Sunday, October 2, 2011

Driver Dan and the Pinky Story

A few years back, at the wake of driver Dan, there was an open mic. All were welcome to come up and tell everyone a story about Dan. I looked at Rahnee and she looked at me. We both had the same thought. Should we tell the pinky story?

When our turn came we positioned ourselves in front of Dan’s open casket. I began the story by saying, “One morning I woke up and I said to my wife, ‘My pinky hurts.’” Rahnee took it from there. We went to a holiday party, she said, at the home of cripple comrades Kevin and Karen. Rahnee wanted to take a cab to the party so she wouldn’t have to worry about drinking and driving. So we called Dan.

Dan was the king of the drivers of the cripple cabs. The first Chicago cripple cabs hit the streets in the late 1990s. They’re minivan taxis with ramps and you can just roll right in and ride in your wheelchair. Dan was the first cripple cab driver. Cab driving was the perfect job for Dan because he loved to talk. And he could talk about anything. Strike up a conversation about ancient Egyptian pottery or baseball or organic gardening and Dan knew something about it. Dan should have hosted a radio talk show called Live from the Cripple Cab, interviewing guests and taking calls from listeners while driving.

So Dan drove us to the party. And at the party I drank three Cosmos. I’m at stout-hearted man who can easily handle three Cosmos. But Kevin was doing the mixing and just to be evil he probably made mine double Cosmos and mixed in some rocket fuel too. All I remember after the third Cosmo was seeing double and then rolling down two snowy sidewalks to where two Dans were waiting with their two cripple cabs to drive home me and both Rahnees. After that I remember watching some of “Smokey and the Bandit” on TV at home and then sitting on the crapper. And in the morning I had not a throbbing head but a throbbing pinky.

The part I didn’t remember, Rahnee told the mourners at Dan’s wake, was being so trashed that I couldn’t back my wheelchair out the elevator when we got home. So Rahnee tried to drive my chair. Maybe the joystick was more sensitive than she thought it would be or maybe she wasn’t in much better condition to drive a wheelchair than I was. But the chair bucked like a bronco when she pushed the joystick and she smashed my fingers against the closing elevator door. ”Oh my God!” she said to me. “Are your fingers okay?” I just shrugged and said, “I’m fine.” I could feel no pain!

I ended up with a fractured pinky, I told the mourners, but it could have been a whole lot worse had Dan not been there to get me home safe. And that was the moral of the story. Everyone wants to get home safe. And for us and hundreds of other Chicago cripples, we could always count on Dan to get us home safe.

After the wake, one of the mourners introduced himself to me as Dan’s cousin or some such relative. “That was a helluva story you told,” he said. “You scared me at first because I thought you said you woke up one morning and said to your wife ‘my PEE PEE hurts.’ And I’m wondering what the hell this story has to do with Dan and why are they’re telling it at his wake. And then your wife said she smashed your pee pee in the elevator door! Anyway, when you said you fractured it, it all got cleared up in the end.”

Well good, I said to myself. I’m sure glad I cleared that up.