I’m a night cabbie, which means I’m generally unavailable for early-morning airport runs. But for a regular customer I will occasionally make an exception, especially for a lucrative, out-of-town fare.
This explains the Plainfield pickup to Burlington Airport I scheduled for a Sunday morning at 3:45. The timing would mean heading out to Plainfield at about 2:45, a departure requiring some fancy footwork. On a typical Saturday night, the last-call rush keeps me hustling around Burlington until at least 3 a.m. So, to be on time for the Plainfield customer, I’d need to monitor carefully both the timing and location of my last few fares.
Sometimes you ask the prettiest girl to the dance and she says yes, and sometimes the taxi gods grant you a similar dispensation. At 2 a.m., I caught a fare to Huntington — a nice little run in the general direction of Plainfield, and one that would work time-wise. I enjoy the ride to this small town, in part because of its novelty: From Burlington, Huntington is not on the way to anywhere; you only get there when it’s the actual drop-off or pick-up location. For your average cabbie, this occurs maybe once a year.
“Tonight was awesome,” my seatmate gushed to his two friends in the backseat, a guy and a girl. He was a lanky, handsome, fresh-faced young man wearing black jeans and a white tank top. “I had a total blast. My first night in Burlington, I can’t believe it. We gotta do this again next week. I mean it.”
In the rearview mirror, I could see his friends grinning. “Timmy, we told you you’d have a great time,” said the girl. “Nothing beats Burlington on a Saturday night.”
“What was it, your 21st birthday?” I asked Timmy — a good guess, I thought, given the circumstances.
“Nope, I’m about halfway to 22. My friends have wanted to take me out all year. I just kinda waited a while to do it. Now I’m sorry I put it off. I got to dance with, like, three different girls!”
“Where’d you guys hang out?”
The girl replied, “Well, we started out at JP’s. Then — where’d we go next, Hank? — oh, yeah, we walked around the corner to Rasputin’s. Then we spent the rest of the night at Red Square.”
“Right on,” I said. “Red Square is awesome. They always have such great bands playing in their alleyway.”
“And we almost didn’t get in!” the girl said. “Apparently, they have some policy that guys can’t be wearing tank tops, but Timmy knew the bouncer and they let it slide. How did you know the guy, Timmy?”
“High school,” Timmy replied. “I think he was, like, a year ahead of us, right? The whole thing is unfair, anyways. Girls can wear sleeveless shirts with no problem. Anyhow, if I am wearing a beater next time, I’ll be sure to stash a sleeved T-shirt in my cargo pants.”
“So where’d you guys go to high school?” I asked.
Timmy replied, “Julie and me went to CVU. Hank grew up in Richmond, so he was at Mount Mansfield.”
We got off the interstate at the Richmond exit. Before the Round Church, crossing the town bridge, I asked Timmy, “I remember this bridge was out for quite a while last year. Do you know if they just renovated the old one, or is this new construction?”
“Nope, it’s brandy new,” Timmy replied, and that’s when I really heard the Vermont in his voice and language. “Brandy new” is nothing if not pure woodchuck. These three chums were bona fide Vermont kids. And, for the natives, life is not all about the Queen City, although this bunch clearly knew how to do it up on a Saturday night.
We arrived at the driveway of the house they shared off the beaten path in Huntington. “Three girls,” I said to Timmy, throwing in a low whistle to underline the sentiment. “Not bad, dude.”
“Can’t wait ’til next weekend,” he said with a big smile.
My Plainfield run went smooth as Greek yogurt. My customer felt like conversing the whole way, which was dandy by me — if nothing else, it kept me awake. As I dropped him off and glided out of the airport, the sun was just beginning to rise over the Green Mountains. Passing the all-night Dunkin’ Donuts on Williston Road, I saw a young man rush to the curb to flag me down, and pulled into the parking lot.
“I need a ride to the Burlington jail,” he explained. “I got to bail out my buddy.”
Driving over to Farrell Street, I asked, “DUI, I’m guessing?”
“Yup. We were at this bar and I got pretty hammered, so I asked my friend to drive. He was less drunk than me, anyway. But it was my car, and he didn’t get the lights on right, apparently, so that’s why we were pulled over. He flunked the field test, and they busted him and towed my car.”
“Did he blow?”
“I don’t know. Is it better, like, legally, to blow or refuse?”
“Beats me. I was just curious.”
“Do you know any good lawyers? My friend’s gonna need one.”
“Hmm … well, there’s always Paul Jarvis. He’s, like, Mr. DUI. I guess he’s made a career of handling these cases.”
“I’ll tell him, thanks.”
“Where you from, dude?”
“I grew up in Brattleboro. Yup, Bratt’s like a low-grade version of Burlington.”
That cracked me up — both his description of the town and the nickname. By the time we reached the big house, it was light enough to declare it officially Sunday morning, and yet another completed megashift for this hackie.
“Oh, jeez,” the guy said, “I have money for this cab ride, but do you think they’ll take a card for the bail?”
“I have no idea, brother. You’d think, in this day and age, they gotta take plastic. Hey, if it turns out you do need cash, there’s an ATM at the 24-hour general store around the corner across from Denny’s.”
“Man, this is so unlike us to get into this mess. We’ve been friends for, like, 10 years, and neither of us has even had a brush with the law.”
I reached up and pulled a business card from my rubber-banded visor. Handing it to the young man, I said, “Next time, leave the car and call Jernigan.”