A little more than one year ago, I took a fare that seems to have damaged my diet irreparably. I didn’t take him far, and he was certainly not the type of person I would normally want to emulate. But since he rode in my cab, I can’t quite shake his influence.
I picked him up on 8th Street and 5th Avenue in the middle of day. He told me he was heading to the Cherry Street Projects deep into the Lower East Side. He spoke very quickly, and before we covered a long block, I knew half his life story. He’d just returned from L.A. where he’d spent the bulk of the last decade “making it big,” although he retained his thick New York accent. He was going back home to visit with his family who he’d barely seen since he’d left. Rocking the leather jacket, the tall black boots, and long Andre-from-Real-World-One hair, I figured he was some kind of Sunset Strip thrasher. And he confirmed my suspicions by telling me the name of his band by the next block.
I couldn’t tell if he was on coke or he just had the sort of personality that makes a guy seem like he’s on coke all the time. He acted as though he was genuinely excited to tell me everything that was going on in his life. And I was listening intently until he stopped mid-sentence to shout at the top of his lounges, “STOP!!! STOP THE CAR!!! STOP STOP STOP STOP.”
I slammed on the breaks, thinking something was terribly wrong either inside or just outside of the cab. Even after we came to a halt, I could hear him saying, “stop stop stop stop stop” under his breath, and I saw him staring hard at someone on the sidewalk. “WHAT!?!?” I asked him. “Oh. . . Oh, never mind dude, never mind. I just thought that chick right there was the hooker I was with last night. I wanted to stop and say ‘hi.’. . . But it isn’t. . . Let’s roll.”
“Alllllllll right,” I responded as I turned my head back toward the road in front of us. Now I was pretty sure he was on coke. “I promise I won’t do that again,” he told me. He did do something similar ten minutes later, but I ignored him. He didn’t seem to mind.
As we headed down Bowery just a few blocks from his parents’ project, he pleaded with me to change course and take a right onto Kenmare. “Why?” I demanded, thinking he was having another episode with a vaguely familiar figure on the street. “No, no dude. I need a drink,” he said firmly. “Why not stop at a deli on Bowery or Cherry Street, rather than go out of the way?” I asked. “Because this deli sells Yoohoo in cans,” he responded, as though that was reason enough.
He assured me he’d make it worth my while, so I took the right and waited outside while he ran in. Sure enough, out he came with an ice cold six pack of Yoohoo dangling from his finger. While he knocked back what appeared to be an entire can in one gulp, I simply said, “Yoohoo, huh,” as I eyed him in the rear view mirror.
That’s all it took for him to go OFF about Yoohoo. He sounded like a spokesman for the company, though he assured me that he wasn’t. “It’s so frosty and delicious. It’s so cold and refreshing. And you gotta get the can. YOU GOTTA. Don’t mess with the bottles or the cartons. Cans keep Yoohoo the coldest. And Yoohoo is best when it’s at its coldest. When’s the last time you had a Yoohoo?” he asked, as he cracked open his second can.
It’d been a while. I must have been a kid. “Long time,” I said. Before I knew it, he’d pushed an icy can through the window in the divider and let it drop to the seat below. “Taste it again for the first time,” he said, eyes wide with authentic excitement. The moment I stopped at the light and picked up the can, he dropped another one down to the seat. “You’re gonna love it so much you’ll want two,” he assured me.
I cracked it open and put it too my lips. “NOOOOO,” he screamed, as though he was Stephen Colbert and I was Helen Thomas. I didn’t say a word. I just lowered the can from my lips slowly and stared at him in the mirror. “You gotta shake dude. SHAKE IT. It says right there on the can. SHAKE IIIIT. Give that can back to me, because you can’t shake it right now that it’s open. Shake your other one up.”
I did his bidding. I shook it up hard, popped the top, and watched the milky beverage foam up around the lip. Some distant childhood memories trickled back, but nothing too nostalgic. I knew I’d had Yoohoo before. Then I tasted it.
AMAZING. PHENOMENAL. It was everything I love about milk, sugar, and cold beverages combined. It seemed to quench my thirst, though I know dairy products don’t do that. However, Yoohoo is so chemically it’s barely a dairy product anymore. It really did hit the spot. As far as I was concerned, that Yoohoo was the perfect drink at that moment. I’ve gone on Gatorade kicks, I’ve built a 365 can cokamid out of coke cans I binged on, and I’ve sucked on ice cubes all my life. But when that Yoohoo passed my lips, it was the perfect beverage.
“Am I right or am I right?” my fare asked as he gathered his things to get out of the cab. “You’re right,” I said, looking at my empty can. He gave me a sizeable tip, more than necessary. But what I loved most about this guy was that before he left, he pushed one last can of Yoohoo through the divider. Now, he’d given me half of his six pack. He really wanted me to have TWO cans of Yoohoo.
I downed that one too, but I assumed I wouldn’t really get into the habit of drinking Yoohoo. Still, I wasn’t surprised when, a couple days later, I saw a can of Yoohoo at the deli and couldn’t resist buying it. I wondered if that guy really was a spokesman for Yoohoo, because he’d done a good job selling me. But I ‘m pretty sure he just wanted me to enjoy a delicious chocolate milk beverage because he felt like sharing his obsession. He clearly had an addictive personality as evidenced by the hookers and the coke.
What surprised me is that I am now fully hooked on Yoohoo. A year has gone by, and I haven’t kicked it yet. There may be something addictive in the formula, but I think I can’t stop drinking them simply because they taste really, really good. I know they’re terrible for me. I can feel it about 10 minutes after I finish each can. But tonight I got it in my head to drink a can of Yoohoo. Before it even crossed my mind not to, I was driving out of my way to go to the deli that sells cans of Yoohoo.