EVERY once in a while, when you hop into a taxi cab, you...

Salmagundi

January 11, 1994

EVERY once in a while, when you hop into a taxi cab, you get lucky.

You aren't immediately suffocated by a Blueberry Hawaiian Punch odor emanating from the ubiquitous pine tree-shaped air freshener.

There's no plexiglass separating you from the front seat, so you don't feel so much like a criminal being hauled to jail in the back of a squad car.

It's a clean car, well-maintained, so no matter what part of town you're driving through, "riding shotgun" loses its ominous literal connotation.

If you're really lucky, the driver speaks English.

If you're really, really lucky, he (or she, although female cabbies seem somewhat rare) can make you laugh.

One such driver works for Jimmy's Cab Co. in Towson. He's got gray hair pulled back into a scraggly ponytail, and he laughs heartily at the human curiosities and would-be economists who call in to radio talk shows to discuss NAFTA at 1 in the morning. These days, if you walk out of the Towson multiplex somberly and enter the cab in silence, he knows you've just seen "Schindler's List," and he tries to lighten the mood with puns and jokes.

Cab drivers meet a lot of different people on the job, and probably learn quite a bit from them. And sometimes, it's the other way around.

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