"I'm not going far," the man said apologetically, giving me the name of a church a little more than a mile away.
Short, long distance, it doesn't make a difference to me. You don't get to pick and choose your fares.
"How long will it take?" he asked. He had an accent from somewhere else, someplace across an ocean. "I'm supposed to be there at five."
"Hard to tell in this traffic," I answered for what should be less than ten minute ride. Rush hour was just ramping up. "You might be a couple minutes late."
He sat quitely. I couldn't tell for sure, but I felt he was watching me.
"You don't seem like the other drivers," he said. "You seem... different, calmer. The other drivers all seem so angry, so in a hurry."
That put me on alert. The guy didn't look threatening, but his comment and his manner creeped me out. Was he trying to make a pass at me?
"I just drive part time," I told him. Most drivers work 12-hour days five or six days a week, I explained. They have no life. They hardly see their kids. They're tired and understandably a little cranky.
"Sure, sure," he said, then falling into silence.
"Do you believe in God?" he asked.
Oh, no, I told myself, he's one of those. I wanted the traffic to clear. I wanted him out of my car. A part of me told me to pull over and kick him out, tell him to get another cab. He wasn't threatening, just annoying.
"No," I said. "I don't believe in God."
"Don't you worry about what will happen to you," he asked, "after you die?"
Now I was feeling agitated, angry and definitely in a hurry.
"No, I don't," I said.
"But how do you know what to do in your life? What guides you?"
"Easy," I said. "I just try to make the most of every day and treat other people as I want them to treat me," I said. "You know, the Golden Rule."
"Hmm... interesting," he said. At this point I was expecting him to hand over a pamplet or launch into some passage of scripture. Another silence.
"How do you meet people?" he asked. "How do you make friends?"
Who is this guy? Forrest Gump?
"I do things," I said. "I have hobbies, I go places. The usual."
"Yes, yes," he said. Silence again.
"Could I be your friend?" he asked in a thin, almost inaudible voice.
This needed to stop. "No," I said sternly. "I won't be your friend."
"I'm sorry. It's just that I am new here and very lonely."
We were near our destination and I was relieved. Whatever this guy wanted, whatever he needed he wasn't going to get from me.
"That's okay," I said, pulling up to the church. "You'll make friends."
He paid me, opened the door and said, "Thank you. God bless."
As I pulled away I saw him sort of wandering, walking to the side of the building as if looking for some way to get inside. Perhaps he was unsure he was even at the right place. Maybe he didn't know where he was? Maybe he didn't know where he wanted to go?
For a moment, I felt sorry for him.