Earlier this week I revamped that blog I wrote about taxi drivers and sent it to Chicago Public Radio. I recorded it for them Thursday, and it’s scheduled to air in Chicago on March 12 sometime between 9 and 10am. When we were done in the studio Thursday, the first cab to pull up took Hanni and me without a protest.
I was relieved. It would have been way too weird to be denied a ride in a cab after recording an essay about, well, about having been denied a ride in a cab.
“Dearborn and Polk,” I told the driver. He hit the accelerator. Most riders sit quietly in the back of a cab, fidget with papers, glance out the car window. I can’t. And the way I figure, maybe chatter will help drivers feel more comfortable with Hanni and me. Maybe it’ll encourage them to pick up the next human-and-guide-dog team they come across. So I talk.
“How’s business?” I asked. “Fine,” he said. That was it.
Not in the mood for chatter, I guess. Or maybe he was miffed about having a dog in the car? He sure drove fast. I told him so when he stopped the car and said how much I owed him. His speeding worked in my favor — The fare was three dollars cheaper than I paid on the way out.
I gave him a big tip. I mean, the guy wasn’t Mr. Personality, but at least he picked us up. Besides, I like cab drivers to know that people with disabilities can be big tippers.
After uncoiling from the cab, I picked up Hanni’s harness and commanded “Forward!” She brought me to the curb and stopped like always. We crossed the street to her favorite vacant lot, you know, where she “empties.” As I took her harness off, I reached out to the fence there for balance. The fence wasn’t there. “Wow!” I exclaimed to Hanni. “They finally took that stupid fence down!” Hanni did her business, I buckled her harness back on, and we headed north to our apartment.
The sun was out, and the snow was melting. It had been so long since I’d felt the sidewalk at my feet that it felt odd — Not the same cracks and angles I was used to. Hanni’s pace was quick — she seemed to be enjoying guiding me on sidewalks that were clear of snow and ice for a change.
I started listening for Jazz music – it streams from outdoor speakers at the sandwich joint in our building, that’s my cue to tell hanni to turn left and go to our doorway.
All I heard were birds. Hanni kept up her pace, then finally stopped at a curb at the end of the block. It couldn’t be our block, though. I never heard any jazz.
We must have gone the wrong direction when we got out of the cab. It was a nice day – cold, but sunny – and Hanni was enjoying the walk. I decided we’d continue walking. I was sure to hear, or feel, or smell something that would tell me which way to have Hanni take us.
We walked north, and north, and north. It seemed so quiet. No sound of kids from the local college talking on their cell phones, no smells from coffee shops. “Hanni,” I said.”I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
I called out an “excuse me” to the next pair of footsteps I heard. Turns out they belonged to a man named Carl. “I’m a little turned around,” I said. “Can you tell me where we are?” When Carl said we were on Dearborn and Division, I actually laughed out loud.
Division is 20 blocks north of Polk. There had been so many clues to tell me we were far from home – quick ride, cheap fare, missing fence, birds singing, Hanni’s enthusiasm (she always walks faster when we’re in new territory) – but I wanted so badly to be near home that I wouldn’t allow myself to be convinced otherwise. “The cab driver must have thought I said Dearborn and Oak,” I told Carl. (Oak is near Division.)
Carl hailed me another cab and waited while I tucked Hanni’s tail inside. Before he closed the door, he said one last thing: “Thank you for trusting me.”