“Every night you’re sure to get Batman, Superman and Big Bird,” the cabbie with the mole said. “You get some characters. They’re usually good people, just crazy.”
The cabbie was taking me from one courthouse to another, from the Miesian glass-and-steel luxury of the downtown civil courthouse to the 26th and California criminal courthouse where murderers and thieves get taken away under chipping plaster.
The conversation had already touched on jobs, rude people, traffic and crime and was now on the years he worked the night shift. He was interesting and ran the second-most informed of the three cabs I would end up in by the end of the day.
(The most-informed was that night, where a cabbie from Togo seamlessly moved from Chevy gas mileage to the presidential election to Hurricane Sandy and climate change while NPR played in the background.)
The cabbie with the mole and I talked for the entire $20 worth of ride. I never saw his face but for the mole on his right cheek. I never learned any name but hack license #3743.
“It’s been one of those days,” 3743 said when I piled into his cab downtown.
As he took me through the bustling Loop, he told me about an earlier fare who did not believe him when cabbie chatter told him about a road clotted with traffic following a crash.
“I said, ‘We’re going to get buried,’ and she said, ‘I go this way every day.’ I said, ‘That may be true, but there’s an accident. We’re going to get buried.’ She said, ‘I go this way every day.’ I said, ‘OK, but I informed you,’” he said, stressing informed.
“And you got buried?”
“And we got buried. Then she said, ‘Isn’t there anything you can do?’”
After there, 3743′s next fare was apparently the only person in Chicago who didn’t know there’s a $3.25 charge just for pulling the flag on a taxi. The fare doesn’t start at zero — and it’s written on the information on the back of the cabbie’s seat — but the woman was convinced the cabbie was trying to take her for a different type of ride.
He gave her $3.
“I said, ‘You give this to the next cab you get in because I don’t want you saying this took you by surprise again,’” he said.
“That was nice of you.”
I can’t recall 3743′s immediate reply, but it led us to talk about philosophy.
“When I get out of here, I leave it all behind. I’m Clark Kent and Superman. I’m a separate person,” he said. “I don’t know cabbies. I mean, I see them. And I see some people enough to know them when I see them. But I leave it all behind when I’m done. I’m Clark Kent and Superman.”
Then we chatted about his wife, the highway, the South Side and finally the courthouse. I had arrived at my destination. I threw $3 extra on my tip. He said thanks.
There was another me waiting at the courthouse, another guy in a tie wanting somewhere quick. And there would be more cabbies in my future even that day.
One was from Togo.