Attilla the Hun(garian)
Not unlike a chihuahua, I am a diminuative, nervous and noisy creature who has no reluctance whatsoever starting shit with someone twice my size. I have done so often and the “Joe Six-pack” on the receiving end of my verbal wrath usually just stands there like a slack-jawed idiot. Go figure.
The best I can reckon is being born of frontier stock has given me this power. At a mere 4 feet 9 inches, my grandmother was one of the scariest people I have ever met. Come to think of it, my grandmother scared the shit out of a lot of people. This is why a guest minister was brought in to give the sermon at her funeral. (She had called the current pastor at her church a “jackass” over lunch.)
That said, the one group of people I will not fuck with are cabbies. I have encountered my fair share of them: a few of them were really nice, most were indifferent and a couple scared me shitless. Last week I encountered a cabbie who seemed damned intimidating at first, but ended up being quite cool.
My evening started like this…
I went to an office holiday party with my husband. For reasons only known to him, my husband chose to regale the head of his department with a tale I have heard many, many times: the “Miss Heather’s husband gets arrested for operating a bicycle under the influence” story.
My husband likes to tell stories. He does so often. TOO often. But I will recount this tale to you, dear readers, because it is germane to this post. (God only knows I have heard it enough times to know it by rote memory anyway.)
Lawrence, Kansas ca. 1994:
Miss Heather’s husband is riding his bicycle home on the sidewalk. Miss Heather’s husband also happens to be drunk. An officer from the Lawrence Police Department decides to “pull him over”.
The officer observes that Miss Heather’s Husband is intoxicated asks for identification.
Miss Heather’s husband refuses to tender said ID.
The officer persists, pointing out the obvious:
You’re operating a bicycle while intoxicated.
To wit, Miss Heather’s husband went off on some half-baked Marxist-Leninist rant:
No, I am not giving you my ID. This is not Soviet Russia. If it was, at least I’d get decent healthcare. Here you don’t get SHIT!
This extemporaneous speech did not go over well. Miss Heather’s husband went to jail. And in jail Miss Heather’s husband remained— for an entire weekend— because he didn’t want to pay a $40.00 fine. Now jump forward to…
New York, New York December 2006:
My husband and I left the party and had dinner. Afterwards, we hailed a cab to take us home.
Miss Heather’s Husband: We need to go to Greenpoint.
Cabbie: You’re KILLING ME.
(Thereafter the Cabbie goes into a tirade about how it took him one whole hour getting into Manhattan from Long Island City. He eventually regains composure and becomes very chatty.)
Cabbie: Those Po-LACKS over there have it good. They bought those houses back in the 80’s and look at what they’re worth now.
MHH: (chimes in)
Cabbie: When I moved to the United States I got an apartment on the East Side for $75.00 a month. Look at the prices now, you can’t afford anything. The other day I had a fare who was talking on his cellphone about a deal he made worth $200,000,000. He got the deal because the other guy was having an affair with his secretary. Can you imagine that?
MHH: (chimes in and a discussion about the disproportionate distribution of wealth ensues)
Me (to self): SHIT, here we go…
Cabbie (raising his voice): …It’s not real! None of it is real!
MHH: Of course it isn’t real; our currency is worth little more than the paper it is printed on.
Cabbie (louder still, nodding approvingly): YESSSS! I LIKE you!
ASIDE: Those of you who are old enough may remember the movie “Back to School”. One of the more memorable parts of this movie is when Thorton Melon (played by Rodney Dangerfield) gets into an exchange with his history professor (played by Sam Kinison) about the Korean War.
Now imagine you are Thorton Melon but you are not in a classroom. You are inside two+ tons of Detroit steel negotiating Manhattan gridlock with Sam Kinison behind the wheel. Scary indeed.
MHH (to Cabbie): Where do you come from?
Cabbie: Hungary— and I’m never going back!
I glanced over at the hack’s license. His name is Attilla. Only fear kept me from laughing my ass off.
Cabbie: There’s no difference between the Soviet Army and SS Officers. They both used big German Shepherd dogs to scare people. Those dogs are smart, I tell you. There is nothing wrong with Communism; the Russians just didn’t know how to do it. After Lenin died they kicked out all the Jews and became a bunch of thieves…
Me (thinking to self): We’re crossing the Queensboro Bridge, only 10 minutes to go…
Cabbie: …one time three Russian soldiers boarded at my grandparent’s house. They got drunk and one shot the other two dead over a game of cards. Can you imagine THAT?!? The officer tried to blame my grandparents. He called them partisans. I’m getting out of here. When I retire I’m going to move to Brazil where I can eat fish for a dollar a day.
Me (looking at husband): ?
Cabbie (crossing the Pulaski Bridge): Those Po-LACKS sure have it good. Do you know what this real estate is worth now?
Me (finally mustering the gumption to join the rant): Yeah, but the old-timers can no longer afford the real estate taxes. They’re getting pushed out. Especially the elderly. It’s not right. But you want to know what really pisses me off?
Cabbie and MHH: What?
Me (pointing): There’s a retirement home over there on Eagle Street…
Cabbie and MHH: Yes, and?
Me: …the dog owners around here walk their dogs behind it and let them shit all over the place. They don’t even bother to pick it up. The people who live in that nursing home have to look at THAT SHIT EVERY DAY! It pisses my ass OFF!
Cabbie and MHH nod in agreement.
Then it came time for Attilla and us to part ways. We were home. Greenpoint: Po-LACKS, blue-chip real estate, dog shit and all.
As I was getting out of the cab, my husband asked what the fare was. It was $11.00. We gave Attilla $20.00 and told him to keep the change.
Dear Attilla, wherever you may be today…
I like the way you think. I’m going to be watching you.