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Back-up the Back-up 

The couple off the night-time Vermont Transit bus were of a breed solely indigenous to California. Sometimes I think of Arnold's world as our landlocked Galapagos Island, replete with unique and wonderful organisms. This man and woman were about 60 - baby boomers at the cusp of old-age. The guy was the fluffy bear type - you know, Jerry Garcia-cum- Ben Cohen-cum-Alan Newman - with a formidable salt-and-pepper beard and bushy hair tied in a long ponytail. The woman was earth-mother incarnate, on the way to earth-grandmother incarnate. Both of them wore expensive EMS-type traveling clothes and carried their stuff in ergonomic, blue nylon and aluminum backpacks.

They needed to get to Anchorage Hotel, but first, "Where can we get vegan food?"

"Hmm," says I, "this time of night it will be tough to find hot vegan food, but our local co-op has a bunch of prepared stuff."

I go in with them to City Market, and they load up on veggie sushi, samosas and pakoras. The woman proceeds to buy any number of bottles of vino, "For the road," as she puts it.

On the way to the hotel, the guy launches into a series of stories about past environmental guerrilla actions, in which he participated. Apparently he was a serious scientist, but also an eco-warrior on the side. I wouldn't say he regaled me with this memoir; truthfully, it was closer to "bored me to tears," because the gist of the stories involved the arcane science of the issue. When it comes to science, if things aren't exploding or about to explode, I tend to check-out. My appreciation of science, you see, began and ended at age 11.

Finally, it comes out that they need a ride to the Plattsburgh-Grand Isle ferry the following morning at 10am. This is a good fare, and I quote them $60, to which they agree. Then - oh, crap - I remember that I was already booked at that time. I tell the customers, "Let me call my brother. He's an appliance repair guy, but he often fills in for me when I can't handle a ride."

When I call my brother, he's wrapped up in an episode of "Smallville" (TV addiction runs in the family.) I quickly lay-out the run, and he says, "There are 10 reasons why I don't want to do this run tomorrow." (He did, the next day, give me the 10 reasons.)

So I call one of my fellow independent cabbies. Whenever I can, I like to use indies for back-up, rather than one of the fleet companies. We little guys like to help one another out. Unfortunately, I just get the answering message. It takes me four calls to other guys before I reach Louie. "Taxi," he answers the phone. His voice is like a bullfrog just awoken from a winter's hibernation deep in the muck of the pond bottom. Also, he's a Vermonter and hence the paucity of verbiage. I tell him about the run, and can you do it? He says, "Yup," and that's that.

I hate to miss a 60-buck fare, but until cloning technology is perfected, there's just one of me, and first-come, first-serve.


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About The Author

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac was a Burlington cab driver whose biweekly "Hackie" column appeared in Seven Days 2000-20. He has published two book-length collections, Hackie: Cab Driving and Life, and Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn.


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