In the fraught-with-fear space between Vida's last novel and the moments when I will take up Mitchell's latest, I've been reading Sloane Crosley's latest. I'm also freshly back from a trip to New York. A trip that required me to regale my traveling companions (longtime NYC dwellers among them) with tales of crazy taxi life & death situations. Why? Because this last trip involved even crazier taxi life & death situations that required the telling of previous ones to provide some sort of context, a barometer for the new level of craziness just-experienced.
When I say "life & death" I'm not being novelistically dramatic. I've been in cabs that hit cyclists. I've witnessed drivers in head-on collisions. I've been called many things en route to Manhattan from JFK. I've been shouted at, asked to get out, begged to be let out and many variants in between. On this recent trip, I had the once in a lifetime (hopefully) fun of being in a taxi that was playing a rousing group game with another cab of let's cut each other off all the way down 9th Ave. no matter how many times my passenger's faces almost hit the front of the in-cab television or how many cars we sideswipe along the way. It was very bad. So bad we begged to be let out and weren't. For many swervy blocks.There were also smells. So. Many.
I'm a fan of humor in writing & Crosley's How Did You Get This Number does not disappoint. Her humor, my current in-between Vida/Mitchell state, and my recent return from NYC made Crosley's diatribe on taxi fun a delicious reader-writer moment:
"But there is no escaping the concoction of armpit and cheese rot currently molesting your face. Your mind does a quick calculation, multiplying the degree of stank by the distance between here and your destination, dividing the whole thing by your fear of overreacting. The idea that you might offend the driver is irrelevant. If he's going to tool around this town in an air bubble of poop, he should know there are consequences."
"The moment you shut the cab door, you can be who you want to be. If you are normally loath to make demands, you are now free to raise definitive questions: Why this route? Can you avoid Times Square? Can you please identify this sticky substance? How in the name of all that is holy can you not smell that? If you are a gregarious sort of person, you can finally have ten minutes of absolute silence in the presence of another human being without anyone asking you what's wrong. If you spend your day making decisions, you can stop, releasing yourself with those magic words: Whichever way's the fastest. Repeat it again when your driver attempts to brainstorm with you. He could tell you that the West Side Highway is closed and he'll need to swing around the moon first. Really. Whichever way."
There's more goodness in Crosley's latest collection of essays, including the complete taxi riff. I'll be finishing it up over the next few days before I take on the looming-large Mitchell novel.