Taxi Tales: Our road warrior tackles love, North Idaho style

By Louie de Palma
Reader Road Warrior

People love to make the argument that the “L word” is thrown around too casually these days. I disagree wholeheartedly. I think the real problem is that people mistakenly believe and push the concept of just one type of love. The fairy tale soul mate kind of love. The favored idea is that if you love someone, then that love is reserved for them and only them, as if you have never loved anyone before, and you will never love anyone after.

Well it’s a lovely theory, but It’s time we all grow up and eat a big heart-healthy bowl of reality cereal. Love, fleeting as it may be, does exist—I will give you that. But it cannot be assigned to one mere definition or person any more than art or music can. Love is like time in the sense that it exists in the past, present and future simultaneously and sporadically, uncontrollable and wandering. It comes when it wants, it goes when it pleases and just when you think it’s gone, it shows up at your door. It’s pretty much a cat. So I say use the L word as much as possible. Empower it by allowing it to exist on many planes, or taxis.

Men tell me they love me 10 to 20 times a day (weird, I thought this was a pretty homophobic region. But like I said, love has no bounds or clear meanings, and it turns out Sandpoint’s pretty progressive). The reasons for these declarations vary, but mainly, it’s because I gave them a ride, listened, and was agreeable. Ladies, take note: This seems to be all you have to do to win a man’s heart. Yes, I know it’s harder than it looks, and it makes it easier when you’re getting paid, of course. Sometimes it’s no treat, and the ride goes longer than you thought it would, but hearing, “I love you, bro/man,” at the end of makes it all worth it.

…OK, not always, but usually the money does.

I’ve loved and I’ve lost, I’ve lost and I’ve loved, and I’ve certainly gotten lost in thought while sad lonely people talk to me about love in the cab. There’s nothing quite like listening to an old cowboy cry as he confides in you every night about how he has never found a girlfriend and never will. He howls about couples who have been married three times, and he’s never even gotten within feather’s reach. Sometimes his stories get to me and I tell him, “Ah, it’s not worth it. I hear it’s a lot of work, and shit, then you’d have to split your beer with ‘em.”

He usually laughs, sniffles and agrees that it’s probably not worth it—he’d get sick of it quickly anyway. But when you can almost smell the salty tears, you know he doesn’t believe we he said. Or perhaps that smell is merely beer salt on his breath. In the end, I guess it’s all crying just the same.

I had another cowboy tell me he had to make his woman stop knocking boots with him because he was too damn saddle-sore. Some cowboys get all the luck, I suppose. He followed that up by telling me he was going to get his gal the only thing that makes her happy for Valentine’s Day: a box of .38 Special ammo. When we parted, it was still unclear whether he was planning on shooting her or not, but I took away a determination to use the phrase “knocking boots” as much as possible.

I’ve received a lot of advice on love as a taxi driver. I’ve been told cliché things like, “If you find someone who loves you, never let her go.” No one, however, has been clear on how to stop these people.

I’ve been told numerous times by mainly older couples with children to absolutely never get married and have children. This advice is usually given after I’ve been asked if I’m married or have kids and answered no. I’ve often wanted to see how the advice would go if I answered differently. Would they just say, “Oh, so your life sucks too?” That seems to be their attitude.

Whatever the case, it is clear to me that no form of love exists in taxi cabs, except for love for the driver and his love of listening. Couples are rarely in a pleasant mood—if they’re not fighting, they’re simply silent and seemingly hollow and dead inside. Sometimes, one of them will be happy and chatty, while the other makes fun of them, negates everything they say in pouty body language or makes negative comments under their breath. The breath-talkers look so used to their role, they’ve apparently given up on common ground a long, long time ago. Likewise, the chatters seem to have given up on the under-breather’s opinions equally as long ago.

On a rare occasion, a couple will start out chipper when I bring them to a restaurant or bar, only to discover upon picking them up that they are in a full-on fight and have made up for lost time. It’s only logical to assume the variable is either taxi or alcohol for all these people. I assure you, it’s the taxi. For instance, I drove a man home one time from downtown, and upon reaching his home, his completely sober wife slammed him to the ground and cussed him out. As she hadn’t been drinking, we can only assume it was the curse of the taxi.

So there you have it. Fairy tale love doesn’t exist in cabs, or anywhere, really. Luckily, there are tons of other versions of love: cowboy love, angry love or mutual-respect-and-mutual-hatred love (also known as sweet and sour love), just to name a few. Captain your own love boat and use the L word willy nilly.

As for me, I just drive my taxi and I love it. I can tell you, though, that there’s one type of couple I drive who come closest to fairy tale love. They’re usually old people (70 to 90 years old) on their second or third marriage. No matter how drunk they get, no matter if they come home alone or together, they are always grinning ear-to-ear when they look into each others’ beautiful foggy eyes. They know how to appreciate life and they learned from all their past mistakes.

So what I can suggest is, if you’re going to get married, make sure the first one is someone you don’t want to be with, and you can learn a lot from years of fighting. This will make your second or third marriage magical. I’ve seen these people, and they are blissed out all the time. If you’re fighting in your first marriage, call a cab: you’ll feel right at home. Or go ahead and get that divorce—it’s great for the local economy, it’ll get you out more and you can start working for that second marriage.

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