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So, Nu, What’s 70 Years?

Illustration: Denis Shifrin

Two taxi drivers, Sam and Lennie, had been competitors from the day they received their taxi licenses. For years they had been arguing over who had been a taxi driver the longest. Sam contended that he had been driving a taxi since the War of Independence. "Then when there was no other transportation I was taking soldiers to the front."

Lennie laughed uproariously. "'Front – Shmont' – the Six Day War I took soldiers to the Kotel."

Sam was becoming annoyed with this back and forth rivalry and decided it was the moment to finally shut up Lennie and his boasting. "Remember the ram's horn that Rav Goren sounded at the Kotel? I brought it there."

Lennie's retort was immediate – "This year is 70 years of the State of Israel, right?"

"So, what's new?" was Sam's sarcastic answer.

"A lady from Bat Yam was in my taxi and went into labor."

"So, Lennie, now you're a doctor?"

"Sam, the lady had her baby in my taxi, and it was born a minute before Yom Ha'atzmaut."

"So, Lennie, are you telling me you didn't fast?"

"No, I'm telling you that was a famous baby, the first baby born in 1947 was born in my taxi. And that, Mr. Shmuel, was the year before Independence. One year earlier than your taxi license."

The two taxi drivers were having this argument over coffee at a Montefiore Street café in Tel Aviv. The owner, overhearing this "I did," "You did" argument decided to intervene. "This Friday morning, from 7 to 11, you two, if you agree, will have a little contest to see who can pick up the most fares." Sam immediately agreed knowing that the morning rush hour before a weekend was the busiest time of the whole week.

"Where?" asked Lennie but in his mind ready to agree because there was a prediction of rain.

"From the Haifa highway to the Tel Aviv railroad station," said the café owner.

Lennie and Sam looked at each other, both already with victorious smiles and nodded their agreement.

Friday morning was blustery and raining. Flags, blue and white streamers, balloons – decorations were being blown here and there by a blustery wind. If there ever was a morning for taxi passengers, it's today, Sam thought. As for Lennie he got his windshield wipers going and drove on a deserted dirt road that would get him on the main highway certainly quicker than Sam. The rain did not let up and there were countless passengers for Sam and for Lennie. Every once in a while they spotted each others' taxi. Each was sure he had made the most money.

The wind turned vicious and the rain became a storm. The highway was slick, cars backed up with drivers murderously impatient. Lennie perilously wound in and out of the lanes of cars. Sam drove dangerously fast on the highway shoulders.

No one afterwards could explain how the bus suddenly swerved, veered and lost control. And there was no explanation for two taxis colliding into it. The evening news headlined it as "A Two Taxi Race."

Sam and Lennie, injured and exhausted, lay next to each other in the hospital ward. Their eyes were closed, each tallying up the bill for headlights, fenders, rearview mirrors, paint jobs and dented doors. They exchanged not a single word. In the late afternoon a nurse came in, "Time for your medications. By the way, ' Yom Ha'atzmaut Sameach.'" 

 

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Friday, 17 September 2021

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