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Image Source: Meredith Kleiber

I’m doing okay, you know? I ain’t no millionaire, but I’m working steady, staying out of trouble. I can take care of my daughter, at least, and that’s everything to me.

It’s not a job where you want to look down, that’s for sure! I’m not too scared, but I don’t spend too much time sightseeing, either. Some of the rookies, it really gets to them their first few times up. But you get used to it.

And it’s really interesting. Working this high up, you get to see all the big-wigs at work, ya know? Some of them, they got offices like you wouldn’t believe. All gold and crazy paintings and signed baseballs and jerseys and everything. I can’t imagine working in an office like that!

I see lots of people playing computer games and stuff at work. And once I saw a guy and his secretary…well, let’s just say they were really enjoying their lunch.

I like my office, though. It’s a little cooler on the hot days this high up, and I get a little spray from the water blowing in the breeze. Sucks when you get a breeze full of soapy water, but it’s still better than being cooped inside an office.

I’m not much for bragging, but since you asked, I’m pulling in around $100 a day, depending on the building. That’s middle of the road pay. I’d like to stay on ‘till I can pull in around $250 a day, just so I can put a little more aside for my daughter. I only get to see her every other weekend, but she’s why I’m up here, you know?

When I first started out, I used to use a bosun’s chair, but I gave it up. Those things are scary! It’s like riding a swing set 400 feet up! I like being on the scaffolding crew. We all go up together, get on together, lower ourselves together. And it’s a lot more secure. You gotta watch out for soapy spots, but I’ll take that over the feeling of swinging by myself that high up.

So like I said, I’m definitely not going to be retiring anytime soon. But I’m doing okay. Covering my rent, taking care of my baby, got a little left over to grab a few rounds after work…it’s not bad. I’m definitely in the 99%. But I’m doing okay.

"Man's Best Friend"
Image Source: Meredith Kleiber

It’s a racket, ya know? Like any other job, really. Lots of people get in here, they expect Travis Bickle an’ gun fights an’ crazy stuff, but it ain’t like that. Nine out of ten fares, nothin’ happens. I pick people up, take ‘em where they wanna go, they pay me, an’ that’s it. Nine out of ten fares.

Most of my fares are real nice. Sure, I get plenty of obnoxious drunks, an’ rich old ladies that come in with a superior attitude. But for the most part it’s all uneventful. Sometimes my fares an’ I have great conversation the whole trip, an’ sometimes it’s silent the whole way. That don’t bother me. I gauge it out dependin’ on the vibe I get from the fare. They don’t want to talk, they don’t want to talk, an’ what am I gonna do? That’s fine with me, an’ I can’t take it personal-like. But it ain’t like some people think, like how people think I must spend the whole ride tryin’ to talk about every little thing an’ muttering about cheapskate fares an’ how I’m gonna drive off a bridge with a fare one of these days.

Not to say that things never get interesting, of course. I’ve been hacking nights for twelve years now, an’ just when you think you’ve seen it all, well…I ran out of gas on bridge-an’-tunnel jobs on two consecutive nights once, if you can believe that. I’ve had more near-miss bathroom experiences than I can count. An’ I once had a lady JUST missed havin’ her first-born in my back seat! Got her to the ER just in time.

An’ sometimes things can get scary. Had a guy once, got in, an’ I could tell he was tweaking. I was about to pull over an’ kick him out when he pulled a blade an’ stuck in into the back of my neck. Naturally this one night I got a cab without a partition. My insides was turning to goo, but I kept calm as I could an’ kept driving. Tough to do with a shank in your neck. I kept scanning the street, lookin’ for a spot where I could pull over an’ jump out, but all the meters was full up. An’ this guy was getting real agitated. Finally I saw a spot an’ pulled over, an’ the guy tried to make his move an’ jump me across the back seat. Let’s just say that I was glad that night that I was packing an’ knew what to do with my piece.

But like I say, that’s the exception. Nine out of ten fares, nothin’ happens. I pick up people up, take ‘em where they wanna go, they pay me, an’ that’s it. I go home in the mornin’, an’ I’m a husband and father, puttin’ my kids through school. One fare out of ten is a doozy, but for the most part it’s just a racket, like any other job, really.


Photo Source: Meredith Kleiber

“Cold one today, ain’t it, Dolly!”

Buddy came in at the same time with the same greeting every day, except in the summer, when he changed it to “Hot one today, ain’t it, Dolly!” He always got the same table, back to the wall, facing the door, and settled in, paper spread out in front of him like the morning. Dolly always teased Buddy to take off his coat and stay a while, but Buddy always kept it on, even during the hottest summer days. “Don’t want to catch cold!” he would laugh and wink as he settled into the booth.

Dolly always had a hot cup and a paper ready. She mostly let him be, coming over just often enough to pour a top-off and ask, “So what do you know today?” But she always came over to Buddy’s table during her fifteen-minute break, and they exchanged small talk. Or sometimes they just sat there. Buddy wasn’t much for talking. Even still, he loved having a pretty lady to sit with.

It was the same routine daily, predictable as the clock on the wall. They never saw each other outside the coffee shop, and never on weekends. But they knew each other, just the same.

Dolly knew that Buddy was out of work, that he got lost in the numbers after twenty years when they brought the big machines in on the line. He was too ashamed to tell his wife, but Dolly knew that.

And Buddy knew every time Dolly’s husband went off and hit her or stepped off on her. He didn’t like that, not one bit. But her secret was as shameful as his, so there wasn’t anything they could do.

They both hurt, but for fifteen minutes now and then, they both hurt together and a little less.

They probably both noticed the sadness just below the surface. Maybe that’s what drew Buddy into the coffee shop in the first place, and what let him feel he could linger there a little bit. And maybe that’s why Dolly felt like she could talk a little extra to Buddy, even though he never said much. They were both married, mostly happily. But they hadn’t found their kindred spirits, or didn’t realize that they hadn’t. Maybe that’s what it was…

It wasn’t much, what they had. Just an hour or so daily at a coffee shop, customer and waitress. But for Buddy and Dolly, it was the best part of their days of silent hurt. And that was more than enough to let a little light through and carry a little bit of hope into the next day.