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At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting
T S Eliot, The Fire Sermon, from The Wasteland
You talkin' to me?
Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), Taxi Driver
Listen late last night I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi took my girl away.
Counting Crows, Big Yellow Taxi
‘Have you played Hyde Park before?'
‘No but I have walked through it.'
Adam Duritz, Counting Crows
Once I lost my wallet on the bus on the way to training at the Aikikai hombu dojo in Shinjuku. I got off the bus at Nuke Benten Mae bus stop, the closest bus stop. I quickly realized that my wallet wasn't in my back pocket. I had taken it out to pay the bus fare and so maybe it had fallen out of my pocket when I sat down at the back of the bus. Immediately I grabbed a taxi and told the driver to follow the bus. I had enough change in my pocket to cover the minimum fare shown on the meter. The taxi driver was fast and helpful and we caught up with the bus. I jumped on and asked if anyone had seen my wallet. No. I went to the back of the bus to where I had been sitting. A man was sitting there. I asked him if he had seen my wallet but he said no. I looked around and finally asked him to get up so I could look under the seat. He was sitting on the wallet and had obviously planned to keep it. I gave him a long look and he looked embarrassed. But anyway I had my wallet back. And I wasn't even late for training.
This story reminded me of another time I had to catch a taxi. When I lived in central Tokyo the easiest way to get to Narita airport was to take the airport bus from a hotel near my apartment. In Japan it's called a limousine bus. I was going on a trip home to England so I made a reservation and I arrived at the hotel in plenty of time. And I waited. And waited. I checked a couple of times with the hotel reception desk and was told not to worry, the bus would arrive soon. It was getting nearer and nearer to the deadline to leave to catch my plane. Suddenly a hotel clerk came running out. He apologized profusely and said the bus driver had made a mistake and had somehow thought that there were no passengers from the hotel that day and had gone straight to the airport. He bundled me into a taxi and told me it was courtesy of the hotel. He gave the driver some kind of document and told him to get me to Narita airport fast.
Nobody takes a taxi to Narita airport. It's about 80 kilometers or 50 miles. The taxi driver promised me we'd make my flight. Things started well. There was an enka show on the radio - sentimental Japanese ballads - and the driver was in a good mood. But then we got stuck in traffic and he seemed to take it personally. When the expressway was clear he got into the outside lane and put his foot down. Then someone in a hurry behind us flashed his headlights for the taxi to move over so he could pass. And the taxi driver went crazy. When the guy tried to overtake on the inside he sped up and drove parallel to the car looking aggressively at the driver beside us. Of course that meant that he wasn't looking at the road. I was thinking to myself, oh no I have my own Travis Bickle. I had visions of road rage and a crash and missing my flight for sure. The other driver wisely backed off and dropped back. My driver looked at me proudly as he pulled up at Narita with five minutes to spare. I breathed a silent sigh of relief. The ride cost more than 200 dollars.