This morning I woke up thinking about limousines. Don't ask me why because I have no clue. I asked myself, "Are you seriously going to get out of bed, open your laptop, and write about limousines? What for?"
Instead, I printed out the Sunday New York Times crossword, poured myself a cup of coffee MJ had made for me, and sharpened my pencil.
1-across: Tops (4 letters). Hmm, not sure. 1-down: Limo, e.g. (3 letters).
If that is not a sign, then I don't know what a sign is. So here are a few of my thoughts about limousines and WAIT! . . . this is going to be good; keep reading. But don't get your hopes up for certain things, either. I don't have any saucy stories to share. No indiscretions, no sordid tales of standing up through the sunroof, waving undergarments. That's not me. Still, I would bet almost anyone can come up with a good limousine story, even if you have never been inside one. It might make a good book—a compilation of random memories about that one time in our life we got to ride in a limo.
A good storyline—for any story about anything—is basically this: A wants B, but C gets in the way. We are "A." The limousine is "B" and represents something we (supposedly) want in life: the high life, success, stature, the chance to be someone else for a few hours. "C" is the realization that, in the end, you cannot make yourself into something you are not simply because you can step in and out of a limo. Who you are begins and ends with how large your heart is, not how long your car is.
When I was at Juilliard, my parents lived in Michigan and I would fly home on holidays. A taxi ride from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to La Guardia Airport in the mid-1980s was around $20, if I remember correctly. One day, a flyer was slipped under my apartment door for a car service to the airport. There were three choices: private car ($17), luxury car ($19), and limousine ($24). I happened to be traveling home the next day, so I called the number.
"What's the difference between all three cars?" I asked the person with the thick Brooklyn accent.
"One's a car, one's a longer car, one's a limo."
"The middle one -- how much longer is it?"
"It's like a car. But it's a more luxurious car. A longer car. But not a limo."
I didn't want a limo, which would feel and look ridiculous. But for some reason I felt like treating myself the extra two dollars to upgrade from a private car to a luxury car. Somehow, the notion of a "longer car" made me feel good. It would make me feel slightly more important, yet not snooty. I had worked hard all semester and the price was still less than a taxi. I reserved it.
The next day, sure enough, a black car waited for me in front of my apartment building. It was just as advertised: It was like a car, only longer, but not a limo. I climbed in.
The back seat was like a regular back seat of a car, but there was more legroom. Because my feet had nothing to rest on, I put my bag on the floor and pushed them against it. The driver began speaking to me.
"Has numerology touched you?" he asked. I don't remember what he looked like, only that his teeth were crooked. The entire ride I watched a rear view mirror outlining a slanted mouth with crooked teeth speaking to me.
"Touched me? I guess not," I replied.
He proceeded to tell me about his passionate study of numerology. Basically, disaster comes when the numbers 3, 4 and 7 are in play, either by themselves or in combination. The space shuttle Challenger, which had exploded the previous year, had 44,000 parts (according to him). It blew up 73 seconds into its flight. Case closed.
My driver then told me he had special powers to "see" things others cannot. In his apartment, he painted one window green, to "summon the power of nature," one window black, because "Satan is our realm's largest negative entity, and he deserves recognition for that," (exact quote) and the third window he left clear, to "signify the power I have to see through things."
"But does it make you worry that you have THREE windows?" I asked.
"You are perceptive," he replied. "I could tell this when you got in the car. But because I painted them I do not have three windows. I now have three separate entities. One can change one's own fate by altering the appearance of one's surroundings."
One could, could one? I decided to let him talk. He told me how a pigeon sacrificed itself for him once, willfully walking in front of his car and inviting him to drive over it. He said he wept as he felt the wheel crunch down on the bird. Then he felt the life force of the pigeon "enter" him. When his landlord evicted him from his previous apartment (he was squatting in the current one with the painted windows) it had rained for three days after that. This—to him—symbolized the world mourning the injustice of his eviction. He told me he was the one remaining descendant of an "ancient, secret power" that allowed him to see things like love or hate within people because of their "color aura." He told me he could see only love inside me, and he shed real tears as he said this. He told me his life was all about suffering, and that by willfully suffering himself he would be making things better for others because the "balance of equilibrium across the time spectrum can never be distorted" (another exact quote).
When we reached the passenger drop-off at La Guardia, I paid him $19 plus a nice tip. As I gathered my bags on the curb, he rolled down the passenger window and spoke one more time. I'll never forget his last words to me, which were: "Do not think because of this you shouldn't have fun in life. I have fun all the time. For example, I have been with 47 women." Then he rolled up the window and drove away.
Inside the airport, I checked my luggage and walked to the gate. I looked out the (unpainted) window to view the plane I was about to board. The tail number was comprised of nothing but the numbers 3, 4, and 7.
If you have a short, interesting story about a limousine, please leave it in the comments below, and maybe we can come up with enough of them to make a book.