It was early but the parking lot was full. I headed on to the alley but was promptly stopped by a hand signal to back up from a gentleman in a wheelchair. I put the car in reverse and he kept motioning me further and further back. For a moment I considered the possibility that he was delusional and that I had by virtue of my caffeine addiction played right into his daily traffic cop routine here in the alley behind the Vanderbilt Starbucks. But then the magic happened. Just as I cleared a massive SUV on my left, its backup lights flashed on. This stranger in the alley had handed me a parking space. Free of charge. I pulled into the spot with glee and when I exited the car I yelled over to him:
“Looks like I might owe you a cup of coffee.”
And you know what he said?
I couldn’t help but laugh, “Caramel Frappuccino?” I said, “that’s your poison?”
When I brought it to him he blessed me and said his name was Jacob. “Like Jacob’s Ladder,” he said. “Easy to remember that way.”
I asked him what his job was and he told me he was the “Parking lot Sheriff.” I asked him if he ever ran people out of the lot for parking where they didn’t belong. He said he couldn’t run them out but that he does make sure they understand about that “$200 tow truck” that would be on it’s way, just minutes after they lock their car door. “This is Vanderbilt” he said, “they ain’t playin’ around.”
Hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday.
for a taxi in Nashville at two-thirty in the morning, a while back. I needed the car to be at my house at three o’clock, I think it was. There is no one on the planet I would ask to take me to the bus station at that hour so I plucked a business card from Music City Taxi off the mirror of my dresser. It was one of those fill-in-the-blank cards that drivers give you when you might need a return trip. The words, both printed on it and handwritten read: ASK FOR: Ron CAR#: 3.
The last time I saw Ron, he was out front of the Greyhound Bus Station, telling me how he did not want his picture in the newspaper. “What if I got people looking for me?”, he asked, his gaze lurching from side to side, in a questionable attempt to remain serious.
"If you got people looking for you," I said, "they would’ve found you a long time ago, Ron. Your car’s parked in the middle of Eighth Avenue five days a week, for God’s sake."
He laughed then, but stubbornly handed me the card and said “You owe me a ride.”
Those were his last words to me. You owe me a ride.
Then, three years later I held the card in my hand in the middle of the night, the opportunity to pay him back, looming on the calm moonlit air. I let it go, zipped my bag for the last time, and called the dispatcher instead. He was saved by the hour.
It was Dave who pulled in my driveway half an hour later. Actor. Storyteller. Low on gas. We discovered that we’d both read all of Steven Womack’s books. We talked about the strippers in Chain of Fools and I thought of how few places I could’ve had such a conversation at that time of night. No place more appropriate certainly, than in a taxi.
Taxi drivers are a wealth of information. Eventually, they know something about everything.
Fourteen years ago, there was a young photographer who walked up to you on one of her first assignments. She was a little nervous about asking your name as she was surrounded by celebrities and believed you might be someone she should already know. As it happened, you graciously told her your name (and spelled it) without the slightest whiff of irritation. If I remember right, she hid her surprise pretty well, because the name was all too familiar. In an effort to both educate herself and intensify her personal humiliation, she went home and looked you up.
Months later, after she had met approximately seven thousand new people, the same thing happened again. And again, you were a class act. You even went so far as to shake her hand and make her feel appreciated when in fact, you could just as easily have walked away or made her feel small.
Now, all these years later, this woman has taken your picture maybe thirty times. Out of habit, she pays close attention, not to the way people look but to the way they behave and you my friend, have earned your own special category. Granted, she doesn’t know anything about you personally. You may go home every night and kick your dog, but she doubts it. You have a habit of looking at people instead of through them which leads her to believe that you might treat the guy who mows your grass with the same respect you’d offer to your colleagues. No press agent will ever figure out how to manufacture that.
Everyone probably knows by now, that you are likely the greatest guitar player in the world. She thinks they might also like to know that Soul Man was more than just a song.