A Bonus

I picked up the three in my taxi some time in the early eighties in Manhattan for a swift ride to La Guardia airport. Dressed in nice suits with conservative ties and as clean cut as a Hollywood lawn. They talked in low tones and I sensed an air of glumness and depression. I perceived in my helpful gregarious way that I could cheer them up. I can have that effect on total strangers and even now and then on the friends that I can count with one hand.

At about the Willis Avenue turnoff for the Triboro Bridge I started. So how are you guys today I asked with a cheerful air. I like talking with strangers especially when they are captives.

Okay fine fine they answered. And you?

O I'm fine too. You guys sound a little down. Not too happy back there.

Yes well we have a little problem said one.

Tell me about it I encouraged. Maybe I can help you out since I can be objective about it since it's not my problem. What sort of work do you do?

We are in public relations in Los Angeles said another. We deal with ideas.

I was in the public relations department of an advertising company in Rhode Island I offered. What's the problem? I have ideas.

A taxi driver with ideas they must have reasoned being nice. Why not?

We are trying to come up with a name for a new health insurance company that is starting up.

What is the name now I inquired.

Amalgamated Federated Health Insurance of North America (or something like that) he answered.

Let me think about it a minute. About ten seconds later I said I got it.

What is it?

Health First.

I like it. How about First Health said another.

People always say health first I said.

You're right. You ought to be doing what we're doing.

I know it I said suddenly feeling slightly depressed about my tiring and breakeven job.

Why aren't you?

Complicated question with a complicated answer I said. I have to think about it. They let me think until I got to the top of the long bridge and started the three-mile run to La Guardia.

Growing up in the Deep Fucking South I answered.

They chuckled like they knew what that meant but I knew they did not.

It is a good name one said. We'll run it by our boss.

If it flies send me a bonus. They chuckled and agreed but nobody was copying my name and hack number from the visible hack license up front.

I dropped them and unloaded their bags and they tipped me ten dollars for a twenty dollar ride, a good tip then.

I never saw the name but I never read advertisements unless I am looking for something. I still don't have health insurance. I have the VA because I served my country for four years in the Marine Corps and for another forty years in the antiwar movement.

My bonus. Unrepentant satisfaction. Ten seconds of thought and fifty years of frustration and disgust.


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