Monday, April 26, 2010

Conversation in a Taxi

"What did you think of our fog this morning?"  The driver asked me.
            "It was awfully thick."  I said. 
            "Oh yes."  He said.  "It got very very thick before it was through.  We need some more fogs like this! If we can have three of these in a row, we'll have some good rain after the last."
            He was an old man, straight and gray, with a hearing aide in his left ear and an RSL community badge pinned to his chest.
            "Does it always work like that?"  I asked him.
            "Yes, indeed - for as long as I've been here, and I've been here all my life.  Three morning fogs and the weather will come down on us like a rain of bricks and fill the tanks.  What did you think of that thunderclap last night - the first one?"
            "Wasn't that a bang?  It shook our windows loose!"
            He laughed.  "Split the sky open all right!  Nature's been on a streak this year, hasn't she?  He glanced at me in the rear-view mirror.  "All these earthquakes and volcanoes and landslides - what can you say, eh?"
            "You know why it's all happening, of course." I said confidingly, sliding forward in my seat.
He looked back at me suspiciously.
            "Why's that?"
            "Declining moral standards."  I told him.  "One of Iran's senior Clerics has explained that all this geomorphological turmoil is because Iranian women aren't wearing their veils quite as far forward on their heads as they should be.  Men are being tempted beyond the brink of decency and the world is breaking out in earthquakes and volcanoes."
            He looked at me for a very long time, and then he caught the twinkle in my eye and burst into laughter.
            "Oh the things," he gasped.  "The things people say!

            "There's a young blogger in the US who is proposing an empirical test." I said.  "She's proposed that on Monday the 26th every female with a passing interest in science or moral philosophy wear the most revealing clothes they dare - a shirt open to their navel or a flash of the ankle below a sensible skirt - whatever feels really decadent.  If the men of the world fail to go on compulsive sexual rampage and the earth fails to implode out of sheer moral indignation, the cleric has to take it back."
            He looked at me again and then he laughed and laughed and laughed.
            "There's a thing I say to women" he offered.  "D'you want to hear it?"
            "I'd love to hear it."
            "Every year on August 6, every woman I see - I wish a happy birthday!  And they hate me for it!  How they hate me when I do it.  Do you know why I say that to them?"
            "I don't know why you say it."
            "D'you want to know why I do that?"
            "I would love to know why you do that."
            "You really want to know why I say it?"
            "You know I really really do!"
            "Let me just adjust this mirror, so I can see you better.  There you are.  Now - I tell them Happy Birthday because August 6th is the date that every racehorse in Australia is considered to be one year older.  Now d'you know why I do it?"
            "I am beginning," I said gravely "to have a few suspicions."
            "But you're not going to give it to me."
            "I am not going to give it to you."
            "You're going to wait for me to say it."
            "I am absolutely going to wait for you to say it."
            "It's because" he said triumphantly, "on August 6th, every woman is either a young filly or an old nag!"
I burst out laughing.  He slapped his knee and looked back and me and roared.
            "Oh yes" he sighed  "I'm a terrible trouble - a terrible trouble!   But there's words and there's words, I know that, you know that.  I may like to peck at them a little, but I do love women, and there's far too much pleasure in making them want to wring my old neck.
            Did you know that my football club came up with an annual award just for me? Do you think you could guess what it might be?"
            "I have a few ideas."
            "Well, I'll tell you.  It was a foot in mouth award!  Happened at the annual awards banquet a few years ago. The president of the club led us off with a little speech and we raised our glasses and at the end of it he pointed to a big chart on the wall and told us up there everyone would find their seat and their table for the night, and I just couldn't help meself: I opened my mouth and said "Glad you didn't leave it to the wives. We'd be standing here all afternoon."
He slapped his knee again and wheezed.
            "Well- the wife looked at me rather frostily - rather frostily. The president took me aside and said "Charlie, I need your help with something" and he took me outside for ten minutes and when we came back he pointed me in the direction of my table and do you know what they had done while I was away? I sat down at that table and a circle of female faces stared back at me without a smile on any one of them. I was the only man there, and they did me properly.  Oh dear.  All night, they did. They made me pay.
            And the very next year, the very first award of the night was my Foot in Mouth award.  D'you know how they made it?"
            I shook my head encouragingly.
            "They went out and bought a concrete door stop shaped like a foot and painted it gold.  And on the front of it - can you guess?"
            "I couldn’t guess."
            "They found a pair of those wind-up chattering teeth - a pair made out of brass, and they stuck that to the front of that golden concrete foot.
            I saw those ladies last month - at a banquet in Port Pirie.  We were at their table because we hiding out from a certain bloke and it turned out that they were hiding out from the very same bloke. We had a lovely time together. Of course" he said reflectively "I probably shouldn't have that story around town afterward. Now he knows that we're all hiding from him!  And they're telling me now that those teeth are mine again this year!"
            We had been parked across from my destination for the past five minutes. He turned in his seat and looked directly at me.
             "Darling, it has been a pleasure - an absolute pleasure - to have you in my taxi today. You'll wear a very small shirt on Monday- you will, won't you?  A very small shirt.  Peck at them - bite them hard!"
            I laughed and said that I would.  He reached back to shake my hand.

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