“Needle and Thread” – Taxicab Chronicles

Storytime – Older Church Lady from Guyana hops into my cab with her granddaughter. Generations’ apart but perfectly matched as partners in crime. Her baby is no more than 3ft tall wearing bottle cap glasses and barrettes in her hair. She’s quiet, reserved and the next Hidden Figures for sure.

But grandma has more sass; rocking a purple and gold Afghan with sharp intelligent eyes that can cut glass. They’re heading to church for an African themed service. She smiles big at me like most do when they realize the cab driver is a woman. It’s always a girl power moment for sure. We live in a man’s world but they wouldn’t have nothing if it wasn’t for a woman or a girlll (sings in my best James Brown karaoke voice).

Her mouth opens and a very heavy Guyanese accent rolls from her lips. I’m understanding every 3-4 words but piecing together perfectly what she is saying. (Disclaimer -don’t judge me. NYC is the melting pot. So you better get it or pretend that you got it.)

Of course she doesn’t know the exact address to the church. Just the cross streets & I’m expected to get her there safely. In a hurry of course because service is starting soon. She wants to make an entrance by having a  Coming to America moment. I look off into the distance imagining the room going silent as she makes her way down the aisle.

So we pull off in my slow ass Nissan Rogue. It doesn’t have the kick like my Maxima that’s been in the repair shop for decades. There is nothing worse than putting your brand new car in the dealership hand. Hoping they “rush” the repairs. But touché I’m making this $$ so won’t utter a complaint.

In the back suddenly there is a lot of teeth sucking and clucking. Her grand-baby coat has a small rip in it. But there’s a time shift in grandma eyes reflected in endless orbs. She’s not having a Birdbox moment thankfully. Just recollecting a life of sewing for family and friends. So magically a needle and thread appears from the magicians’ purse to make the repair.

I’ve always said a woman’s purse can be a suitcase on wheels but instead balances perfectly on our shoulders. Some carry their entire house in that one bag. Lotion? Check. Shoes? Check. Change of Clothes? Check. Pads and Tampons? Check. Nail file with the polish? Check. Breakfast, lunch and dinner?…you get my drift.

We are no more than 4 blocks away from her house and she suddenly freaks out! I slam on the brake and swerve; narrowly missing a parked car!

The First Lady of Church is supposed to have a perfumed candle coming her way!! So Granny asks that we turn back immediately. She refuses to miss the opportunity of giving an offering of vanilla scented wax to the First Lady.

Now for those reading; we know the average cab driver isn’t doing this. They are ready to toss you out on your butt. The crisp NY Fall air means nothing to cutthroat cabbies and neither does that baby who’s nodding off in the back.

But I’m not your average cab driver and my granny raised me right. I picture her sitting on the porch of that cinder-block house in the south. On a dirt road with dust kicking up to slap those buzzing flies away from her face. She gives me the look of death in my memory.

So I smile in the present with teeth clenched and my dimples barely showing to of course oblige. Thinking faintly; does this come with a tip? Plus you know stunt drivers like me love to go back around the track over and over again. So I zip back into the parking lot like a NASCAR driver the day before the race. Just testing out the track and warming the rubber up on my wheels. The Rogue is slow but in my capable hands it still makes granny neck snap back against the seat. She’s clutching her chest with a nervous smile on her face. All while grandbaby seated next to her is still dreaming of the snacks after church service.

Then it happens. A cold breeze rocks the outside of the car. All that metal and fiberglass sways in the harsh wind. I shudder because my blood runs cold on most days. Low iron plus a Goonish heart has me not feeling a lot of things. My friends reading know that if it’s a fight involved I’ll be the quiet boxer in the corner. Waiting for the bell to ring so I can step out of and do some damage. After that first round retreating back to my side as the world crumbles around me. (We’ll get to that story another time. Just keep reading this journey nosey.)

Grandma struggles to get out of the car. Old bones not working as good as they used to. My knee is throbbing for her. Alas she still leans over the seat before departing and hands me….

The needle and thread. It becomes a moment of bonding. Only a few brief minutes have passed and she is trusting me to help her. To support all that she needs on this special day. I wonder if I remind her of someone. Or is it just what old school black people do. I look young but I’ve got a few decades under my belt. Where honor thy neighbor meant something. You didn’t always need to be paid for your services. Giving to others means receiving in other ways.

She casually asks me to triple thread it AND watch her grandbaby so she can run upstairs.

Before I utter a response from my lips in protest; the door is slammed shut and she’s shuffling her way inside. But not before looking over her shoulder in all directions. It’s the projects and everyone has to be ready to pop off at all times.

In this moment I’m calm and reflecting on a life growing up in the south. My Grandma Frances who sat on that porch each and every day taught me how to sew as a kid. Rolling my thumb and index fingers on the end to knot it once finished. I make light work of that small ass needle head as well. By the time she comes back the thread is looped and knotted at the end. Grand baby?

Still knocked out sleep in the back! I’m hopeful the soothing voices of black women —-One American and the other Guyanese. Trying to figure out this thing called life together; soothes the next generation in their dreams.

Me: Here you go Miss, so you can start sewing. So what did you say your brother did? He definitely sounds like he got an ego. Whattt I can’t believe….. (Chatter continues)

We are back on the road heading to her destination. Oh and by the way; of course I got a tip. haha

Disclaimer – Names/Location have been redacted to maintain confidentiality and trust of participants. Stories are a mix of fiction and non-fiction due to privacy.

Image credit: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/578290408377762508/


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