty girl says in back.
I share this story with my friend the next day. And my friend stays quiet as I reminisce, and when I’m done, he says: “Right. I have done it.”
He’s taken his son and his classmates to get food at Mickey D’s, he says. One ordered $10 worth of food and had no money, so my friend had to pay for it. The kid didn’t say thank you, and in the ensuing weeks, neither did his parents.
“That sucks,” I tell him. “That’s when you tell your son, ‘I don’t want that kid in my car again.’”
“Right,” my friend says. “He wasn’t even a friend. Just a kid who needed a ride.”
“Take heart,” I tell him. “You’re just a taxi driver for a few more years. But then again, you have to buy him a car.”