Flipside: Taxing Talmudic discourse

ruthie blum 88 (photo credit: )
ruthie blum 88
(photo credit: )
Two cabs converge on a yellow line. One is going East, the other West. The driver of the latter opens his window and pokes his head out to signal to the driver of the former that he wants to ask him a question. The driver of the former jerks to a stop, causing his three fares - one in the front, two in the back - to grunt slightly and raise their hands to their heads to steady their black hats. The driver of the latter, seeing the driver of the former responding to his gesture, slams on his brakes as well. The purse of the woman in the passenger seat tips over. The noise of clinking lipsticks, cell phone and keys is drowned out, however, by honking. The bottleneck in both directions this chance meeting between colleagues has brought on is of no concern to either. Indeed, it is clear that the two men view their conversation, as well as their family connection (the one being the brother-in-law of the other), to be of sufficient significance as to warrant the temporary inconveniencing of the rest of the road's patrons. "YO, BRO'," the one going West greets the one heading East. "So, you got your clutch fixed, eh?" "How else would I be driving, huh?" East answers, letting loose with a perfect spit ball. "Use your brain." "That was quick," says West. "Where'd you get it done?" "In Bethlehem - where else?" East retorts. "Had to crawl all the way there in second gear." "Whoooaa, man," West whistles. "That must've been a bummer." "I've had better days," East says, shrugging. His train of thought interrupted momentarily by the shouting of a disgruntled driver who has dared to denounce him for holding up traffic, he flashes his middle finger and resumes chatting. "Why didn't you have it done over here, then?" West asks, pointing to the industrial part of Jerusalem where they happen to be conducting their exchange. "Did you lose your mind or something?" "Are you kidding me?" East snorts sardonically. "And get royally screwed by a fellow Jew while I'm at it?" "Wha'd'ya mean?" West asks, gesturing to the woman next to him to be patient. The meter, after all, isn't on, so what's her problem? "What Jew would charge me NIS 2,400 to put in a new clutch, and do the job in two hours?" East challenges, ignoring the pleas of his passengers, who are trying to tell him that if he doesn't get moving, they are going to disembark and daven their afternoon prayers right here and now. "That's all they charged you in Bethlehem?" West yells, partly in disbelief, and partly to make himself heard over the surrounding racket. "Would I lie?" East blasts for emphasis. His passengers all nod as if to say yes. Or maybe they're simply shuckling, having resigned themselves to being held hostage by their talkative taxi driver. "Did you hear me calling you a liar?" West bellows. "I was just wondering whether it bothered you to give the Arab mechanic your business, that's all." "Bother me?" East laughs. "What're you - crazy?" "What're you saying - I don't know what I'm talking about?" West cries. "You think I haven't had a few garage experiences of my own?" "Oh yeah?" East squawks. "Then why wouldn't you know by now that a Jew would have charged me at least double, drilled a hole in my head with his explanations, and then kept the car for two days, while I sat at home - with no income - watching telenovellas with your sister?" "You think that if maybe you spent more time watching the news than you do soap operas," West says, "you'd know why the Arab can charge you so little for a new clutch?" "What do I care what the reason is?" East asks. "What? It's my business?" "So, you're saying it's not your business when you're riding around with a stolen clutch?" West suggests, relieved that the light has turned red for the second time, which gives him an excuse to remain in place so he can finish his argument in peace and quiet. "And this is your professional opinion?" East says. "Who died and made you police commissioner?" "Who has to be in the police to know that all our stolen cars end up in the PA?" West barks, then turns to the passenger beside him, who is looking worriedly at her watch and says, "Am I right or am I right?" "Is your clock right?" she sighs, pointing at the dashboard in despair. "And why, exactly, is that my problem?" East shoots back defensively. "Did I steal anything from anybody?" His three passengers nod again in unison. "Why is it your problem?" West asks in amazement. "Why isn't it your problem?" "Why should it be?" East answers angrily. "And what's it to you anyway?" "What's it to me?" West growls. "What's it to me? After having two cars disappear overnight, one after the other?" "What?" East says. "You didn't get the insurance money?" "What?" West says. "I didn't lose business?" "What?" East says. "You didn't get better cars each time?" "What?" West says. "You think every time your clutch goes, I should have my car stolen, so you can get a cheap deal?" "Anybody ever tell you that you're irritating?" East says, shifting into first gear as the light begins to turn. "Anybody ever tell you you're an accessory?" West says, adjusting his side mirror. "See you on Shabbat," East signs - and zooms - off, his passengers again holding onto their hats. "Say hi to my sister?" West says, stepping on it as well. TWO CABS diverge at a congested intersection. One is going East, the other heading West. The driver of the latter leaves feeling like a loser. The driver of the former parts feeling put down. ruthie@jpost.com