In August, our good friends Aaron (not that Aaron) and Katie (not that Katie, or that one) got married just outside of Portland. The four of us were staying about three miles from the site of the ceremony, so we hired a cab to take us there.
The place were staying was a converted convalescent home. To their credit, the new hotel owners embraced their past, rather than pretending the safety bars and extra-wide doors in the shower were a luxury feature. Each room was named after one of its former residents, and said resident was immortalized with a wall portrait and brief biography. Our room was named after Marie "Cookie" Cobb, and her portrait was so scary that we left the closet door open so we couldn't see it. Mike and Jessica's room featured "Uncle Jim", whose biography claimed he "had the grip of a 30-year-old".
Perhaps the hotel's former incarnation was the reason the taxi company sent us the vehicle they did. It was a van with no middle seats, and an elaborate metal guard on its metal door, presumably to transport wheelchair-bound passengers. Since there were four of us, that meant Jessica rode shotgun, while Mike, Paul, and I, and our suits squeezed together in the way back.
The drive was a little awkward, since none of us could move laterally, and it felt like Jessica and the rotund cabbie were taking us to soccer practice. Soccer practice for cripples. Also, the cabbie was only going about 15 MPH. As is my habit in these situations, I was trying to defuse the awkwardness by talking a lot. We got on the subject of our recently-rediscovered friend Dan (not that Dan, and his teenage efforts to shed the nickname "Danny". Out of nowhere, our cabbie spoke for the first time.
"No one but my mom's allowed to call me Danny," he said. He let that linger there for a while, until I asked, "So, your name's Dan?"
He affirmed, and then added, "I had a different nickname, but until the reunion, I hadn't heard it since high school." Again, the awkward silence lasted a little too long, until I asked, "What was the nickname?"
"They called me 'Gutley'", he responded, and we all tried really hard not to laugh. He explained that his last name was "Gately", and so it was natural that his abusive high school football coach would yell "Dammit, Gutley!" at him when he made mistakes. The story got sadder when he explained that the team's football games were broadcast on local radio, and even the announcers called him "Gutley". Suddenly, being called "Danny" didn't seem so bad. What do you say when a cabbie spills his guts like that? Especially since, at this speed, we still had like fifteen minutes before we got to the wedding.
We rode the rest of the way in silence. When we arrived, we realized that this handicapped taxi-van lacked a meter, as well as a middle seat. Gutley rummaged through a box underneath his seat and did some elaborate reckoning involving a laminated map and a solar calculator. Normally, we'd have gotten out of the cramped seats, but the sliding door didn't open from the inside, even if you had the iron grip of Uncle Jim. Finally, after involving a compass and an abacus, Gutley told us our fare for the thirty-minute trip: $18. We paid him, waved farewell, and went into the ceremony, where there was a guy dressed up as the Log Lady.