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Susan Madrak Headshot

Going to Union Station

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I was in D.C. last night to live-blog the PBS presidential forum, and stayed at a friend's place.

So this morning, my friend tries to hail a cab for me, but as soon as he leans into the window and says, "Union Station," the cabbie says no way and starts to drive off.

With, of course, my crazy friend still hanging from the window. I watch in horror as he runs down the street, trying to keep up, yelling at the driver, "I have your plate number, I'm going to report you!" The driver hits the gas and my friend finally falls on his back, right there in the middle of Connecticut Avenue.

"Jesus. Are you all right?" I say.

"I'm fine. I'm going to report him, he'll have to take a day off from work to go to the hearing," my friend says. Oy.

The next cab driver is a nice older guy who talks the whole way: About how screwed up the country is, the crazy commutes people make to work in D.C. (West Virginia, Richmond, York PA), how he doesn't especially like time off because it makes him antsy. He tells me his wife works for the State of Maryland. He tells me how there are fewer and fewer places black people can live in D.C.

Oh, and he talks about George Bush. "Now, let me tell you about my own informal poll," he says. "I ask these people who voted for him: Why?" They give me all this stuff about him being a lame duck, why not. But it's because it's about them and their friends making money, not caring about anybody else.

"It's all 'me me me' and never 'we,'" he says. "I study history, and it's all about that oil." (He pronounces it "earl" with a Southern accent.) "It's not good the way the country's going. It's like when Laurence of Arabia went over there, and they took these tribal leaders and put them in charge of a country that didn't exist and they called it Iraq.

"Now they want to make them raise the mileage on cars, but it won't matter. They'll just use that as an excuse to go after more oil." Which I'm too tired to begin to understand, but I get why he's cynical and somehow I know what he means - sort of.

As I drag my suitcase and laptop out of the car, I know I'm going to write about him. And then I feel just like David Broder or Joe Klein or any of the other pundits who are always using cab drivers as mouthpieces for the things they want to say.

Except, of course, I'm not making it up.