About two years ago, I wrote a letter about finding small things in the infrastructural fabric of a big city. It centered around one bike in Chicago’s bike-sharing system which is colored bright red in a sea of sky blue bikes.
But I also talked about cab-spotting. See, all of Chicago’s cabs are numbered from 1 to 9999, and my partner, friends, and I have gained a keen interest in finding interesting cab numbers. It’s a fun thing to do in a big city, and it makes the cabbies seem less threatening when you’re on a bike.
So, if you’re among the 81 people who received that original letter, you remember that I listed all of the interesting cab numbers I had found at that point. And you may remember that one particularly auspicious number was missing from that list. On May 09, 2015, that changed forever.
For years, it had stung that I could not find this cab. In 2011, a friend texted me a blurry photo, taken at night, of the cab in question, taunting us all like a Loch Ness Monster of in-joke horror. Years passed. Nobody saw the cab. Suspicions were floated: its medallion was decomissioned; it was parked in a garage and left to rust; Uber happened, somehow. Then, one day early in 2014, I received a text message from a friend:
I JUST SAW THE CAB
And I knew. I knew.
Even then, radio silence persisted, though. No photographic evidence. A few more months passed, and then, on the day of my partner’s favorite band playing a show here, she texted me that she saw this cab on the way to dinner – but had the selfie camera engaged, so she couldn’t get a picture. I believe her, but still: no photo.
More sightings occurred. Eventually, at last, photos. People begin comparing me to Captain Ahab; the truly scary part is it doesn’t feel too far off at the time. The greatest indignity of the past ten years of my life occurred when a close friend of mine smugly shot a selfie in front of the cab. I wish this were hyperbole. The stakes are very high in this. I don’t know why. Probably because it has taken a while.
But today, friends. Oh, today. I have had to keep this news from everyone for 48 hours straight and I cannot tell you how much I have wanted to explode about it. I had just gone to brunch with my sister, and had hopped back on my bike when the cab – The Cab – sped off in the other direction. I immediately u-turned in the middle of a very crowded Milwaukee Avenue, in the smack middle of Wicker Park’s commercial epicenter; cut off two cars in the process, causing one of them to slam on their brakes and honk; chased the cab at full sprint for two blocks; pulled a little bit ahead; got my camera ready; and took a photo as it passed me.
There are many pictures of the cab, but this one is mine.