It wasn't until I was comfortably settled in the back of the cab cruising down the highway that I noticed my taxi driver's insulated travel mug. "PROZAC: fluoxetine hydrochloride." Prozac. Now there are lots of folks out there on Prozac. Lose your job -- Prozac. Get a bad test score -- Prozac. Stub your toe -- Prozac. But then there's the crew Prozac was made for. The folks who took all the pills in the medicine cabinet at once, or stay in bed for 2 months, or, I don't know, drive themselves into a tree because life's not worth living. So which was my guy? Was he a Russian immigrant with a Ph.D. who could only get a job driving a cab and was using the Prozac to take the edge off (and who could blame him)? Or was he the kid in school who occasionally brought weapons to the playground because who didn't feel safer on a suburban Jr. High School bleacher with a switch blade or low caliber pistol?
I suppose someone could have given him the mug. He might have picked up some pharmaceutical sales rep at the airport on the way to his first appointment of the day. And that sales rep could have reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out a Prozac coffee mug and a Cialis pen and thought it was a fair substitute for a reasonable tip. In which case the only truly fair substitute would have been the Prozac itself to help curb the cab driver's deep, unflinching hostility towards all men in polyester. Luckily, no matter how bitter he may still have been about the pharmaceutical rep's misguided return to the barter system, it would likely have been hard to confuse me for a low rent drug peddler, so I was probably safe.
Did my cab driver perhaps find the Prozac mug discarded in the back of his cab? Surely a piece of the taxi driver "compensation package" is the abandoned crap that is left behind by harried customers on their way to bustling places with bustling people in bustling offices. No doubt the forgotten laptops are recovered more times than not. But what about the middling stuff? The Lord of the Rings trilogy DVD's purchased at airports and still in their slick plastic bags that once were tucked neatly and securely into their outside backpack pockets. The iPod Shuffles discarded on the seats beside angry teenage boys whose mothers have yelled that their music is going to damage their hearing. The peanut M&Ms from alluring kiosks with posters of JLo, tattoo magazines and imprisoned men making a living a buck forty-nine at a pop. And the bags of schwag from conferences, so dutifully collected over two days of walking the hundred thousand square foot trade show floors, including the insulated Prozac coffee mugs won with the spin of a Wheel of Fortune (does anyone actually win the weekend for two at the Rio in Vegas?).
Maybe he got the mug from his therapist who had a rainbow of anti-depresant cookware lying around? He'd tell her how his extraordinarily hairy back had always made him feel slightly lower on the evolutionary ladder. Or how he found himself unnaturally drawn to bald heads -- constantly fighting the urge to rub the smooth orbs as they bob in front of him on line at the grocery store. He'd recount how his children never found him funny; how they were so embarrassed by him that they would plead with his ex-wife to drop them off at school dances lest they have to endure his loud and mostly inappropriate double entendres as they sprinted for the gym door. When his half hour was up he would slink to the door feeling just a little bit more demoralized than when he had arrived. Periodically, as he passed through the waiting room, he would grab a pen or post-it pad or mug from the "Up For Grabs" shelf in an effort to make himself feel slightly less taken by the experience.
No matter how many perfectly logical explanations I could concoct for my cab driver's anti-psychotic travel mug, I took little comfort in any of them. With each lurching lane change, I envisioned our cab careening into the median, barrel rolling down the 101 and coming to a rest, belly side up, amidst dozens of dented luxury cars. The twenty minute trip home seemed interminable. As the cab rolled to a stop in front of my house and I carefully collected all of my belongings from the back seat, I took one last glance at the Prozac mug and thanked modern medicine -- or is that modern chemistry -- for getting me home safe and sound.