Here's a story from the vault - April 1, 2003, 8:30 pm. The war in Iraq had just begun.
A young guy and his girlfriend, both about 19 years old, jumped in at 79th Street and York Avenue and told me to drive them to DeKalb and Vanderbuilt in Brooklyn. This was bad news in itself as any cabbie in New York hates to leave Manhattan when it's busy on the streets. It means he most likely has to drive back without a passenger and that is money lost.
But to make matters worse, these two kids saw the upcoming journey as not merely a way to get from point A to point B, but as an opportunity for a heavy make-out session. My attempts at chit-chat fell on deaf ears and within 30 seconds they were kissing passionately and doing God knows what with their hands.
As I entered the FDR Drive and headed south, I realized I was in no mood for this. A money-losing, half-hour ride to Brooklyn with two juveniles who have no regard for how their behavior affects other people, jumping all over each other the whole way to Brooklyn. And by pretending that I wasn't right there, three feet in front of them, reducing me to a non-human object that drives a taxicab.
This wasn't going to be merely a bad ride to Brooklyn. This was going to be an assault on my dignity and an endurance test of my tolerance. I gritted my teeth and started the process of suffering through it. But then, as I passed the 53rd Street exit of the parkway, I had a thought.
It was April Fool's Day... hmmm...
"Hey, have you guys heard the news?" I called back to them with a tone in my voice that demanded attention. Through the mirror I could see their heads, which had been joined together at the lips, come apart and their eyes stare blankly at the back of my head.
"President Bush has signed an executive order reinstituting the draft."
They both moved forward simultaneously and a slight space opened up between their shoulders. The guy wasn't sure he'd heard that right and asked me to repeat it.
"There's gonna be a draft, just like in the Viet Nam war. All men over the age of 18 are going to have to go into the army."
"What? Oh, my god!"
"Are you over 18?"
"Oh, man, I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this."
"But I'm in college. They don't take students into the army... do they?"
"What I heard on the radio was that there wouldn't be any exceptions. Unless you were like physically disabled or something, you know?"
"Oh my fucking god!"
Other than asking for some directions as we approached DeKalb Street 25 minutes later, I don't remember saying another word to them until the cab stopped in front of their building. I didn't have to say anything because the rest of the ride consisted of a lively conversation between the two of them about the pros and cons of the Iraq war, the armed forces in general, whether or not he should maybe go into the navy, why shouldn't the volunteer army be good enough to handle the conflict, what are we paying our taxes for, anyway, is Bush really deciding anything or is it just Cheney, why shouldn't females be drafted, too, and whether his father, who knows a lot of people, could possibly get him out of this mess.
Needless to say, this dilemma proved to be the antidote for youthful lust. And aside from the deep satisfaction I took in successfully diverting their attention, I drove across the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn without any introspection as to why it should be my fate to be reduced to role of servitude to a couple of disrespectful teenagers.
They stepped out of my cab after paying the fare and giving me a below-average tip and took a few steps in the direction of their place. I called out to them from my opened window.
"Hey, you know that thing I told you about the draft?" I said.
They stopped walking and turned to look back at me. "Yeah?" the guy replied.
"April Fool!" I shouted back with big smile on my face.
They looked at each other with expressions on their faces as if to say they couldn't believe they had swallowed the gag hook, line, and sinker. Then they broke out laughing.
And I drove off on DeKalb Street back toward the Manhattan Bridge in what might be called a state of ecstasy, thinking they really ought to make April Fool's Day an official national holiday.
Click here for Pictures From A Taxi. No joke!