To the kennel and back, part 2

One of the great things about living in Austin is that it’s a state capital and has seen its share of historical events and people. One of those people is former President Lyndon Johnson, who is from this area. There’s even a museum dedicated to Johnson downtown. A former boss got me interested in Johnson and all of the things he achieved for civil rights during his time as president.

Supposedly Johnson had a pillow in his ranch house embroidered with “This is my ranch, and I do as I damn please!” You can even buy similar pillows at the museum. I should have bought one.

I’m deviating a bit from the subject of my usual posts—my dog, Katniss—because, well, this is my blog, and I do as I damn please.

In the original “Kennel” post, I mentioned having to leave town to see my wife graduate from grad school and dropping Katniss off at the kennel. I flew to New Orleans and arrived at the airport at 5 or so in the afternoon.

I got a ride with a taxi after telling an airport attendant that I needed to get to the Crown Plaza hotel. I had written down on a scrap piece of paper that my hotel was the Crown Plaza New Orleans Airport hotel. I just said “Crown Plaza hotel” assuming there was only one in N’awlins. The thing is, there’s two Crown Plaza hotels—my hotel near the airport,  and one downtown. Guess which one I was headed for?

The couple riding with me said nothing the entire cab ride except for, “How do you want to split the fare?” The driver seemed quiet and focused on weaving through the traffic, which was actually far less intense than Austin traffic. New Orleans rush hour traffic is like being a Detroit Lions fan—usually not the best experience, but optimism is sometimes rewarded. Austin traffic at rush hour is like being a fan of the Cleveland Browns, otherwise known as the “factory of sadness”—disappointment is inevitable, so why bother?

As we got farther from the airport and closer to downtown, the suspicion that I was headed to the wrong hotel grew. When the driver dropped off the couple and said my hotel was nearby, I knew I had messed up worse than the CBS executives who allowed the last season of “How I Met Your Mother” to air.

I explained the situation to the driver, and he was understanding. We headed back to the proper hotel, and I told him I would pay him double what I originally owed him. Sometimes when I’m nervous, I put my hands in my armpits and smell them I start talking, and I am normally a quiet fellow.

I asked the driver, whose name was Charles and had a foreign accent, about his life. He said he was from Haiti and moved to the U.S. right before the huge earthquake that hit the island a few years ago but after Hurricane Katrina*, which battered New Orleans. We talked about how Haiti is good at soccer, and the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti, is known for its baseball players.

He could have been lying about everything
he told me, but at least I was entertained.

Charles said he could speak four languages, was once a teacher in Haiti and wanted to open his own school someday. His daughter was about to go to college to become a nurse just like her mother, and Saints games were huge money-making days for him as a driver, but not Pelicans basketball games—no one goes to those, he said.

As we arrived at the correct hotel, I felt sad having to leave my new friend. He could have been lying about everything he told me, but at least I was entertained. If you’re ever in the Big Easy and need to hail a cab, I hope Charles is your driver. And be sure to direct him to the right hotel.

___

*I flew over New Orleans the day after Katrina as a reporter aboard a special Air Force plane that was surveying the damage. Seeing miles of forest flattened and the golden Superdome tarnished from damage was unforgettable.

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