Andrew Andersen Victoria, BC / July 21, 2023
Chris heard a melodic ringtone coming from his iPhone, signaling that his taxi had arrived. He slung his large leather bag over his shoulder and descended to the lobby, stepping out onto the street and heading towards the dark blue taxi that had just pulled up to his house. Initially, he intended to sit "democratically" next to the driver, but the front passenger seat was pushed all the way forward with a black folder on its cushion. Apparently, the driver didn't welcome passengers sitting next to him. Apologizing with an understanding "sorry," Chris closed the front door of the taxi, opened the rear door, placed his bag inside, and then settled himself onto the soft leather seat.
"To the airport!" Chris instructed concisely, and the taxi smoothly departed from his house, quickly accelerating onto the road.
The taxi driver, wearing a black shirt, had a thick, silver-streaked head of hair and a matching beard. In the flickering light of the street lamps on either side, a medium-sized gold ring with some sort of coat of arms gleamed on the driver's nameless finger of his left hand, likely a family crest.
The taxi stopped at a lit intersection, waiting for the red traffic light to turn green. The streetlight fell on the rearview mirror, reflecting the driver's face... Surprisingly, Chris found it familiar.
"Excuse me," Chris turned to the driver, "Your face looks familiar. Have we met somewhere before?"
"Hmm... Maybe you watch porn movies?" the taxi driver asked with a light, slightly cynical smirk. It was an extremely vulgar joke, but for some reason, he liked it and used it often when strangers claimed to recognize his face.
It took Chris a second and a half to realize that this counter-question was a crude joke, after which he responded with an artificial chuckle.
At that moment, a bright light from the street fell on a small plastic card with the driver's photo and full name, attached to the glove compartment door. Reading the neatly printed name and surname on the card, Chris understood why the face seemed familiar to him. Or rather – it didn't just seem familiar. He knew it well...
"I recognize you! You're Doctor Markard!" Chris exclaimed unexpectedly loudly.
"Absolutely right. In the flesh!" replied the driver with the same ironic, but now also slightly sad smile.
"Doctor Markard, you probably don't remember me... I'm Chris. Chris Kelly... I took all your courses... The course on modern Russian politics, the history of Eastern European countries, and that one, on the issues of international terrorism... But you probably don't remember me... There were so many of us!"
"I remember many, and I recognized you almost immediately, though you've grown up and matured," replied the taxi driver.
"Oh my God, but... But how?... How is this even possible?" Chris tried to ask his beloved professor why he was behind the wheel of a taxi, but he couldn't find the right words...
"Are you surprised that I'm working as a taxi driver?" The driver helped his former A+ student formulate the vaguely asked question and then provided a comprehensive answer: "Today, almost all well-known universities are infected with a deadly disease. This disease is called leftism. Your alma mater is no exception. And those professors who continued to assert, for example, that there are only two genders, that all lives matter, not just 'black' ones, that not only white men were to blame for past slavery, and that those very white men were the only ones in human history who voluntarily renounced slavery - all of us, people with sane views who didn't want to trample on the history of our ancestors with false socialist teachings and didn't want to praise the political systems of China and North Korea, had to leave...
And driving a taxi... Well, I have to do something, don't I? Besides, the trade is familiar to me: back in my student days, I also drove a taxi part-time, and now, with all these computer gadgets, cell phones, and GPS devices, it's much easier... Besides, you'll agree that in our time, the position of university professors is practically the same as that of service personnel, not fundamentally different from the position of taxi drivers..."
Chris was silent. He simply didn't know what to say.
"I remember, right after I was fired, that old fox, Joe Green, our then former Minister of Higher Education, called me to his office," the taxi driver continued, "and in his creaky voice, he told me that my main 'crime' was not my political beliefs but the fact that I taught students to think! According to him, future educated professionals shouldn't think! I always believed that teaching young people to think was precisely the main task of universities. After all, they were created for that very purpose! But apparently, things have changed now..."
"But, professor," Chris stammered, "you really taught us to think... To think independently... We often recalled you, along with some other guys who also took your courses... We remembered everything you explained to us and even predicted... Like, for example, this terrible war between Russia and Ukraine too..."
"Knowing the basics of history and understanding the nature of historical processes, predicting certain future events is not that difficult," the taxi driver replied. "Moreover, it's not even a prediction, just elementary calculation. Almost like in mathematics or chemistry... and by the way, we have arrived..."
Only then did Chris realize that the taxi wasn't going anywhere, as it stopped at the doors of the airport marked "Departure." The red digits on the taxi's electronic meter showed a sum of about forty dollars. Chris handed the driver a hundred-dollar bill. The driver started counting the change.
"No-no, Professor!" Chris protested, "no need for change! You don't owe me anything! It's me who owes you... We owe you..."
After a brief hesitation, the taxi driver quietly thanked the generous passenger and wished him a pleasant flight. Chris, hiding his eyes, quickly grabbed his bag, gave a slight nod to the driver, and almost ran towards the terminal, blending into the crowd of passengers rushing to check-in...
Leaving the departure zone, the former professor, Dr. Lotar von Markard, parked his taxi at a temporary lot. During his time as a university instructor, he asked the administration to list his name in the schedule simply as "Dr. Markard," without the annoying noble particle "von." Now, his new taxi driver colleagues called him simply "Lot," abbreviating the rather unusual name for North America...
Activating the iPhone fixed near the dashboard, Lotar pressed the voice recording button and dictated the text for a few minutes. The advanced phone automatically transcribed the recording into a Word file. After finishing, Lotar copied the file to his email and sent it to himself...
Back home, he would process this draft on his computer, and... it seemed that another chapter of his new book on the recent history of a little-known country in Eastern Europe would be finished in this way... The book in question (not the first he has written and published over the past decades) will not make him rich, as it will only be of interest to a narrow circle of professional historians. But for them, it will be if not priceless, then certainly quite valuable. And it will remain after him when he departs for eternity...
Suddenly, the tablet fixed above the dashboard on the left side of the steering wheel emitted a loud beep, and a new order address appeared on the screen. Lotar von Markard started the muted engine and drove onto the highway to pick up his next passenger...