Well, this week has been just surreal. As you remember, first, there were giant president heads. Then there was a car made of spoons that growled. And finally, yesterday? There was Rusty the Singing Cowboy.
Earlier this week, I travelled to Davenport, Iowa, which is one of the five cities that make up the Quad Cities, an area which straddles the states of Illinois and Iowa. (Yes, I know that "quad" means "four," and I said "five." But I promise, I speak the truth.) I was there to speak at a luncheon for The Women's Connection, a wonderful networking organization made up of what I can only assume are the winners of the Nicest Women in Iowa and Illinois Awards. About 240 women braved the insane midday heat (seriously, this was like Houston heat) to come out and hear me speak, and they were so lovely and gracious that I would return for a visit to the Quad Cities in a heartbeat.
The talk was on Tuesday, but I ended up having to spend the night, and took the earliest flight out of the Moline/Quad Cities airport on Wednesday morning. I arranged with my hotel to have a cab meet me at 5 a.m., and promptly at 4:55, a Lucky Cab rolled up to the front door, and a short, unshaven man with a ponytail and a missing front tooth hopped out of the car.
"Good morning!" he said cheerily. "Are you Karen?"
"I am!" I responded.
He quickly put my bag in the trunk. "You can come sit in the front, if you'd like. It's so hot, you probably want the air conditioner."
It was about 85 degrees, so not particularly hot; still, on impulse I took him up on his offer and got in the passenger seat. He fiddled with some paperwork, called in to his dispatcher and then turned to me.
"So, how was your trip?"
"Well, if you ever return and you need a cab, be sure to call Lucky Cab and ask for Rusty the Singing Cowboy."
"Um... okay. You're Rusty, I take it?
"Yes I am."
"And you're a ... singing cowboy?"
"Yes I am."
"Would you like to hear me sing?"
"Well, I'd be crazy not to, wouldn't I?"
"Okay, then!" And he reached over to pop a CD into the player.
I have to tell you that I was very worried about what was about to happen. It was 5 o'clock in the morning, I was barely awake, and for all I knew I was about to be treated to some criminally bad singing. The music began to play, and I did everything I could to prevent myself from visibly cringing, in preparation for the notes that were about to come out of Rusty's mouth.
"HeLLOOOOOOO...." Rusty began at the top of his lungs, making me almost jump out of my skin.
And then he proceeded to belt out a country song just as loud as he possibly could.
Thing is? Rusty was awesome. He had a good voice, but it was the enthusiasm and gusto with which he performed that made the experience fantastic. He did all sorts of vocal gymnastics, his right hand flailing about in time with the music (and, apparently, helping him hit the high notes). After he finished (and I clapped wildly), he told me that he was raised by his mother and grandmother, who were both performers.
"They groomed me for the stage," he said proudly.
"I can see!" I exclaimed incredulously. I couldn't get over how completely bizarre the scene was: a cheery, toothless, ponytailed cab driver was serenading me to the airport. Before dawn. I mean, really, what are the odds?
He began singing another song. I clapped after that one, prompting him to sing yet another. By the time he finished the third song, we'd arrived at the airport. I tipped him generously for the free concert. "Aw, thanks," he said sincerely. "I don't often get to perform for nice ladies."
"The pleasure was mine," I smiled. And even though I'm not a fan of country music, I meant every word. His enthusiasm and joyful outlook on life was infectious, and his performance was better than coffee.
And with that, happy Love Thursday, everyone. Here's hoping a total stranger shares a bit of his passion with you today -- or at the very least, allows you a glimpse of how his freak flag flies.
Image: My new favourite portrait of Marcus & Alex, photographed with my Nikon D300, and Tamron 17-50mm lens. aperture 2.8, shutter speed 1/100, ISO 640