My passenger is a little old lady of the sort for which that term may well have been coined. I always pick her up at Meier & Frank (now Macy's), where she is always attended by a store employee until her cab arrives. This evening is no exception.

She is redolent of tweed, and lavender, and a bygone time when ladies lunched in department stores and had their hair "done" twice a week. Also of sherry.

The first time I took her home she dropped her keys twice on the way to the door, so now she just hands them to me; I go unlock the door while she extricates herself from the cab, skirt firmly down and support hose firmly straight. She insists on having no help with this whatsoever.

Tonight is the first time I've seen her in many months, and it's much later than her usual hour. She seems confused, different somehow, and cannot properly tell me where she lives. All I remember is that she is up on Council Crest. She has no ID, nothing with an address on it.

Finally I come upon a Medicaid card. I call the 800 number and explain the situation. Reluctantly, they tell me where she lives. I take her there to find that the hounds have been called out.

I place her hand into that of a policeman, who pays me while telling her older (!) brother, her only caretaker, that she finally needs an attendant now. I think so, too.