jruit :: 26




An impromptu motorcade in San Francisco's financial district presents a certain problem to a taxi driver such as myself. "The President's coming!" my last passenger had told me, getting off a few blocks from where crowds were already lining the sidewalks. I made a quick turn in the opposite direction, then realized how slim my chances were of finding a flagger now. Who on earth could conceive of taking a taxicab away from this sudden flurry of history? Maybe the thing for me to do would be cross the gathering tornado while I still had a chance, before everything closed down. Crows don't have that problem. I'd just been telling my passenger about the crows I feed at lunchtime, down at Ocean Beach, and he'd gone ballistic, way more than I would have expected over such an animal. Maybe crows have intelligence like a dream at night, I'd told him. He told ME how he'd been golfing down at Pebble Beach and some crow, "... maybe it was a raven," had made off with his stash of hashish. "Plucked it right out of my bag when I wasn't looking!" he'd fumed. "How do you know it was a crow then?" I'd asked. "Cause I'd already seen it and chased it away!" he'd almost shouted. "Probably some stoned crow!" I'd said, though he didn't share my glee. I told him how I'd taken a fellow down to Pebble Beach a few months earlier, and after a two-hour taxi ride, how we'd arrived exactly seven minutes late for his tee off. Dressed like a Scotsman, with his bag of clubs at the ready, he'd piled out before I'd even received an authorization code, though you sort of trust a fellow like that. Someone who doesn't care. My taxi was already crossing Clay Street, which was empty, no flaggers at all, and then I realized if I headed for the taxi stand at Davis and California, no motorcade official could possibly object. After all, I was a professional. Except I bypassed the stand and turned right on Pine Street right smack in the middle of the funnel. Police officers waved me along, though here was a metered parking space on the right! As nonchalantly as possible, I edged in and stopped, quarters in hand, all legal and aboveboard. Behind me police officers no longer allowed pedestrians in the street, which I found Draconian. As a measure of frontiersman defiance, I stood by the rear hatch of my taxicab, and looked to see if anyone was going to do anything about it. I think they were reckoning with me the way a crow might, sort of out of the corners of their eyes, just as the first black limousine rounded the corner off Market onto Pine in a way which I knew was brisk, though in perfectly slow motion. First one perfect car, then a second, then the third. A bright sensation filled my chest! I suddenly threw my right arm into the air in sort of a wild flapping wave, the way a two-year-old might, with all my attention on the third car. Now abreast, I saw a figure in the back seat almost squirming in a wave back, a vigorous wiggle of history! "He looked like a basketball player," I told my next passenger, some eight blocks away from the dissipating crowd. "Well, he is a basketball player," my passenger remarked, filling my chest with sort of a black dampening quality. I shuddered in its shadow. In the momentary silence that followed I felt the eyes of someone who simply didn't care.


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