portland reindeer sign

1am in a cab on a school night

portland reindeer sign

It was raining just so.

Like a melody I knew well, but couldn’t place. The kind I wanted to hear over and over again for the rest of my life.

I was crossing a bridge in a cab at 1am. I was alone with a cab driver.

There was water all around. A river beneath and the rain above.

The windows of the cab were speckled with gorgeous rain drops that shined with the city lights. It was like a painting that would never stay the same, no matter how much you wanted it to.

It was blurry, but it was beautiful.

I had just left a group of friends and Mr. H was out of town. I never do this anymore…stay out late on a school night.

But, this was a night I would never forget. One that changed me, from one side of the river to the other.

My thoughts were rampant. I had to say goodbye to an old piece of me that night, a wild piece that no longer existed.

And this transformation all happened in a cab with a guy I didn’t know.

Even now I couldn’t tell you what his name was. But he had a Russian accent. That I can remember.

We got to talking about the usual which turned into the unusual. These things happen in the middle of the night.

Somehow we got onto art, writing in particular. I told him about my struggle with writing novels full-time…I don’t know why. When you’re talking to a stranger, one that you’re paying for a short period of time, there is safety in that.

Also, I knew that he would understand. He was a professional listener after all.

You see, every cab ride I’ve taken late at night has been like jazz music to me. Slow, other-worldly—honest and sexy.

Toward the end of our ride, we talked about robots. Yeah, robots.

Again, these things happen in the middle of the night.

The cab driver told me that soon cabs would be taken over by robots. And while that would have made me snicker ten years ago, it doesn’t now.

I said: “It’s a damn shame.”

“You think so?”

“Yes, because I’ve always loved cab conversations.”

He said: “Thank you.”

I swiped my card and tipped him well. Then I shut the door and he drove away. The cab vanished behind a thick veil of misty Portland rain until it was just me standing alone on my curb, trying to balance in my boots.

I stumbled inside to write this gibberish in my journal. I almost forgot about it until I came across it. The writing was sloppy, almost not mine.

But the story was pretty special.

Like a melody I knew well, but couldn’t place. The kind I wanted to hear over and over again for the rest of my life.


This was the song I had stuck in my head that night… “All Things to All Men” by The Cinematic Orchestra featuring Roots Manuva. I played it while I wrote this blog post.

Strangely enough I found the perfect video on YouTube that has Russian subtitles—the language of my cab driver.

Pretty amazing world we live in. We’re not all that different, are we?

 

43 thoughts on “1am in a cab on a school night

  1. danniehill says:

    Your writing always appeals to me,Britt, but this one made me feel completely what you are saying! I think the best changes in life are when one door closes and another opens at the same time. I haven’t ridden in many cabs, but I’ve experienced conversations with complete stranger that impacted my life. Not so much for the conversation but the touching of words.

    And the music is the perfect night travel.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Absolutely, Dannie. It’s funny how those conversations with strangers can really stick with us. I’ve had a few over the years, and this one happened right when I was going through a transitional time. Transitional night, actually.

      I love this song. Stumbled upon it last year and I listen to it when I’m in the mood.

  2. Pamela says:

    This is gorgeous. I know what you mean about letting the wild pieces go. And this:

    I swiped my card and tipped him well. Then I shut the door and he drove away. The cab vanished behind a thick veil of misty Portland rain until it was just me standing alone on my curb, trying to balance in my boots.

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    You’re so great at embracing life, Britt. Whenever I take a cab, it’s mums the word. I rarely, rarely strike up conversations with strangers. But every now and then, I meet a cab driver (or store clerk, or someone waiting in line behind me, etc.) who really knows how to draw an introvert out, and by the time the cab ride is over, I realize I had a very pleasant ride. 🙂

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Aw…thanks, love. You do the same. I always love the humorous snippets of life you share with us.

      I talk to strangers much more than I used to, and I find that it’s awesome for character research. In fact, some of my better dialogue has come from these moments…and eavesdropping, of course!

  4. Sheila says:

    I love looking at the rain through a window like that. It felt like I was there with you and the cab driver. It’s true that we’re not so different after all. It’s only imaginary boundaries that separate us.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Isn’t it the best, Sheila doll? There’s a special kind of rain that makes the best window art, and that night was one of those times.

      We are all very much the same. Blogging has taught me so much about that, actually. Many of us have the same thoughts and dreams. I love it.

  5. Karin Van den Bergh says:

    Extraordinary piece of writing Britt! Isn’t it funny we feel more safe sometimes to share our story with complete strangers? Happened to me as well and what’s interesting is that those conversations stuck with me for a long time, like there was some mystical connection of some kind.. as if some meetings had to take place. Transformation can happen anytime, anyplace with anybody.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thank you, sweetness! I poured some heart into this one.

      It’s easier to share our stories with strangers sometimes, it’s true. Especially when it’s late and you’re tipsy. Things get truthful rather quickly. 🙂

      But yes, I have had some incredible conversations/moments where I was with the most random people. Funny how life works.

  6. Minuscule Moments says:

    Britt what a beautiful piece of descriptive writing. Sounded like something out of a movie, especially the Russian cab driver. I love that we are not all that different. Such a an uplifting post to read on my rainy sunday morning. Thank you.

  7. Letizia says:

    What a beautiful, engaging piece. I love those brief intimate connections with strangers that linger, even often redefine how you view the world. I wonder if he went home and wrote about the encounter in his journal or talked about it with his wife or something.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Thank you, my sweets! It was a really strange and beautiful twenty minutes that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

      I don’t know if he did! That would be so crazy. Though I was just another rambling drunken woman in his cab. He might have been relieved to get rid of me. 🙂

  8. Roy McCarthy says:

    What a lovely piece of writing Britt, a magical slice of time. Reminded me a lot of your night time Prague portrayal, something that probably couldn’t happen a second time except in your head. Great post.

  9. Zen A. says:

    I’m envious. Why are your cabbies so much cooler than mine? More than half the cabbies I’ve been with tried to hit on me and made me very uncomfortable.

    That said, this piece was written absolutely beautifully. Your words were magical!

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Haha, Zen! I must admit, I haven’t taken a cab late at night by myself…ever. I’ve been married for so long that I always have Mr. H around. I was a little nervous and totally expecting to be hit on, but I had an awesome cabbie who struck up deep conversation.

      Thanks, love! I had an emotional writing hour.

  10. jmmcdowell says:

    I’m dating myself here, but the poetry of your words and the images they evoked brought to mind Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” from the 1970s. There must be something about the combination of the night, the intimacy of the enclosed space, and the frame of mind that triggers the desire to express the event creatively….

  11. Kate Johnston says:

    I need to do things like this, because I think it would help me with character development. But, I’m too shy and terrible at small talk. I love how you can just be so open and warm, Britt. It’s a beautiful thing.

    • Britt Skrabanek says:

      Kate doll, I used to be the absolute worst at small talk. My talkative, social husband has brought me out of my shell over the years. I find it really interesting to talk to strangers now. I don’t do it with everybody, but I find myself joking and telling stories to more people than ever before.

      Thank you, sweetness. That’s a lovely thing to say. xo

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