Thank you, insane angry cabbie

My wife and I have a big anniversary to celebrate this week: Not a wedding anniversary or a meeting anniversary or even the anniversary of the first time one of us got a car stuck in 2 or 3 feet of Green Mountain slop on a dirt road in mud season. (We try to forget those March experiences, not commemorate them.) It was 20 years ago this Wednesday that my wife and I inadvertently began our pilgrimage to Vermont when we were cab-napped in Manhattan.
Some of you know the basics. On March 8, 1986, my young wife and I hailed a cab in Greenwich Village around 11 at night, and told the driver our destination was Brooklyn — where we lived. As anyone who has ever watched “Sex and the City” knows, New York City cab drivers hate to go to the outer boroughs on a Friday or Saturday night because there’s no return fare. Still, our driver was only annoyed — not yet completely enraged. He wouldn’t get Hannibal Lecter-furious until he was pulled over for speeding a few minutes later, and I helpfully suggested that he turn off his meter while the police wrote him his ticket. When we resumed our drive together, the cabbie had transformed himself into Insane Angry Hackie, and proceeded to drive like a madman for 45 minutes, ignoring stoplights and traffic signs, and taking us nowhere near our apartment. It was a NASCAR worthy performance, except for all those pedestrians and mailboxes he nearly plowed into.
He finally deposited us in front of a crack house that a half-dozen NYPD regulars had just stormed. There were three guys with Tower Records bags overflowing with guns and drug paraphernalia, and one officer strongly encouraged my wife and me to lie down where we were — though most of what he said would have been censored by the networks.
Not long after that we saw an article in a newspaper that referenced the People’s Republic of Burlington. The rest, as they say, is history.
Still, I find it amazing that my wife and I have been here almost 20 years now. That’s more than three times longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. It’s not half my life, but it’s pretty darn close. We were practically babies when we decided to move here!
Getting to spend so much of our lives in Vermont has been a huge gift. Over the years, I have chronicled myriad reasons why I love this place, ranging from its size to its scenery to its residents: People whose families have lived here for generations and people who, like my wife and me, had the great good fortune to discover its magic, move here, and be warmly embraced. Certainly I wouldn’t have written most of the books that I have if I hadn’t wound up here.
And, of course, I owe it all to a cab driver with serious anger management issues. A cab driver who, alas, I have never properly thanked.
Oh, sure, the day after he cab-napped us I called the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission. But that wasn’t to thank him; that was to tell someone that one of their drivers was a criminal sociopath.
In all fairness, however, the record must also show that he didn’t chase us when we left his cab without paying. And we were in that cab a pretty darn long time.
Now, I’m often surprised by the people around the country who read this column. And so my hope is that somewhere out there this morning there is a very special cab driver sipping his coffee (decaffeinated, given his temper) and perusing either this newspaper or its Web site. And I hope he sees this column and realizes that I am deeply appreciative of what he did for my wife and me back in 1986.
Thank you, Mr. Cabbie. And, just for the record, if you should ever come near my family again, I’ll get a restraining order that will keep you 17 states away. Are we good?
And I thank you, too, Vermont — for everything.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on March 5, 2006.)

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

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