Taxi Tales: Free to be Weird

By Louie de Palma
Reader Road Warrior

What’s red and blue and white? A ton of newborn mammals with weird residue on them, the socks I’m currently wearing, the British flag, the French flag, a Crunch Bar wrapper and the color options for a Mazda Miata.

Also in the mix, of course, is this great nation’s flag, and with it the life force of every American citizen. I have high hopes that each of these items was revered with American pride last weekend as we all blasted fireworks for the birth of a country.

It seems odd to me that we celebrate the victory of war with more explosions and loud noises. I can only imagine that it made sense after the war, when there was an abundance of artillery left around. The decision to fire all the muskets and blast the remaining powder must have been a fast and easy one.

Ben F.: “Hey, George, we won the war.”

George W.: “Radical! What should we do now?”

BF: “IDK, maybe get the fam and blast the rest of these cannons off!”

GW: “F yeah, let freedom ring in the eardrums of everyone! Plus, we’ll never need the artillery again.”

Ben F. was a notorious party animal and George W. had a predisposition for destruction at young age, which he blamed on axe-idents. So the celebration makes sense. However, it must have been very confusing at first, seeing as information spread slowly back then.

Guy in a macaroni hat: “Hey, is the war over? IDK, doesn’t sound like it, but it seems everyone is blowing stuff up and getting hammered.”

Guy with a pony tail: “Rad, I’m in. Grab some of Sam Adams’ patriot juice.”

It’s been a tradition ever since to celebrate victory with explosions and beer. I like to think of other animals in the animal kingdom conducting themselves in similar fashions. Maybe wildebeests would celebrate a long, hard escape from hyenas, terrifying their brothers and sisters with PTSD in the process. Or perhaps sea lions would commemorate a victory over killer sharks by throwing water balloons filled with blood red Kool-Aid (I got paid by Kool-Aid for this) at each other.

How we celebrate the Fourth may seem a little odd, but it’s an actual blast after blast, and it’s not nearly as odd as the things that can happen during the week surrounding it. I end up driving tons of Canadians around dressed from head to toe in eagles and stripes. These guys ka-kaw incessantly, most of them getting more drunk than the Staters. It’s like they’re in competition with us on Cinco de Drinko, and a Delaware slough of weird stuff can occur. I’ll attest to it.

The cool thing about freedom is it allows for weird things to happen. People are pretty much allowed to be as odd as they want, and they can call our cab and share it with me. We can ride around being weird together, countrymen and women united for a cause.

On the eve of the Fourth, I found myself transporting a very pleasant, charming young lady from the airport to our neck of the woods. She was from the Southeast and had the slightest hint of an accent, stood about five feet tall and was cute as a button (cliché, I know, but think of a really cool button).

What’s odd about that? Nothing. What was odd was her profession. She worked at a body farm as an anthropology biologist. Basically, she watched dead people decompose and wrote about the effects on bugs and soil. As she put it, “I drag dead people around.”

My head filled with images of this short, pretty person tugging dead bodies up a hill in a lab coat. Of course, I asked all the normal first-thought questions like, “Do people ever come by to watch their loved ones decompose in some morbid way to pay respects?” and, “Is it like working in a kitchen, but instead of going home smelling like food to your boyfriend every night, you smell like dead people?” The answers were no to both of these, which was weird.

On the actual day of the Fourth, it was quiet—too quiet. I mean, the normal odd stuff happened—people not making sense, not knowing where they live, passing out into comas in the cab until it looked like I was hauling cadavers to the body farm. There was the odd comment wondering if Roman candles were named as a subtle warning to great empires. All said, this was nothing out of the ordinary for small town America.

On July 5, I drove many humans home after the festivities. One in particular was strange. I picked up a man at Safeway about six-feet four-inches tall and bald. He was sporting a tan, short-sleeve twill button-up and black orthopedic shoes with no socks. He had three large duffel bags. Two seemed heavy, while the other sounded like it was filled with cans. I wasn’t sure where he was from, and I hardly knew where he was going; he stuttered, could only say “Route Two” and drew the path we were to take on his palm. We drove northeast into Montana until we reached a remote corner of national forest he claimed was his property. He unloaded, paid, put his finger over his lips and stuttered, “Shh-hh-hh.”

At first I thought it was funny. Then as I drove away, I began to wonder what that poor old man’s story was as I watched him hurriedly drag his bags into the woods past the national forest sign. A part of me hoped he wasn’t conducting his own body farm research, but the other part thought, “Hey, maybe it is his land.”

Maybe he’s Uncle Sam come to vacation in America’s wilds for a bit. After all, this land is my land, this land is your land. Certainly it’s his land. In a land that’s free, it’s free to be weird. And in a cab, freedom rings, and rings, and rings, all throughout the day and all throughout the night.

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