Trolling for fares along Main Street, I spied a couple kissing on the sidewalk between Nectar’s and Esox. On the continuum anchored by a casual smooch and full-on make-out session, these two were not out of control, but there was clearly some love blossoming under the neon. What the world needs now, right?
Suddenly, mid-kiss, the guy caught my eye and raised a hand. I pulled over, and he led his teetering partner — a short, cute girl with brown hair and fluffy bangs — over to my taxi. She was giggling as he gave me their destination — the Motel 6, just over the Colchester line at the top of Winooski’s Main Street.
“It’s my birthday, it’s my birthday!” the girl announced as we got under way.
“Well, happy birthday to you,” I said. “You want to tell me which one?”
“Marcy here is 29,” the guy answered for her. He looked hip and relaxed in a backward baseball cap and black-framed glasses. “We came up from Rutland for the weekend to celebrate.”
“Twenty-nine is quite cool,” I said. “When I was a kid, some women used to stop counting birthdays at 29, and remained that age for the rest of their lives. It was kind of a jokey thing, I guess. I had an aunt who was 29 for, like, 40 years. Or maybe it was 39, now that I think about it.”
“What an awesome weekend in Burlington,” the guy said, nudging the discussion off my fascinating auntie. “This Jazz Festival is fantastic. Down in Rutland, all we ever see are cover bands. Nothing like what you get up here.”
“Yup,” I agreed, “B-town is a great town for music, and not just during the festival.”
“Hey, Marcy,” the young man said. “Where’s your purse? You haven’t lost it, have ya?”
“Oh — my, my, my,” Marcy replied, still laughing as she searched her person and the seat. “Nope, Travis, I sure don’t have my purse.”
“Oh, jeez, Marcy” Travis groaned.
I could tell he was annoyed but trying not to show it, if only to maintain that loving feeling. At some point, a savvy young man learns that a woman’s romantic receptivity can be a tenuous thing, easily squandered. So it’s best not to say stupid stuff.
He said to me, “Sir, could you take us back to, let’s see … Mr. Mike’s? I guess that’s the last place we were at.”
“Sure, no problem,” I replied and spun the cab around to head back down the Main Street hill. I pulled in front of Mr. Mike’s and the two of them went inside. They returned in a couple of minutes, empty-handed.
Travis said, “OK, maybe now let’s check Rí Rá’s. We were hanging out there for quite a while.”
I parked at the Sweetwaters corner on College and Church — the closest waiting location for Rí Rá — and Travis gallantly went solo on the purse rescue mission, leaving Marcy in the cab with me.
Leaning over the front seat, she whispered in a husky voice, suggestive of conspiracy, “You want to know something?”
“You bet I do,” I replied.
“I think Trav is still carrying a torch for his ex-girlfriend.”
“What is he, nuts?” I said, getting into the drama. “You seem like a real doll. Does the man not appreciate what he has with you? I’m gonna have to have a talk with the boy when he gets back in here. Dude needs a reality check.”
“Oh, you definitely have to do that!” Marcy exclaimed. “You are awesome. I love you!”
As I sat there reveling in my awesomeness, and how great it is to be admired by an attractive woman, Travis returned triumphant, purse in hand. Taking his seat next to Marcy, he said, “Somebody found it in the ladies room. Thank goodness, right?”
Luckily, Marcy had already forgotten about the fidelity lecture I was supposed to deliver to Travis, because, frankly, that was never going to happen. As we started back to their motel — take two — Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom” came on the oldies radio station.
“Hey, guys,” I said. “You know what’s the funnest thing in the whole world? In this song, right? Every time Elton sings, ‘Philadelphia freedom,’ we all sing instead, ‘Philadelphia Cream Cheese.’ Got it?”
“Yeah, that’s cool,” Travis said. “Let’s do it.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” said the birthday girl.
Elton sang, “Shine a light, won’t you shine a light,” and the three of us belted out, “Philadelphia Cream Cheese, I loooove you … yes I do!”
We continued along to the end of the tune — singing our hearts out, a paean to Philadelphia Cream Cheese. By the end, we were all laughing uproariously. “You know what?” I said, doing my best to keep the cab on the road. “Isn’t it the small things that make life worth living?”
“Amen, brother,” Travis agreed.
Meanwhile, Marcy kept declaring how much she loved me. Even though this was a typical case of drunken love, it still was nice to hear. Finally, as we pulled up to Motel 6, she asked, “Just how old are you, anyway?”
“How old am I? Old enough to be your grandfather, honey.”
“Get out of here,” she scoffed. “I mean, seriously.”
“OK, I am 93 years old. I just take really good care of myself.”
“Well, you sure do, Mr. Cabbie, ’cause you still got it going on.”
Chuckling, I said, “I accept that, Marcy, and on behalf of old dudes everywhere, I thank you.”