Tuesday, December 1, 1998

It’s a small world


By David Gewirtz

You might not expect social commentary in a technical magazine like DominoPower, but sometimes the real world asserts itself when you least expect it. In my case, I watched the real world happen right in front of me at about 1am, standing in the Taxi line at Newark Airport, the day before Thanksgiving.

Managing Editor Denise Amrich and I had just returned from a grueling business trip. Newark to Pittsburgh to Fort Myers, Florida to Charlotte to Newark, all in less than 24 hours, with an eight hour presentation (spell that "inquisition") with prospective investors sandwiched in the middle. This kind of pace can be tough on the best of days, but on the day before Thanksgiving, air travel is not fun.

After the four-hour flight home (half of which involved dislocating my shoulder to fit in the window seat), we were fried. Our post presentation debriefing consisted of grunts and whimpers about wanting to go home. We were most definitely not at our best.

But finally -- finally -- we were home (at 1am, even Newark airport can seem like home). We'd gotten off the plane, made a personal pit stop, and had stumbled our way through the airport into line at the taxi stand. Things were going slowly. For whatever reason, the taxi dispatcher (the person who controls who gets what cab) was moving realllll slooooow. Denise and I were in a bit of a fog. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something familiar. Weirdly familiar. Almost too familiar for 1am.

What out of the corner of my eye did appear but a woman carrying a Lotus Notes 4.5 Administrator's Guide. She held this six hundred-page book clutched close to her breast, much as a little child might possessively hold a much-beloved Teddy Bear. While I didn't register much about her appearance, I did notice the book. Ever the editor (foggy though I was), I turned to Denise, mentioned the woman and her book. I then jokingly suggested Denise give the woman a card and invite her to write for DominoPower. Denise, in as much of a post-trip funk as I, simply grunted. We both forgot about the woman and her Administrator's Guide almost immediately.

And then, about five minutes later, it happened. We heard screaming coming from the front of the line. It took a few minutes for the noise to permeate our jetlagged brains. We turned to watch. It was the same woman. She was arguing with a cabby. Apparently this cabby was requiring her, unlike all the other travelers being picked up, to pay for her trip home in advance.

Newark's taxi system works like this. You find the taxi line and stand in it for an interminable amount of time. When you finally reach the front, the dispatcher asks where you're going and gives you a yellow form with the amount of the travel bill. For Denise and I, it was $45. When you're delivered home, you're supposed to pay the cabby the amount on the yellow form, plus tolls, plus any tip.