"I got my wife and family for $1400," my cab driver shouted over the wail of a siren, turning around so I could see the full breadth of his grin.
"That's quite a bargain!" I shouted back, and we shared a laugh that drowned out everything else.
He was driving me to the airport, where I was to barely catch a flight to London. Within the first few blocks, I'd already excitedly informed him that on this trip, I'd be meeting a man I suspected might be among the best I've ever had the excellent fortune to meet, but that I'd met this particular man via a best friend, via the internet. My story prompted him to share his.
"I'd been wanting to marry a nice Lebanese girl," he explained. "You understand." He shrugged apologetically, as though I might be offended for failing to qualify as a contender in his search for a life partner. "Of course, I understand," I said, though I couldn't relate. I've never been on the hunt for a 'nice Canadian boy', I've simply been holding out for someone truly great.
When his brother called from Lebanon to offer him the number of a worthy future sister-in-law, my cab driver was more than intrigued. For four months, the two spoke over the phone for hours at a time. "Everything is a lot to learn about someone. It takes a while," he said. Boarding the plane to go meet her, he hadn't seen so much as a picture. All he had to go on concerning her looks was what his brother had said: "She's not ugly."
Having perused and reviewed and obsessed over hundreds of pictures of my current interest, I just couldn't imagine at all how he must've felt. His situation speaks loads for the weight of personality, I thought.
Not surprisingly, his friends thought he was crazy for entertaining the idea that she might actually be right for him, that she'd return to Canada with him to live, and that she might actually be anything less than horrendously malformed or psychotic. "They told me I was just wasting my money on a plane ticket," he said.
Then, he started yelling. "You have to take chances! Look at me! Look at me!" He was now flailing his arms and laughing like a lunatic, and I thought his friends may have been right about him after all. "I took a chance, and I won my life. I have a wonderful wife and three kids now."
Crazy or not, I'd never been so glad I'd struck up a conversation with a cabbie. I couldn't help but fantasize that my meeting with the English boy would go as well, especially when he said, "I'll never, never forget how I felt when I first met her." He became silent and looked ahead at the traffic, reflecting for a moment before laughing again, not because something was funny, but because he'd won big. Really, really big.
While I recognize that advice is really little more than nostalgia, I'm willing to accept his. "I'll tell you what to do," he declared (at this point I'd been doing little more than egging him on for a while). "Go to London, meet this man, and fall in love. If he's a good man, and he respects you, keep him. You'll figure out how. You really don't have anything to lose."
At the airport, we were both all smiles. He helped me with my bags and we shooks hands for a long time, moments short of hugging. We wished each other all the luck in the world for all the chances we love to take.
"I'm going to tell people your story," I told him.
"Please do," he said. "There should be more stories like it."
I boarded the plane thinking $1400 really is a bargain.