Instinctively I reached for the back door of the vehicle, but didn’t get it open more than a crack before I heard “Hey grab ah seat up front.” Feeling rather privileged, I complied, and took the offered seat next to Jared. Since we had previously met, formal introductions were skipped. Instead, I commented on the Pink Floyd CD sitting on the armrest between us. “Yeah the damn thing skips, so I don’t even listen anymore” Jared said. Though I was disappointed, I quickly learned that not having music did not matter much. Between the steady conversation and the constant interruptions from the dispatch radio attached to the dashboard, there was very little time for rock n’ roll CD’s.
Jared, who appeared to be in his early thirties, was dressed causally in a gray, hoodless sweatshirt and blue jeans. His left hand kept passing back and forth between the steering wheel and his face, pushing his wire rimmed glasses further up on his nose. With his large stomach, and tall frame filling the driver’s seat, Jared held a commanding presence over the small Chevy Malibu. He drove quickly around the block, and managed to talk to me and into the handset of the radio at the same time. “87. I’ve got the reporter.” I laughed to myself when I heard my new title. Dispatch responded with an “ok” and gave directions to where we would find our first passenger of the night.
When we arrived at the State College bus station, an old man greeted us with thanks and surprise at our quickness. Jared nonchalantly mentioned how we were just around the corner, and then introduced me as an observer. I gave a quick hello, and then quieted down out of respect for Jared. I was unsure if it was appropriate to talk with the passengers. Slowly, the old man took his place in the back seat of the car, and then quickly managed to strike up conversation. He had traveled all the way from Florida by bus, and this taxi ride was the final leg of his journey. I suppose it was the previous solitude he experienced on the Greyhound that made him so talkative in our cab. “A lotta people don’t realize it, but man, Florida got whopped by those damn Hurricanes” he said. From then on the conversation between him and Jared focused on the weather, both in Florida and in State College, and the effect that it was having upon each of their lives. The old man talked about the Hurricane’s destruction of all the mature trees down south, and Jared empathetically responded with a similar story about the Elm trees in State College, and their threat of destruction by a virus. Jared went on to mention how the unseasonably nice weather in State College had hurt business the week before. It occurred to me then how important it is for a taxi driver to stay informed of current events. Sports, politics, weather, or business, I imagine that a successful taxi driver would be familiar with all of these, and able to offer some interesting insight, as Jared did with the weather, and this old man from Florida. On our way back to town, Jared and I talked about the rules set forth by Handy Delivery. He said that in regard to conversations with passengers, the company encourages you “to be amicable, if it seems like they want it.” He himself prefers talkative customers because it helps to pass the time, and also improves the tips. Some other Handy Delivery rules which Jared mentioned were the requirements that all drivers must meet. One must be at least 25