People often hesitate to open the door when you have a trainee on board; you must explain the presence of another person. Passenger reactions are as varied as the trainees. Sometimes they just ignore us. Others have "always wondered how all that stuff works!" And of course there's the stock smartass response: "What, you mean they actually train you guys?!"

Yes, we do, thank you. Three nights in a row, you spend a few hours with an experienced driver. True, there's not that much factual info to convey. However, I often draw folks on their last night, when all the basics may have been covered and then some. So I talk about safety tips, red flags, but also about strategy. This job can be like chess; think several moves ahead and you will definitely make more money.

Tonight's trainee is rather better than most I've had. He is listening. He asks questions. He takes notes. He is already musing about strategy, whereas often that just inspires a glazed look. And, as do they all, he asks about the Night Cabbie. However, he wants to know because he himself is a writer. He's actually not just read this column but actually thought about it, talking about how incredibly hard it is to write short, how he admires it for that reason.

So I do what I never do. I 'fess up. Not just to that, but to the fact that "hell yeah it's hard to write short. It's been especially hard for me, because, to quote Stephen King, 'I write like fat ladies diet.'" He laughs. But it's true. Think Dave Eggers on methamphetamine and mescaline simultaneously, but with a little less discipline. Thus doing this has done much to improve me. As I'm sure it will do much to improve him.

You see, he's taking over this column now. For a few months, I'd ask how he was doing out there. He was making more money than newbies generally do. He knows how to play chess, you see. He also knows how to write. So enjoy him. And good-bye. I will miss you very much.

— Our thanks to Night Cabbie for two years of letting us ride shotgun.