The taxi driver and God's telephone number

1:43 am

I gave my  arms and legs a full stretch on the roomy backseat and considered where I should really go. I have a full night at my disposal, being the last one at the office rendering overtime work. Now all I have to do is figure out where the hell should I head to and spend the rest of the day. Right now I needed a good dose of regular people walking on two legs in a regular way in a regular place.

"Edsa-ayala, ser," I told the taxi driver.

Traffic was jammed solid in the direction of Ayala. Even at this unholy hour, McKinley road was full of metal junks with nocturnal people inside. Past a certain point the cars seemed practically glued in place, motionless. Every so often a wave would pass through the cars, budging them forward a few inches. I thought about the rotational speed of the earth. How many miles an hour was this road surface whirling through space? I did a quick calculation in my head and came up with a figure that could have been no faster than a Spinning teacup at a carnival.

There are many things we don't really know. It's an illusion that we know anything at all. If a group of aliens were to stop me and ask, Say, bud, how many miles an hour does the earth spin at the equator? I'd be in a fix. Hell. I don't even know why Wednesday follows Tuesday. I'd be an intergalactic joke.

I can't remember where and when I took this photo.

I've read 20,000 leagues under the Sea and Don Quixote three times through. I've read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka once. I can even recite the value of pi to sixteen places. "3.1415926535897932" Would I still even be a joke? Probably. They'd laugh their alien heads off.

Would you care to to listen to some music, ser?" asked the driver.
"Sure.," I said.
And at that a Mozart string quartet filled the pine-scented car. I got the feeling I was in a dressing room at a wedding reception.

"Say," I asked the driver, "you know the value of pi?"
"You mean the one they sell in Jollibee?"
"Uh, no. That's peach mango pie. I mean the pi, in mathematics."
"Ah, that 3.14 shiznit?"
"That's the one. How many decimal places do you know?"
"I know it to thirty-two places," the driver tossed out. "Beyond that, well..."
"Thirty two places?"
"There's a trick to it, but yes. Why do you ask?"
"Oh nothing really," I said, taken aback, crestfallen. "Never mind."

I  suddenly remembered a friend who said that he was always defeated. We have a lot of similarities, and maybe circumstances that happen to each other's lives too. So we listened to Mozart as the taxi inched forward ten meters. People in the cars and buses around us seemed like zombies hanging in aluminum rods to be transported in a nearby zombie-shredder. None too comfortable.

"Awful traffic," I said.
"That it is, but sure as dawn follows night, it's got to let up sometime."
"Fair enough, but doesn't it get on your nerves?"
"Certainly, I get irritated, I get upset. Especially when I'm in a hurry. But I see it all as part of our training. To get irritated is to lose our way in life."
"That sounds like a religious interpretation of a traffic jam if there ever was one."
"I'm a Christian," said the driver. "I don't go to church, but I've always been a Christian."
"Is that so? So you've seen God then, as many Christians claim."

"Certainly, I telephone Him every night."
"Excuse me?" I stammered. Things were starting to jumble up in my head again. "If everyone called God, wouldn't the lines be too busy all the time?

"No problem there. God is your simultaneous presence. So even if a million people were to telephone Him at once, He'd be able to speak with everyone simultaneously."
"I'm no expert, but is that an orthodox interpretation? I mean, theologically speaking."
"I'm something of a radical. That's why I don't go to church."
"I see," I said.

The taxi advanced fifty meters. I can see the gasoline station at the corner of Edsa-Ayala intersection.

"My father gave it to me when I was 12," said the driver out of nowhere.
"Gave you what?"
"God's telephone number."

I let out a groan so loud it drowned out everything else. Either I was going crazy or they were all looney toons.

"He told just you, alone, in secret?"
"Yes, just me, in secret. He's a fine gentleman. Would you care to get to know Him?"
"If possible," i said.
"Well then, it's 0917-314..."
"just a second," I said, pulling out my notebook and pen. But do you think it's all right, telling me like this?"
"Sure, it's all right. I don't go telling just anyone. And you seem like a good person."
"Well, thank you. But what should I talk to God about? I'm not Christian or anything. I don't go to church recently."
"No problem there, all you have to do is to speak honestly about what concerns you or troubles you. No matter how trivial you think it is. God never gets bored and laughs at you."
"Thanks. I'll give him a call."

"That's the spirit." said the driver.
"Well then I can tell Him about how I can be so detached and cold but my intentions tell otherwise. You see I'm not that wonderful for a person."
"Maybe you should start by going back home, toss away your ego, and tell your family that you love them."
"Don't waste time. Life is short."

Traffic began to flow smoothly as the Ayala skyscrapers came into view. We didn't speak the rest of the way there.

"Can you drive me home?" I said.
"Sure, this taxi can go to any point of Luzon, anyway."


  1. So what's God telephone number?

  2. Ah, this sounds like a Murakami short story. I'm a fan, of his fiction and your writing.


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