I hailed a cab. In New York City.
OK, hailing a cab might be a little bit of an exaggeration. It was more like ... oh, walking up to the first cab in line at Penn Station.
"I'll hold this," I stated, clutching my laptop bag as if it contained the Hope Diamond, as the cabbie moved to toss it among a nondescript assortment of luggage in the car's trunk (an oddity, I thought, given that I was the only passenger).
"Don't even think about putting it on the seat!" gruffed the cabbie.
"Um, yeah, OK then, it can go in the back," I replied meekly, handing over my life.
I hopped in the back, feeling all proud of myself and sophisticated and chic and grown-up. I was in a cab! By myself! In New York City!
Just like the 45rpm record I used to own and play incessantly, Joe Jackson's song "Steppin' Out" cued up in my brain.
"Youuuuuuuuuuu, can dress in pink and blue just like a chiiiiiiiiiiiiiild
And in a yellow taxi turn to me and smile
We'll be there in just awhile
If you follow me ...."
We went through the where-to's (there are five Hiltons!) and the how-long-you've-been-driving-a-cab? and arrived at the where are you from's?
"Delaware," I said.
"Where's that?" he chuckled, slapping the steering wheel as if he invented that joke. I decided to let him think that he had.
"Is that the smallest state?"
"Actually, I think Rhode Island is smaller," I suggested.
"I'll have to check my statistics book."
Silly naive Delawarean me. I thought he meant, like, when he got off duty. Nope. From someplace on a paper-strewn dashboard, the cabbie produced a Tiffany-blue colored paperback and started paging through it.
While driving. Through Manhattan.
"States, states, let's see ... Delaware ...."
It's apparently too dangerous for my laptop to rest on the exquisite seats of the cab, but perfectly fine for the cabbie to transform himself into a reference librarian on the spot while driving to one of the five Manhattan Hiltons. As I would come to think many times over the next 48 hours: only in New York.
"Delaware has 786,418 people," my cab driver announced.
Actually, it's about a hundred thousand plus more than that, I wanted to clarify, but I thought this might not be the time for a debate. Plus, this was clearly an out of date manual - which, oddly, gave me more confidence in his driving abilities. Evidently, he'd had lots of practice driving while looking up populations and square footages of each of the States. Because in addition to reciting Delaware's population and confirming that, yes indeed I was right, Rhode Island is the smallest state, whaddyaknowhowboutdat, I was also treated to the square footage of Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York, and a mathematical equation of factoring how much of Delaware could fit - piece of a puzzle-like, in New York.
(I'm going out on a limb here and say ... I dunno, maybe most of it. Just a wild guess there.)
"I just love statistics," the cabbie practically sighed. "I like to memorize them. When I was a kid, I knew all kinds of facts, dates. Still do."
Isn't it ironic? Alanis Morrissette sang in my head, as I insta-diagnosed the cabbie as being on the autism spectrum, the talent for memorization of useless facts and trivial dates being a dominant trait in those in my life.
Our geographic knowledge firmly in place, the cabbie decided to further my education by explaining that if I was taking any other cabs while in town, to specify the Hilton at 7th and 53rd. Not, as I said, 1335 Avenue of the Americas. And another thing: I was to avoid getting in any cabs who have their OFF DUTY light on.
"Otherwise, you don't know what they can charge. It's terrible. They don't pay taxes you know,"
"Terrible," I concurred.
As the Hilton came into view, he put on the radio, a tune that sounded strangely like the theme song from Taxi.
"What you here for again?" the cabbie asked.
"A blogging conference," I explained.
"A WHAAAA ...??!!" he half-yelled, as if this was the craziest, half-assed thing he'd ever heard in his 35 years of driving a cab. "A blog? I don't know what that is. I don't even own a computer."
I found that hard to believe, given the statistical fountain of information this guy was. Then again, if this guy was introduced to the world of Google and Wikipedia, he might never drive a cab again.
"Big conference?" he said.
"Yeah ... 2,400 women," I answered.
"So it's one big hen party," he concurred.
"Something like that," I laughed.
At the glass BlogHered logoed revolving doors of the Hilton, my laptop was returned (the seats still pristine), and money was exchanged. With a ride like that, this was going to be a trip filled with many a blogworthy moment, I thought.
And indeed, it was - and I'll be telling you more about them over the next few days.
As for my cabbie on the way back to Penn Station three days later?
He never uttered a word.
Photo taken by me on August 5, 2010 in New York City. Photo and text copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.