I push through the double glass doors and head for the beat up silver Buick idling at the curb, exhaust fumes filling the air. Raju, the driver, steps out of two thousand tons of steel wearing baggy hip hop garb. He flicks his cigarette to the curb and reaches for my suitcase. A thick gold chain swings side to side as he drops it into the trunk and then slams it shut not once, not twice, but three times.
“Where you going, Miss?” he asks, sliding behind the nubby steering wheel.
“Kennedy,” I say, closing the creaky passenger door behind me. I’m sitting in the backseat of what used to be a New York City Police car, on what looks like one of the red blankets from the airplane, which on further inspection is one of our blankets covering a split in the gray leather seat. Yellow foam creeps out underneath….
That’s an excerpt from my book, SKYDOLL, a novel about love and sex at 35,000 feet. The reason I bring this up is because two days ago I found myself in the backseat of a Kew Gardens car, a car service that caters to airline personnel with cheap rates from Kew Gardens to the airport. I was on my way to John F. Kennedy International Airport to work a trip to Kansas City, a trip that actually ended up laying over in Dallas Fort Worth. My driver, a young, handsome, dark-skinned kid with a soft voice and gentle demeanor, looked a lot like the Raju I had created in my book. So I asked the driver if I could take his picture. There was silence as his brown eyes looked at me curiously in the rear view mirror. Laughing, I explained that I was writing a book about a flight attendant/photographer who at one point in the story finds herself in a Kew Gardens Cab with a driver, a driver I’d named Raju. Well that caused my own driver’s head to spin around like the exorcist. He looked at me like I was crazy. Don’t worry, I told him, and then I went on to explain that I wanted to take pictures of the things I discuss in the book in hopes of using the photos between each chapter, so the reader will get a better feel of what I’m writing about. He looked scared. I promised to only take a picture of the back of his head. I reassured him that no one would know it was him. Then I sighed and told him to forget it.
The driver turned all the way around in his seat, his eyes on me, not the road ahead. I barely heard him say, “That’s my name, Raju.”
I gulped. “Are you serious?”
Stunned, now I was the one looking at him like he was crazy. I’d never seen this kid before in my life, yet he looked exactly like the Raju I had created in my book!
That’s the real Raju up there in the photo. I took the picture with my cell, which explains why it didn’t come out so well. I’ll be heading to La Guardia in a few hours to work a flight to Chicago, a flight that’s already been delayed an hour due to thunderstorms in the area. I’m hoping I’ll see Raju again, that is if my flight doesn’t cancel. This time, unlike the last time, my camera is charged and ready to go.
Yeah, that's me, the one standing in the aisle wearing flammable polyester...