Cabbie: Where to?
Me: Symphony Hall, please.
[pulls away from my hotel, turns right, begins to careen down Powell Street]
Cabbie: So, you a musician?
Me: You got me.
Cabbie: I knew it. What do you play?
Cabbie: I bet you know your middle C pretty well.
Me: [attempting wit] C is pretty solid. Still working on D and E...
Cabbie: And those thumbcrossings. Eh.
[Ensuing pantomime of a thumbcrossing--possibly a major scale. One or both hands leaves the wheel. He looks back to smile at me. Car in front of us stops suddenly. Dumbstruck me. Somehow he notices in time, abandons scale, swerves, brakes. Near-death. We survive. Diminishing panic. Other driver is accused of stopping "too late." Drive resumes.]
Cabbie: So. I had piano lessons.
Me: Is that so?
Cabbie: Yeah. The teacher told me "no, you're not doing that thumbcrossing right," and I told her go to hell, I'm going to play football.
[I silently reflect this is the shortest piano lesson story I have ever been told, and perhaps the best. This man probably speaks for piano students everywhere.]
Me: You ever regret not sticking with it?
Cabbie: [Conspicuously unregretful in tone] Yeah, all the time. You know San Francisco at all?
Me: A little.
Cabbie: Well, there used to be this piano shop round here which my friend owned, and it connected to a deli. You could walk right through from one to the other! You know, piano salesmen are like used car guys, with all the extra charges, and the one-more-things. Anyway, I worked the deli for a little while, to help my friend out cause of some trouble ... that's another story ... and so one day I was working and the shop was about to close, it was ten to six and we closed at six, and the Opera called, and they wanted some sandwiches!
Cabbie: And so these two women came in, and I was still making their food, and the one, her accompanist, walked into the piano shop, and the other one asked me if I minded if she sang, and what am I gonna say? I don't want a free concert?! So they sang, and it was amazing. Beautiful. Really good.
Cabbie: So I fell in love with her.
Cabbie: It's true I did. And you know I took her out and you know...
Cabbie: Yeah and this went on for like a week or so. I sent her flowers and all that crap.
Cabbie: Then one day she was like, you know I have this dilemma, there's this guy in Sacramento and he's very close to being my fiancee and I just don't know what to do. And after that I never heard from her again.
[Silence. Very close to the hall now.]
Me: [Stammering] I'm sorry.
Cabbie: No no, it was a great experience, you know.
Me: Yeah. Can I pay with a credit card?