Strange world

By BOB PFEIFER  |  February 16, 2011

"Okay, okay," he said.

Alright, he's got it, I thought. In the maze of streets we had no idea where he was going, but fifteen minutes into the ride, he pulls over and gets out. We look at him like, what are you doing now?

"One minute, okay?" He just says something like no worry, no pay. He gets out next to a park. He's yelling something at some street hooker. Another one comes by and pokes her head in the taxi window. She's so close I can smell her perfume. And we make signs like, no, we aren't interested.

The cabbie pushes her away from the door. She half-heartedly swings her purse at him. He makes a fist like he's going to slug her, but he's really not going to and everyone knows he's not. He's talking to the first girl, who finally opens up a little black pocketbook and hands him something, not money. He shoves it in his jacket pocket and gets back in the cab.

"Okay, we go now," he tells us, looking in the rearview mirror. He's not all there.

We drive a few more blocks and he stops at a bar. Double parks. Cars honk. He flips them off and walks in waving back to us, "One minuto, eh? No problema" finger in the air. I don't bother calling him on the meter.

It starts to rain.

What's this guy doing? No doubt something having to do with whatever he got off the hooker. One minute turns into fifteen and we get out of the cab and walk.

We turn the first corner, so he doesn't happen to come out and chase us down.

Screw him.

It's pouring now, and all the cabs are full or not stopping. It's raining too hard to tell. Our bags are getting heavy, but we make it to a hotel. There's a line of cabs out front and we get in one — luggage, us, everything wet in the backseat. This driver speaks English.

"Train station," I tell him.

"Okay, good. American? What kind of the music you like?"

"Rock."

"Okay."

He flips stations. And some Italian rock music comes on that sounds like Sixties movie music. The guitar sounds like bad Dick Dale. The drums go bah — bah bah — bah. One and two, one and two, all the way I'm waiting for Goldie Hawn to pop in wearing an itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie polka-dot bikini like we're on Laugh-In with Sergio Leone and a rock polka band.

We're moving. Finally. Start and stop. Honks. Intersections jammed. Noise. Raindrops loud on our car.

We're wet. My bags are on my lap. I can barely see out the front. Juan's wiping the water off his shaved head with a T-shirt from his knapsack.

"It be to train forty-five minutes. Okay for you?"

"Yes okay."

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