“I don’t care what they say,” 1143 told me. “You see that building on the corner, the glass one? Behind that there was a four-story, a two-story office building. And in 1979, the executives, there were these eight executives, and they lined up four by four and shot each other.”
He took his hands off the wheel of the cab to demonstrate. He matched each finger to its version on the other hand to signify the executives lining up. Then he pulled his hands away to show them blowing each other apart.
“And afterwards, the lady who worked there, the receptionist, she kept working there and they heard ghosts. The place was full of ghosts,” 1143 said.
1143 wasn’t his name, just his cab number. He was an older man from the town where the Queen Mary luxury cruise liner is permanently moored, which a later online search told me was Long Beach, California.
1143 talked old. He told me stories in a long, stretched out voice that needed attention to be understood. He talked like slowed-down audio, stretched and breaking as only old voices do.
“And finally in 1994, they closed it up and in 1999 they tore it down,” 1143 said.
1143 said he got back at 6 a.m. that day from driving a fare to a town 26 miles outside of Toledo, Ohio. My ride was a little before noon.
It took him 23 hours, 1143 said, and the fare was $2,500, including tip.
The fare wanted to visit family but didn’t drive, 1143 said.
1143 said the Queen Mary was haunted too. He told me the details of the ship’s construction by the White Star Line, which also made the Titanic. 1143 told me odd, curious details about the Titanic’s construction, some of which I happened to know were true.
1143 said the Queen Mary’s ghosts came from WWII, not from the Titanic. He was telling me a story about the time the military painted the Queen Mary green when we got to my stop and I hopped out.
He was mad I didn’t have cash.
“Another credit card? I’m not going to get lunch! I’m not going to be able to buy lunch,” 1143 said before driving off in a huff.
The purpose of this story is not to call 1143 a liar or confirm his truth. I wasn’t able to find anything relating to a mass suicide of executives in the ‘70s, but his details on the Titanic and Queen Mary turned out to be spot on.
I have no way of knowing if he did drive a fare to Ohio.
It doesn’t matter if his tales are true. It doesn’t matter if there are executive ghosts or fares that cross time zones. It doesn’t matter if the Queen Mary was ever green.
What matters is the story.
Here’s an old cabbie who wants to share what he thinks he knows. Here’s a man who wants to invite you into a world of ghosts and fares, ships and suicides.
Does it matter what’s true and what’s not? I was interested not because of the fact or fiction, but because it’s what 1143 said.