, , ,

George rushed through the lobby and out into the street, clutching his briefcase in one hand and a messy stack of paper in the other. He had stayed at his desk 15 minutes longer than he should have, trying in vain to start writing the memorandum he was supposed to have done by tomorrow, and now he was in danger of being late for his client meeting across town. Standing at the curb, he raised the hand holding the briefcase awkwardly, trying to flag down a cab without knocking himself in the head. Although, he thought, perhaps a whack in the head might loosen something up in there. All the research he had done and he still could not come up with even one halfway-decent sentence or logical thought on which to build that memo.

A sickly orange taxicab claiming to be “Yellow” pulled to the curb in front of George. He hooked the door handle with one finger to open it, then scrambled in. “555 23rd Street,” he said, as he closed the door. “I need to get there in ten minutes.”

George put his briefcase down on the seat beside him and began riffling through the papers in his right hand. These were printouts of the research he’d done and notes he had taken for the memorandum, and he was hoping that by going over them for the thirtieth time, he’d come up with an angle he could work with to get the memo written. Every idea he’d had so far had seemed trite, unsupportable, or fatally bland. It wasn’t enough just to get words on the paper; he had to write something powerful, something that would —

George looked up. The taxi was not moving. There was no traffic ahead, but the taxi remained parked at the curb.

“Ah, can we get moving?” he said. “I’m in kind of a hurry.”

“Geez, man, I’m sorry about this. I can’t go anywhere. I’m suffering from taxi driver’s block.”


“Taxi driver’s block. I just . . . don’t know where to go. Don’t know how to start. You have no idea how frustrating this is. I’ve been driving for 12 years now, never had problems, but lately . . . it’s like I just freeze up.”

“What are you talking about? I just gave you the address — 555 23rd Street.”

“Yeah, sure, I know where I need to end up.” The driver turned around to look at George through the plexiglas divider. He had dark hair and a well-lined face, and he half-smiled, sheepishly, as he spoke. “The problem is, how do I get there?”

George raised his left hand and gestured to the front of the car. “Just go up a couple blocks to K Street, cut across to 23rd.”

The driver rolled his eyes. “Sir, everybody cuts across on K Street.”

“It’s 10:30. There’s no traffic right now.”

“It’s not the traffic I’m worried about. It’s the banality. ‘Go up to K and cut across’ — that will make zero impression on you.”

“You don’t need to impress me. You just need to get me to 555 23rd Street in the next ten minutes. I don’t care how — take another route if you want to.”

“Sure, easy to say. But then, which route do I take? Do I take I Street instead of K? That seems less commonplace, but how do I know you haven’t taken that route a million times? I could turn around and go down to Constitution, but what if there’s traffic? Or a presidential motorcade — what could I do about that? Nothing!” The driver threw his face into his hands, then began massaging his eyes with his fingertips. “I suppose I could cut all the way across to Independence, then cut back by the Lincoln Memorial — ”

“Why would you go to the Lincoln Memorial? It’s completely out of the way!”

“At least I know it would work!” the driver snapped. Then, more softly: “At least, I think it would work. Oh, jeez, but what if there are tourists? Or worse, duckmobiles!”

“Look.” George pulled out his phone and checked the time. “Let’s not worry about problems we don’t even know we have. Why don’t we just get started? Just start driving, and we’ll figure it out as we go along.”

The driver nodded. “Of course. That . . . that makes sense. Just jump right in. Okay. Here we go. Just going to just start the journey.”

“We’re not moving anywhere.”

“I know, I know. I’m about to start. Just making sure I’m ready. Mirrors adjusted. No cars coming. Enough gas in the tank. Windshield wipers working. Plenty of wiper fluid.”

“Can we just go?!”

“Okay!” The taxi lurched forward, throwing George back in the seat. As they approached the first corner, the traffic light overhead switched to yellow. The taxi driver hesitated, taking his foot off the gas, then stamping it down hard to try to make the light. As they entered the intersection, George saw the light turn to red, but they made it through unscathed.

The taxi driver put on his turn signal and slowed to a stop in the left-hand lane. He spun the steering wheel hard to the left and began looking carefully in both directions.

“What are you doing?” George asked. “We’re clear! Just keep going straight!”

“Sir, I’m sorry. I screwed up that intersection. I know you saw the light turn red. That’s just unacceptable. I’ve got to . . . I’ve got to go back and start from the beginning again.”

“No! No! Go straight, turn left on K Street, we’ll be there in five minutes! Why is this so hard for you to do?”

The driver hung his head, and spoke in barely more than a whisper. “I told you, sir; I’m in the throes of taxi driver’s block. I feel bad enough, doubting my own navigational abilities. I used to be such a great driver. I used to think I was a natural. Now . . . I’m not even sure I can parallel park. And your putting this pressure on me is only making it worse!”

George took a deep breath. He looked down at the papers in his right hand, and nodded. “Okay, I understand. Really, I do. Look, I’m sure you are a natural, and that kind of gift doesn’t just disappear. Maybe it’s just a little tangled up right now. Let’s just take this one step at a time, and I’m sure we’ll be fine. How about this: If I were driving, and I needed to get to 555 23rd Street, how would you suggest I start?”

“Well . . . start with how well you know the city. What routes are you comfortable with?”

“I’m fine with K Street. It’s always worked for me.”

“Okay.” He put the taxi into gear. “That’s a good start. Let’s head up there.”

“Great. It’ll be easier to figure this out once we get moving.” George sat back and pulled a pen from his pocket. He began writing on the back of one of the printouts. “If you get stuck just give a shout out, run your ideas past me. Sometimes a little feedback helps.”

“Sounds good, sir. Thanks.” He looked back at George in the rear view mirror. “Are you writing back there?”

“I am now, thanks.”