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July 31, 2007


I asked a young man stepping off the evening's Amtrak train if he needed a cab. "Nope, not me," he replied, "but there's some Quakers, I guess, who I think need a ride."

For some reason I knew exactly what he meant by "Quakers" even though he was mixing up his denominations. Sure enough, coming toward me off the rear car of the train was a couple straight from the 19th Century. The man was dressed in high-waisted pants, a flannel shirt and suspenders. His beard was dark and full, minus the mustache, and he wore a yellow straw hat with a black band around the crown. His wife wore a full-length black dress with a white apron tied across the torso to the waist. With the white bonnet snug on her head, she looked like a standing version of Whistler's Mother.

I identified myself as a cabdriver and the man asked, "Is there a Holiday Inn near Burlington?"

"Sure is," I replied, and we loaded up the cab and got underway.

"So are you folks from Pennsylvania?" I asked. These were my first Amish people and I was hoping they'd be chatty.

"Yes, that is where we're from." the man replied. The woman stared straight ahead, though with a slight smile. I got the sense it wasn't standoffishness but cultural modesty that enjoined her from gabbing it up with a strange Yankee cabbie.

"What brings you to Burlington?"

"We like to vacation. We've been all around the country."

"Are the Amish allowed to take airplanes?"

"No, we don't. We can, though, in the case of an emergency. We like Amtrak. We take it all the time."

For the rest of the ride to the hotel we talked about Amish life. It's so rich to hear it from the horse's mouth, as it were. Like I thought I knew something about the Amish because I'd seen the Harrison Ford movie, Witness. Sheesh.I've learned more about life from my cab customers than I ever have from all the books I've read. (Though it's still important to read, kids.)

As we pulled up to the entrance at the Holiday Inn I said, "You know something? Modern people are now reading books and taking seminars to learn how to live like the Amish. Except they call it "simple living."

They both chuckled which I found entirely charming. Then the woman spoke for the first time. "Yes, they all want to live simply, but can they give up electricity?"

July 31, 2007 at 08:16 PM in A Cabdriver's World | Permalink


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Reminds me of the New York City blackout a few years back - people went nuts. The old time Vermonters would have lit some candles and had a grand ol' time.

Posted by: Erin | Aug 1, 2007 6:16:33 PM

I'm so far removed, Erin, from that natural self-sufficiency. I'm still such a city boy even after 30 years in Vermont. If you took away my toaster for a day, I'd probably shrivel up and die, for crying out loud.

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Aug 1, 2007 6:20:55 PM

Not me. I've given up electricity completely.

Haven't used a spark of it in years!

Posted by: Denile | Aug 2, 2007 8:57:34 AM

Wow. Denile, I salute you and honor you. You must be either a very amazing or strange person, or both! (Hey, how are you emailing me? Do you have gerbils spinning a wheel under the computer table?)

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Aug 2, 2007 11:33:09 AM

Never underestimate the power of gerbils, those little guys can get a lot done.

Posted by: Lizzy | Aug 4, 2007 9:37:13 AM

Point taken, Lizzy. Gerbils are indeed the new hamsters. (I have no idea what I mean by that.)

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Aug 4, 2007 2:45:39 PM

I thought Siamese cats were the new hamsters. But I was so wrong. So very, very wrong.

Posted by: Molly | Aug 6, 2007 5:09:28 AM

Actually, Molly, there is some controversy over which critters are the new hamsters. Siamese cats may indeed be the new hamsters; it's an open question.

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Aug 6, 2007 11:44:02 AM

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