June 1st, 2001


The One That Got Away

The buses at the Pentagon do this weird loopy thing where they start at the bus terminal, and travel in an outwardly spiraling direction towards the main roads. Wednesday night on one of the last and larger loops of spiral, I saw a taxicab parked in a small lot next to a rain shelter/covered bench bus stop thing. The driver, an older, white-haired man from the subcontinent had a large mylar balloon with the word TAXI on in magic marker. He was trying to climb on top of the shelter so he could tie the balloon to the top, creating a shiny festive beacon to any wayward traveler who may be in need of his services. It was a great idea. No other cabbie had done anything like it. Nothing in the whole lot stood higher than the balloon and nothing was as brilliant. The Taxi Beacon was the only patch of color to be seen in the barren parking lot against the stoic white Pentagon building. Imagine a businessman, weary from a long train ride, can’t wait to get to his hotel, and lo, a taxi awaits him just a mere lot away.

The cabbie had a satisfied smile on his face while he strained to climb the shelter. I could tell that he was proud of himself for thinking of this; that he had a great innovative idea that was going to work for him. Maybe his wife thought of it or he was inspired by a child’s recent birthday, but no matter the inspiration, he would no longer have to work to find fares; the fares would see the balloon and come to him. I was proud for him. Who needs a Swoosh or Wazzzzzup when you’ve got a balloon and a great location?

Thursday, the very next night, I was on the bus again. I hadn’t thought of the cabbie since he last left my field of vision, but when the bus made that final loop around the parking lot, I saw his cab. I became excited and wondered how well his million-dollar idea was working out for him. We came around fully and there it was, slumped on the corner of the rain shelter, deflated, dead. No more advertising, no more balloon. The cab was parked next to it nevertheless, watching wide-eyed as the busses passed.