The Great Choice: Boring Certainty or the Uncertain Chance of Excellence?

(Watching and Waiting, Lawrence Alma-Tadema)

The Lyft/Uber vs. taxi option is the perfect metaphor for some many choices in life. You call a ride-share with your phone app and you know what’s coming. Something antiseptic, with a driver who aims to get a positive score and is utterly dependent on machine navigation. Ride-share this summer was a blur of interchangeable, spotless bland-colored cars with bland drivers who muttered at the GPS and over-yielded. You will get where you want to go but without sparkle or elan.

Now a taxi, sigh. Such possible joy and such possible mayhem. I got in one this summer and, be still my beating heart, he was channeling Jean Reno in Ronin. We zoomed. We swerved. We skedaddled on, leaving a trail of honking, swearing drivers who were grinding their teeth like the Grinch. It was lovely.

Ok, truth to tell, I wouldn’t want to travel like that every day, but it was so fun. I got in another taxi on a crowded street. He motioned to the mess of stalled cars ahead and hooked an illegal U-turn saying, “We don’t need this.” Exactement, mon ami. There was no navigation system except his 10-plus years of roaming the city and we went down one-way alleys the wrong way. Quel bonheur! His tip was a joy to contemplate.

Heaven only knows what happened (or hatched or died or got lucky) in the back seat, but that’s why we take taxis – to live on the wild side, to experience not just motion, but life. Sometimes you have a silent one, but most of the time you will chat with a driver who has a lot of opinions and no interest in your opinions (or rating!) . Local knowledge, weather knowledge, sports knowledge, restaurant knowledge and general life advice, taxi drivers have seen and heard everything, Who better to weigh in on your decision to change jobs or husbands?

But on the other hand, a few other taxis, thinking I didn’t know the city, pulled all sorts of evil tricks. One literally drove around the block assuming I would not notice; another got on the wrong highway, drove past two exits, got off and did an elaborate backtrack. Sigh.

See what I mean Darling? You can get in your grey, violently-innocuous automobile with your pleasant, timid driver or you hail a taxi and takes your chances: maybe super-skilled whirlwind, maybe someone trying to cheat you. Assured competence or the thrill of figuring out if you are being driven by Fernando Alonso or Mr. 10-kilometers-out of-your-way-to-increase-the-fare? Plodding, mediocre capability or experienced people who may use that knowledge to deceive you?

The quandary of modern life: take a gamble (maybe you will get transcendence, maybe you will get a troll) or go with the boring but dependable. It’s hard to find the sweet spot of maximum efficacy, efficiency, talent and joy.

anna tadema - watching and waiting