A man and two women drifted over to my cab as I trolled the streets of downtown Burlington. One of the women and the man jumped into the backseat. The remaining woman made a move to get in the front, then, thinking better of it, reached for the back door to join the other two.
“Aw, jeez,” I kidded through the open window, “I thought I was about to get lucky.” I’m a born flirt.
“Well, when you put it that way,” she said, chuckling. “Now I have to take the shotgun seat!”
As she climbed in, I observed she was closer to 50 than 40, with a beaming smile and a thicket of blond hair — “bleached,” if that’s still the process. Thinking about it, I decided that actual bleach is probably no longer used, though the phrase “bleach blond” remains, akin to the way we still say, “dialing the phone.” Or maybe bleach is still the thing?
“So, hon,” she said, speaking for the trio, “could you take us to the Georgetown condos on Kennedy Drive?”
“I would like nothing better,” I responded, and I meant it. I actually truly enjoy driving folks from Point A to Point B and getting paid for it. And that’s why I whistle while I work.
“Donna, wasn’t that a blast tonight?” the woman in the back said to her friend in the front. “I can’t remember the last time we all went out to Nectar’s.”
“Oh, yeah — that was awesome. I forgot how much fun it could be, the three of us hanging out, just like when we were kids.”
A-ha, I registered: siblings. “Y’all look a little flushed,” I said. “Did you shake some booty tonight?”
“We sure did,” Donna replied. “I shook what my mama gave me.”
Everyone in the cab laughed at what I believe was a hip-hop reference, or perhaps it derived from R&B, or even the blues vernacular. In any event, it’s a sweet nugget of African American street poetry, and pretty hip, I thought, for a middle-aged Vermonter.
“Hey,” my seatmate continued, “could I ask you something I wondered about? Do you drive a lot of drunk people back home from downtown?”
“Um, that’s pretty much what I do for a living,” I replied, and everyone laughed again.
“Donna, you’re such a blonde,” her sister said. And then to me she explained, “I’ve been telling blonde jokes all night. My sister’s a sport; she can take it.”
I said, “Is that so? Tell me the truth, Donna — do you enjoy blonde jokes, or do you resent them?”
“Oh, no — I love ’em.”
“OK, then, here’s my favorite. A blonde goes into a library and approaches the librarian. ‘I’ll have a large fries and a Coke,’ she says. The librarian goes (and I lowered my voice to a hushed tone), ‘Miss, this is a library.’ The blonde goes, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry’ (echoing the librarian’s whisper), ‘I’ll have a large fries and a Coke.’”
The women cracked up. “That,” Donna said, “is hilarious.” The man said, “I don’t get it.”
“Our brother’s slightly hammered,” Donna said.
“No way,” the brother protested. “Explain it to me. I wanna know.”
It never, ever helps to explain a joke, but I gave it a shot. “Well, you see, the blond thinks the problem is her loud talking, not the fact that she’s ordering fast food in a library.”
“I still don’t get it. Gimme another one.”
“OK, how about … at an office, how do you tell which work station belongs to the blonde?”
“Hers is the one with the Wite-Out on the computer screen.”
Again, the women laughed while the guy sat stone-faced. “I don’t get that one, either. D’ya have a non-blonde joke, maybe?”
“Sure,” I said, and quickly dredged up the simplest, shortest joke I could remember. We were approaching Georgetown at this point, and I needed to wrap up this dubious comedy festival. “So,” I asked, “did you see the new pirate movie?”
“No,” the man replied — and I would say “playing along,” except there was not much play involved.
“Yeah,” I said, “it’s rated ‘arrrr.’”
The third time was not the charm. Women: yuk city; man: nothing.
“How about I tell you a joke,” he said, and I thought I could detect suppressed groans from his sisters.
“Sure, lay one on me.”
In the rearview mirror, I could see the guy straighten in his seat. He was suddenly looking animated and eager.
“All right, all right,” he began. “OK … Did you hear about the scarecrow who won the Nobel Prize?”
I said, “I have not.”
“Yup, for service outstanding in his field.”
“Oh, that’s very funny,” I said, which is the thing you say in lieu of laughing when something is not very funny. Anyway, the truth is, most everyone thinks they’re funny, that their own sense of humor is the bomb. I have a regular customer, Tracie Spencer, who is a successful standup comedian. She actually gets up on stages and makes people laugh. So she is certifiably, inarguably funny. Short of that, who’s to say? In the pirate-versus-the-scarecrow showdown, it’s a standoff.
The man looked pleased as Punch. “You liked that one?” he said as we pulled into the condo development. “I got another one for you.”
Donna said, “Let’s save it for next time, brother. The man’s got to make a living,”
She then winked at me, and I mouthed, “Thanks.”