It was busy as hell last Saturday night. One of those nights when, even though all of the city's 13,087 cabs were out on the streets, demand still exceeded supply. So when I dropped off a passenger at Waverly Place and 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village at 1 AM, I wasn't particularly surprised to find two people, both females, desperately trying to gain possession of my cab. They arrived simultaneously from both sides and I found myself suddenly playing the role of referee. I chose the girl on the left as she had arrived a moment before the other, and the girl on the right didn't take it well, calling me an anal aperture and threatening to report me to the taxi police. But I chose well because the girl on the left turned out to be a sweetheart and left me with a story.
But the ride didn't start out well at all. She directed me to drive just a block away and stop in front of a three-story apartment building. Which I did. She then got on her cell phone and began a conversation that went something like this:
GOTL (Girl On The Left): Hey, it's me.
GOTL: C'mon down. I'm right here. I've got a cab.
GOTL: Come on, honey! I'm right downstairs. I'm right here!
GOTL: Dammit, come on, please!
It went on like this for two or three minutes, and I'm thinking I could have been to Midtown already with the girl on the right. One thing you do not want to do when the city is super-busy is sit around and wait. A cab driver makes very little money sitting still in New York City. So I began to express my discontent to my passenger - and then she did something I really didn't like. She suddenly opened the door, said she'd be right back, got out of the cab and went into the apartment building. Without paying me what was already on the meter.
Three more minutes went by. I was just about to drive away and write it off as five minutes and a few dollars lost to a whacky girl who had no regard for the rights of others when, to my surprise, she reappeared. Looking downcast and dejected, she asked me to drive her to a bar on 30th Street and 3rd Avenue. By this time my curiosity had been aroused, so I began asking questions. And this was the story...
My passenger, whose name was Jamie, had been talking to Jed, her boyfriend, on the cell phone. She wanted him to come out with her to this bar, but he wanted to stay inside. When she wasn't able to convince him to come downstairs, she went up to his apartment to try to persuade him. But Jed wouldn't budge.
Both Jamie and Jed are twenty-one years old. They both go to Pace University, and they've been dating for about a year. Well, the guy sounded to me like a jerk. Here was his girlfriend begging him to come out with her on a Saturday night, and he won't go. Not what you'd call creating the relationship. But there was more to the story.
Jamie told me that for as long as she's known him, Jed had always had a full-grown, thick, red beard. In fact, she'd never seen him without it. And neither had any of their friends. Then, a couple of days earlier, Jed suddenly went and shaved it off. And now no one, including Jamie, recognizes him anymore. She'd always related to him as a guy with a beard - it was his main identifying characteristic - and, now that the beard was gone, it was like he was a different person. Not really. But sort of.
Apparently it was all too much for Jed. He'd decided to stay in his apartment and watch the Discovery and History Channels, perhaps forever. But Jamie couldn't stand the idea of sitting there and looking at another documentary about World War II, so she was going to that bar on 30th and 3rd by herself.
When I had learned the whole story I found myself softening up on Jed. He now seemed to me to be something like a Woody Allen character, and I mentioned this to Jamie. She brightened up and agreed that he was, in fact, Woody Allen-ish, and spoke adoringly of him. So she really does like this guy, with or without a beard.
Which just goes to show that true love is stronger than whiskers.