Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Shift #3

SUNDAY, JANUARY 10 -- 10:33 a.m. -– Sutter/Octovia (Queen Anne Hotel) to Bush/Powell -- $6.70

A COUPLE FROM ITALY, heading to pick up a rental car at 750 Bush Street. Today they’re driving to Death Valley -- they don’t have a place to stay yet, but they’re confident. Tomorrow they drive to Las Vegas, then in a few days they fly from LA to Hawaii. They are on a three-week honeymoon. Every detail of at their wedding (first marriage for either of them) came off perfectly, one week ago today, in their hometown, Genoa.

I tell them I remember Genoa very fondly.

“You have been?” They are surprised.

“In 1974, when I was 22, and my hair was down to here…” -- I torque my right arm around to touch a spot on my back, just a few inches above my waist -- “I was driving a Volkswagen bus from Morocco to Greece when, just outside Genoa, the motor started to skip. I was scared because I had so little money and I’d heard so much about how Italians can be… well, you know, Mafia…”

They laugh. “Yes, yes, we know…”

"But in Genoa I pulled in to the first garage and the owner came out and looked at us -- I was with two friends who were just as hairy as I was -- and he called all of the mechanics to come out and look. They laughed and laughed and laughed and asked how long did it take to grow our hair that long and they said they wished they could be hippies, too, and they wished they could go to Greece with us and chase Greek women around on the beaches and then they fixed our engine in about ten minutes and I can’t remember if they actually charged us anything or not -- if they did, it was very very little -- and then they pumped our hands and took our photos and they laughed and laughed and laughed some more... So,” I tell my fares, “I have a warm memory of Genoa.”

Their English isn’t perfect, and they undoubtedly have had a little trouble understanding my story, but they've caught the gist and seem to have liked it very much. I unload their luggage, and we’re standing beside my cab when I ask them, “Een Italian-o, how do you say ‘free ride?’”

Both their heads tip back. The man has pulled his wallet from a back pocket, but now he smiles and tucks it away again. “San Francisco,” he says. “Our honeymoon. Always we will remember this.”

The woman slides up beside me, and her smiling new husband snaps a photo of his smiling new wife and the smiling San Francisco cab driver with their arms slipped around each other’s waists.


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