I, the taxi driver

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.”

Goodbye, Snow Girl

Snowy, our 16- or 17-year-old cat, passed away today. She had begun fading about two months ago, so we knew this day was coming. Doesn’t make it easier. I’ll miss the days when I’d walk into the kitchen around noon, and yell “Scooby Snack.” The dogs would come running for their lunch. Snowy, usually hanging out at Miiko’s office at the other end of the house, would trail behind. She knew Scooby Snack meant it was lunch time, too. So she’d hop up a step ladder and onto the small kitchen counter space between our refrigerator and cupboard, her private eating place, and wait patiently to be fed.

I’ll miss the days late at night, when I’d go to bed, and she’d jump on the bed, too, and climb on my chest, and demand to be petted. So I’d pet her for a bit and when I drifted off to sleep, she’d climb off and curl up close by.

One thing about Snowy. She knew how to tell you she was pissed off. I think we had been traveling a lot at one point. And she didn’t like it, so when we returned, she peed on my trusty Eagle Creek travel backpack that had been with me forever — multiple trips through Asia. Parts of Europe. Lots of camping and rock climbing trips in the U.S. I loved that bag. I washed it three times in the washer, but her pee was so potent, I had to toss it. It took me a few years, but I think I finally got over it. (more…)

Hooray… for me!

I received a nice surprise from an editor in my morning email today. My story on the Dallas Cowboys’ new football stadium won a gold “Tabbie Award” for best profile. The award is from a trade magazine organization called the Trade Association Business Publications International.


Here’s the story.