A while back, a buddy â€“ frustrated and tired â€“Â texted me late at night, telling me he chauffeured his teenage son and his friends to skating parties and teen clubs, morning through night.
â€œI was dad the driver today,â€ he wrote. â€œSheesh. Drove my son and his friends all around. Got home at 1:20 a.m. Iâ€™m now tired and pissed!â€
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, â€œmy friends are coming over to the house.â€ Itâ€™s not a question. Itâ€™s a statement. And before I say anything her three friends pile into the backseat, and sheâ€™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, â€œCan we go to Taco Bell?â€ So I go through the drive-thru, and itâ€™s the biggest frickinâ€™ 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 donâ€™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 â€“ they are dainty girls after all â€“ so I front the money.
â€œThanks, Mr. Wong!â€
The food arrives, and as I drive home, itâ€™s chaos in the car as food exchanges hands. â€œPass the chalupa!â€ 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 Iâ€™m done, he says: â€œRight. I have done it.â€
Heâ€™s taken his son and his classmates to get food at Mickey Dâ€™s, he says. One ordered $10 worth of food and had no money, so my friend had to pay for it. The kid didnâ€™t say thank you, and in the ensuing weeks, neither did his parents.
â€œThat sucks,â€ I tell him. â€œThatâ€™s when you tell your son, â€˜I donâ€™t want that kid in my car again.â€™â€
â€œRight,â€ my friend says. â€œHe wasnâ€™t even a friend. Just a kid who needed a ride.â€
â€œTake heart,â€ I tell him. â€œYouâ€™re just a taxi driver for a few more years. But then again, you have to buy him a car.â€