Driving Mister Mac

I spotted his yellow cab several blocks away. It crept slowly towards the curb on which I stood until finally arriving right in front of me.

I stepped in.

“Dante’s Kitchen. You know where that is? In the Garden District?” A pregnant pause filled the cab, as the man behind the wheel reached up to start his meter.

“I’ve been driving for 47 years,” he said. “Of course, I know where that is.”

He merged back into traffic, I sat back in my seat. A few moments passed before either of us said anything. I was afraid I offended his street knowledge and way around the city. 

“You in town for Jazz Fest?” he asked. “Yes, sir.” I replied. Back to normal, I thought. Back in his good graces.

I looked around the car: creamy white leather interior, Cartier panel details. Not a spot on any surface; no stains, no scratches. “This is a nice car,” I told him. 

“People appreciate driving in a nice, clean car,” he said. “You pay for it; you deserve it.”

Before long, the cab lurched onto St. Charles Street, the main drag that connects the Quarter to the Garden District, and began cruising no faster than 25 MPH down. The driver drove as if Sundays were meant only for morning cruises, as if there was no other care in the world.

This laid back sensibility is something I struggled to adjust to since arriving in New Orleans. From the moment I stepped off the plane, I noticed how everyone takes their time doing things; no rush, no fuss, no “hurry up let’s go” mentality.  

For someone used to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, I tried my best to slow to this pace of life; however, I wasn’t doing that well.

Today was a big test: I was running late for a 10:30 a.m. brunch reservation, and I knew I wasn’t going to get there on time. Not on his watch, at least. So I made the decision to sit back, enjoy the ride, and get to know the man behind the wheel.

“You from here?” I asked.

A New Orleans native, my driver was a married man of 50 years. He and his wife had 3 children and 6 grandchildren. He recently came back from retirement to continue driving people around and to keep himself busy.

He told numerous stories about the city, including some about the legendary Al Copleand, owner and founder of Popeye’s chicken, who recently passed from a rare form of cancer. He chuckled when he talked about Copeland having four wives and what they all inherited.

Envitably our conversation turned to Katrina. “I was away for 9 months,” he said. “We were moved to San Antonio because I had some family up there. But every night I closed my eyes and came back to this city. I visited these streets every night.”

As I listened to him express his love for the city, I understood why many people fought so hard to get back after the storm and why some of them stayed. New Orleanians love their city like it’s their first born child.

We turned onto the street, and I spotted the restaurant. I wasn’t on time for my Sunday morning brunch, but it didn’t matter anymore.

The time I spent with that driver, listening to his gems of wisdom, meant more than making my reservation.

Sometimes it’s better to slow down and enjoy the ride, I thought. You never know how it might change your view of the world.

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15 thoughts on “Driving Mister Mac

  1. This was the most enjoyable of all your blog entries. I was braced for some ‘not so kind’ comments about the cab driver, based on other stories here. Maybe it’s just possible that you are starting to see that there’s much to be learned from others, even those that you find unattractive.

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  2. I really enjoyed this story and I’m happy you had a chance to take away something wonderful from the time you spent with this man. Our universe is full of teachers – we can choose to slow down and pay attention or pass on the valuable lessons they have to offer.

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  3. I loved you on the Rossblog so I followed the link to your site. I have to admit your first entries were a bit harsh and elitist. So why did I come back? For this piece. Well done. I’ve officially bookmarked your sight.

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  4. Ryan, PLEASE think about putting these stories in a book– I and others here absolutely love your writing style. Your stories are so easy to “see”

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  5. This paragraph gave me the goose bumps:

    Envitably our conversation turned to Katrina. “I was away for 9 months,” he said. “We were moved to San Antonio because I had some family up there. But every night I closed my eyes and came back to this city. I visited these streets every night.”

    You know how to paint a great picture with the right words and quotes, Ryan. Plus that you’ve got a really nice hiney!

    Keep on truckin, handsome.

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  6. That’s was one thing I loved about being in the south was the nice slow way everything happiness. They always took the time to have some Sweet Tea and enjoy the sounds of life all around them. Sometimes I think it would be so nice to be able to seat in a rocking chair with the person I love, and in the distance the sound of Jazz the Sole of the city. It is so easy to forget the simple things of life in the hustle and bustle of the big city.

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  7. Very nice words Ryan about a place I love so much. I was recently back in New Orleans for Mardi Gras (I actually made it for the first day of Carnival) and I brought with me two friends who have never experienced New Orleans. You captured in words what I tried to show them during our stay!!

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  8. I just tuned into your site after watching the blog you made with Ross (garage talk show). anyway i love the way you write…i plan on becoming a frequent visitor!

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  9. What a great story. You have a gift of writting that for sure. I am a “blogger” of yours thats for sure. I hope you do start doing video blogging, I think it would be very entertaining.

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  10. Ryan –

    What a great blog. You are a wonderful writer and have to keen ability of making your reader feel as if he/she were sitting in the car right there with you. I lived in the south for about 10 yrs and while it took myself a while to adjust to the slower pace of life it was one that I embraced.

    Its my first time coming here but I will be here more often. Thank you for sharing your travels and experiences with us.

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  11. Just coming over for a visit from the RossBlog. This is the only entry I’ve read so far, and I enjoyed it. Glad to see you and Ross helping one another out with your careers!

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  12. I really enjoyed reading this story. It reminded me of the times I have visited New Orleans. You really captured the spirit of the people there through your experience with the cab driver.

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