Every morning, I take a taxi to work. I feel guilty about this, believe me, but I know I’m not the only one wrestling with this ambivalence – cabs are a huge part of life in Manhattan. Broke or flush, I’m always taking cabs for one reason or other. Anyway, on this particular morning in January, once I had crammed myself into my seat, I happened to notice on the TV screen, conveniently placed about six inches from my face, a message. It read, “Thank you for riding with us.” I said to the driver, “You know how you know you’re living in a corporate State? This sign in front of me, ‘Thank you for riding with us.’ Who’s ‘us?’ I don’t see anyone here but you and me…” Well, it turns out the driver, Evangelos Tringas, from Salonika, is a philosopher and my off-hand comment triggered a wonderful lecture on the history of the great Athenian experiment that failed 2,500 years ago and how ours, noble but fragile, was doomed as well. We had a jolly time comforting each other on the imminent fall of our current democracy and bade sincere farewells a mile and half later.
Then, two days later, after I had climbed into a cab and given the address, Mr. Tringas, Angelo, recognized me. The philosopher again! It had never happened before as far as I know in all my years of riding in cabs. This time, Angelo instructed me on destiny. “You know it exists,” he said. “Yes” I said, with a little less certainty. I haven’t got that one figured out yet. While we talked, I continue to stare at “Thank you for riding with us” to remind myself we weren’t really alone, even though, for those few minutes, it seemed as if we’d created a private world full of the exchange of ideas as well as money and free of oversight.