Saturday afternoon. I was coming off a 12-hour shift at the Air Force Base on a Guard weekend. From the train station, it was a 30 minute taxi ride to my apartment. I was tired. I grabbed a cab, told the driver where I was headed, and donned my Walkman headphones ready to drift into a dream.
I rummaged through my satchel and found the cassette for In Through The Out Door. *Click*Pop*Click* and the opening chords of Fool in the Rain began to play as we drove through the blue-collar North Jersey neighborhoods to my apartment.
My driver waved to me. I took off the headphones and smiled, “Yes?”
“What are you listening to, mon?” he asked.
Mon. I checked his license—Martin.
“Led Zeppelin,” I replied.
“I heard of dem,” Martin said.
“Do you mind if we play it in the cab?” he asked.
“Really?” I responded with some surprise. Martin was a few years older, black, and clearly from the Caribbean with his accent.
“Really. They’re a white band from Europe, yes?”
I let out a little laugh. “Yes, Martin, they are.”
“Mar-teen” he said smiling in the rearview mirror at me.
I rewinded the tape to the beginning of the song, popped the cassette out of the Walkman, and handed it to him.
“Led Zep-e-lin.” he said feeding it into the cab’s dashboard.
Well there’s a light in your eye that keeps shining
Like a star that can’t wait for night
As the song began, he smiled at me again and turned up the volume. “Yeah, mon,” he said.
We each sat listening to Robert Plant belt out beautiful lyrics wrapped around a mesmerizing sound expertly layered by Jones, Paige, and Bonham. And at 2:25, as the tempo of the song shifted from a Sunday stroll to a street carnival, Martin smiled at me again and turned the volume up even more.
Then for two minutes we each bounced our heads to the impossible rhythms pouring from the cab’s crappy speakers—it was as though the music was lifting us up out of the taxi onto a plane where life’s busyness couldn’t touch us. And when the climax of the samba section ended, he turned down the volume, locked eyes with me in the mirror, and said, “Das a baaaad drummah.”
We listened to a couple of more songs on the album (he couldn’t believe Hot Dog was by the same band), but went back to Fool in the Rain as we approached my stop.
We settled the fare and Martin popped the cassette out of the player.
“No man, you keep it.” I said to him.
He didn’t hesitate and put the tape back in and smiled. Then he drove away with the opening chords to my favorite Led Zeppelin song blasting from his windows.
Das a baaaad drummah
Every time I hear Fool in the Rain I think of Martin and that taxi ride twenty-five years ago. And it always brings a smile.
Never underestimate serendipity. Sometimes moments stay with you forever.