Call me a cab. You’re a cab.
You’re the parent of an 8th, 9th or 10th grader? You’re a cab, too.
I have a project. I have practice. There’s a meet. I need supplies. We thought we might go to a movie.
How will you get there?
I don’t know how they do it, these kids, conducting so much of their social lives in our back seats, at our mercy to pick them up from the dance or take them to meet their friends. What if we parents made them reserve a ride in advance? Oh, you need to leave when? I’m so sorry, I’m already booked. You’ll have to try with a different parent. Our services are much in demand, as you know. People are always wanting to go somewhere these days, be somewhere.
And we’re good, too. We’re usually on time. We know the roads, we have their friends’ addresses programmed into our phones. They can just sit back and relax. No need to argue with the driver over the best route to take. There’s no traffic. It’s all good.
They have no choice but to reveal so much of their goofy teenage selves to us, as we ferry them to and fro. But they don’t seem to mind. It is as if there were a bulletproof, plexiglass window between the driver and her fares.
They come out of a building. A car is waiting, like your shadow.
There is no alternative method of transportation. Oh, there are city buses, infrequent, ghostly. I hope to ride one some day, for the experience, but this would not be something you can say to your child: take a bus, walk a mile, wait an hour. There is homework to be done. Their time is valuable, even if yours isn’t.
Did I write about the time I tried to walk to dog park? I love many things about where I live, but the one thing that makes me feel almost claustrophobic—like if you imagine being trapped in a confined space and think about how you would have to train your mind not to want to extend your legs or else you would suffer terribly—is the fact that there is nothing within walking distance, just houses and churches, some places not even a sidewalk, just endless lawns.
I will walk to dog park, I told my family. Driving to a place where you can walk also seems crazy. I walked at a reasonably good clip but they picked me up 30 minutes later, only halfway there, as if I had wandered off in my nightgown trying to find my steamboat.
The younger daughter is meeting her friends for lunch, shopping and a movie. Some moms aren’t sure if walking from the restaurant at one end of the mall to the theater at the other is safe. My friend says she might let her daughter walk, but drive slowly behind her, just in case. I tell her I think they will be fine as long as they pay attention to the cars. The suspicious slow-moving car that seems to be trailing them, you could say, is just someone’s mom.
The younger daughter calls just before the movie to say what time the movie finishes, or more to the point to remind me, “You’re a cab.”
I have a little “me time” or “mom time”—my husband can’t decide which is funnier. I leave him to it and go try on lipstick at the department store and find a color I like, but they are out of stock. Is it worth the shipping fees to buy it online so I can save myself the drive? I need gas. That’s me at the pump, having my mom time.
As I drive by the Waffle House, I like the way it looks. I go back and take a picture. I park in front of the theater. It is darkening. The parking lot is full. Other cabs are waiting for their teens. I play with my Waffle House picture, trying different filters to give it a vibrant yet desolate feel. It will be gone in five years, I’m guessing, maybe two.
The movie should be letting out, but she is not in the crowd of girls dancing their way to the Escalade that is parked in front of me. That mom didn’t turn off the engine. She is not feeling the chill creeping into her car. While I don’t worry that something terrible has happened, I do wonder in which of 28 films she is in and when she is coming out. Did they go to the sing-along version of Frozen or the 3D version or the other one? I call the mother of one of the other girls. She says the movie ends 20 minutes from now. So this is irritating. I am not happy with my client. I am cold. My phone battery is nearly dead. It is dark. I did not bring a book.
I call the other member of the taxi fleet and explain that my fare is still in her movie.
The other driver, her father, assigns chores and expresses displeasure. The final component of the punishment is that rather than setting up coffee after dinner, as she usually does to earn the cell phone she was practically the last person in the entire middle school to get, she is to set her alarm and grind the beans in the morning. Do you know how to froth the milk? he asks her. You mother waited for you for an hour, the least you can do is bring her coffee in bed.
She is very good-natured about the whole thing. We wonder if she would do this every day if we upgraded her to an iPhone 5. Ha ha.
In two years she will be driving herself, starting her own taxi self-service and gradually growing the business so that she can run errands for us. In two years, I will have more time to photograph any remaining Waffle Houses and try on lipsticks at the mall and be that car in the shadows, wondering where all the noise has gone.