The first time it happened, the taxi cab in front of me just disappeared. I thought I’d dozed off at the wheel and the cab had turned without me seeing it…but, no, a couple of seconds later I realized I hadn’t dozed. What then? How does a full taxi, presumably containing a driver and perhaps a passenger, simply disappear? The answer didn’t come to me then, nor did it come for long time after.
The next time, I was driving in the middle lane on Washington Avenue when a cab suddenly inserted itself between me and the car ahead. Traffic was bumper to bumper in the lanes on either side. Certain the cab had not come from either of the two side lanes, I observed it closely for a few blocks. It seemed normal in very way; normal tag, normal markings, taxi number 0221. In the fourth block after appearing, it pulled to the curb and discharged a passenger…a man, medium height wearing a tan trench coat over a business suit...all I could see since I was passing by with the rest of the traffic. I thought back to the first time when the cab had disappeared in front of me and shook my head…my brain looking for rational explanations. Cars simply didn’t appear and disappear, did they? Suddenly, I realized something else odd…it was a type of vehicle that had not been produced in more thirty years!
Not familiar to younger people, they were a familiar taxi vehicle in cities for more than sixty years thriving in the colors of the major cab companies. To those like me with more than a few miles on our chassis, they were a very familiar sight from years gone by. This particular auto, gleamed with fresh paint and a wax job reminiscent of a new car showroom, even though it had to be well over thirty years old! I hadn’t seen one in many years…where had it come from?
Absorbed with other matters, I forgot the incident and moved on. Weeks later, I saw taxi 0221 again, gleaming fresh paint among less lustrous mini-vans, SUVs and hybrids in front of a hotel. This time, I wrote down the phone number. Later in the afternoon, I dialed it from my cell phone.
“Good afternoon, It’s Your Time Taxi…may I help you?” a cheerful voice answered.
“Yes, I need a taxi at 1412 Georgetown Boulevard, please, one passenger going to Washington National Airport.”
“Yes sir. When did you want to arrive at the airport?”
“Well, my flight’s at 3:30, so maybe 1:30?”
“Of course, today!”
“Yes sir, of course.” The voice paused, then, continued. “We don’t exactly take people to the airport to catch flights in exactly that way, sir. Perhaps, you might wish to call another cab company, I can provide a list of their numbers, sir.”
“Well, I was hoping to get a ride in one of your vintage cabs, say 0221…it’s a classic.”
“Yes sir, it is a classic…but it doesn’t usually go to the airport sir…at least not just like that.”
“Ok, I’ll bite…where does it go?”
“More like, when does it go, sir.”
“When does it go then?”
“Yes, If you wanted to go into downtown Washington, D.C. on January 20, 1961 to see John F. Kennedy inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States, then we have a cab that can take you there. If you wanted to be among the crowd in Dallas on November 22, 1963 for his assassination, we have a cab that can take you there. If you wanted to be in Los Angeles on January 17, 1994 when a magnitude seven earthquake on the Richter Scale killed fifty-four people, we have a cab that can take you there. If you wanted to visit the Cotton Club in Harlem in 1929 and check out the house band while Duke Ellington was leading it, we have a cab that can take you there…but we can’t reach back before 1922, and we don’t go to the airport to catch 3:30 flights!
“You’re talking about time travel!”
“Yes sir, if you don’t hang up and call another cab company to get you to the airport, you’re going to need time travel to catch your flight!”
“In that event, maybe you could help me after all. By the way…why are you limited to 1922?”
“Our line of cabs began production then. We can’t travel back farther back than the time the cabs existed.”
“I see. So, if I traveled back in one of your cabs, I could change things? Outcomes?
“No sir. Past events are cast in stone. You can watch them, up close and in person, but you can’t change anything. It’s a bit like an unresponsive computer…nothing responds to your presence at all. So, if you missed you flight, you would still miss your flight, even if you went back to the flight time.”
“So, you’re telling me that if I hired your cab to take me back to my birth time, I couldn’t stop it…but I could watch myself being born?”
“That’s right...but you couldn’t do anything about it.”
“I don’t really need to catch a flight at three-thirty…I just told you that as an excuse to call.”
“Yes, sir…I know that sir.”
“What I really want to do is travel to Columbus, GA…the movie theater on Oak Crest Avenue …early evening on October 4, 1974...my wife and I…our first date, you know.”
“Yes sir. O221 will pick you up in ten minutes sir.”
And that’s the way it was. O221 took me to Columbus to a magic time sixty years earlier when my wife was alive, we were both young, and were just thinking about the possibility of love.
I still see 0221 once in a while, carrying someone to some other time and place. It pops in and out of traffic in front of me from time to time as if to say “hello”.
Copyright 2015 © by Clabe R. Polk, Powder Springs, Georgia. All rights reserved. No document posted here may be copied in part or in whole by any means without written permission of the author.
Copyright 2014 ©
by Clabe Polk
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