Ben sat behind shotgun in a black sedan. He was taking a private taxi service to Williamsburg with two companions. The service will not be named, but the ride was über expensive, über long and the driver, über incompetent. They were attending the birthday celebration of one of their friends. He entered the car with the fair-haired artist and the unhinged gadfly, leaving from an Albany Avenue synagogue, a pillar of the Crown Heights nouveau-chassid, alt-hipster scene. Careening down Flatbush avenue at a blistering fifteen miles per hour, Ben pondered why the driver was taking this route. The only way it could have been more circuitous, would have been if they had driven south to the water and sailed via ferry to the north face of Brooklyn.
Ben sat patiently during his unending journey in his four-door prison with his two cell mates.
He sat in the back seat while the young woman to his left anxiously toiled on her smartphone looking up directions, shaking her head at the driver’s decisons, while in front of him the salt-and-pepper haired man sat with his left arm stretched out, clutching the back of the driver’s head rest (not a social faux pas per se, but an unusual behavior), whilst in an unending monologue commentating on the ins and outs of the Crown Heights social scene. The man served as as sort of social nucleus in the neighborhood, both attracting and repelling people at the same time, always keeping them in his orbit.
Ben was caught somewhere on the spectrum of the emotions of his two friends. The young woman squirmed in distress, fiddling with her impossibly straight and uniform hair. The man amused at their mutual predicament. They floated down the avenue Styx, passing by the Barclay’s center where a muster of unseasonably dressed tweens and teens let them know that this was the latest stop in Miley Cyrus’s cultural abomination tour. The ride’s narration continued with the older man noticing the girls filing into the arena and wondering if the driver had taken the “scenic route”. It was the only semi-rational explanation.
Finally, the young woman spoke up, questioning the route. “You know you can just take Vanderbilt.” she suggested looking at the map on her phone. “Taking Flatbush makes no sense.”
“Don’t yell at me,” he rebutted. “I didn’t know there would be traffic.”
Ben exchanged a nervous glance with her. “She didn’t yell at you,” Ben chimed in. But it was clear that arguing was of no use. He sunk into his seat resigned to his fate. He pondered the choices of the driver. Why would the driver choose to take Flatbush at this time of night? Why his chosen profession cab driver? It was a strange thing being held captive by this misanthropic chauffer. The only comfort was that the price of the ride is agreed upon up front, so no amount of stalling would allow the driver to bilk more money out of hapless passengers. This particular trip was somehow being paid by someone else. “David is paying for this trip,” the older man would later brag gleefully. “Did you know that?” Ben did know that, but wondered if David knew that.
He was drawn out of his after-hours day dream by the man in front saying something obscene then being rebuked by the woman. He then in passing mentioned two members of the extended social circle were no longer dating. Ben made a note to keep all of his future social affairs hidden from him.
Ben and his backseat companion pointed out to the man that if he was gossiping about others, that they could only assume that he talks about them. He responded by assuring the girl that he didn’t talk about her. Ben was suspicious about his omission from the declaration.
“Do you talk about me?”
“We think you enjoy all the attention.”
Ben categorically denied this half truth and tried his best to sit in silence for the rest of the ride. From time to time he would share his complaints with the girl, via text, so as not to alert the driver. Ben had a long standing policy of not upsetting anybody who could end his life with the flick the wrist.; and through the miracles of modern combustion, cabbies fall right smack in the middle of that category.
Thankfully, the rest of the ride was a blur and upon their arrival in Williamsburg, Ben vowed never to take that service again, unless he really needed it or if it was easy. Upon entering the bar, the threesome greeted their host and immediately set out to make sure to find friends who could give them a ride at the end of the night.