Steer clear of THAT guy!
FRIDAY, MAY 12, 2006
8:58 a.m.--Gottingen and Dwight
IT"S ANOTHER BEAUTIFUL, clear blue morning. Soft air, moist as a towelette. A woman about my age wheels a suitcase out of her house on Goetingen St. She’s flying to Portland, Oregon, where she is to lead a yoga workshop. She was born on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, has lived in the US since 1972, and these days leads tour groups of yoga students to places all over the world -- to Cuba, Marakesh, India...
I can hold up my end of a yoga conversation as long as it remains short and superficial. “Is it a particular kind of yoga?” I ask.
“It is taught by a wonderful master from India -- BKS Iyengar.”
I'm not over my head yet: “I once was roommates with a woman who studied with Iyengar,” I tell her.
“He is an old man now, but when you see him give a lecture he just comes alive. When he was a young man, he was poor and sick, and like so many people in India he had no access to health care, and he turned to yoga. Now you see him doing these incredible things, and teaching, and you recognize his deep love for yoga. His daughter, too -- she is almost 60 now. But they both show an endless love for yoga. I have been studying it since 1979, and teaching it for years now. Yoga has become very popular recently. Anyone who has no job thinks, ‘Well, I will take a two-week course and become a yoga instructor.' And any beginning yoga student will not know the difference between someone who has been studying for two weeks and someone who has been studying for 20 years. I can hardly wait for yoga to be not-so-popular any more, and only those of us who really know it will be left.”
10:55 a.m. -- United terminal, SFO
A TALL GUY with thinning blond hair like mine walks up to my cab. He’s in his fifties -- or maybe he’s already crossed the 60-yard line -- and the only luggage he is carrying is one letter-size, manila envelope.
“You’re one of the lightest travelers I’ve encountered.”
“It’s just a day trip from L.A.,” he says. “Up and back.”
He’s in banking. I tell him that all the business people I meet in my cab, especially the tech people, seem afraid of appearing irrationally exuberant, but each one says that his or her niche is doing well, and each claims to feel pretty confident about the future. “How’s the mood in L.A.?” I ask.
My fare says he's been in banking his whole career, and with Citi National for four years. "Before that," he says, "I spent some time with Bank of America and Security Pacific…”
“Shot in the dark...,” I say. “Did you ever run into a guy named Seth Leadbeater?”
There is silence from the back seat. I glance back. A grin is sliding across my fare's face. “Sure,” he says. “I know Seth.”
“Seth was my college roomate,” I say.
“Well...,” he says. “I knew him at Seck Pack. He’s back in the Midwest these days.”
“Commerce Bank. St Louis, Missouri," I say. "He’s the president.”
My fare says, “Seth and I exchanged emails on something not so long ago.”
Nowadays Leadbeater and I are political opposites, and I proceed delicately with his colleague. "Most people in the Bay Area are not big Bush fans," I say. "I’m not. But I’ve got about four people in my life who are, and I call them now and then, and ask how they’re feeling about the administration. [This week’s polls show 31 percent support for Bush -- lowest for any president since Nixon was driven from office.] Seth is one of them. I figure when I hear these guys start to sour on Bush, it’s all over, but not one of them has yet. Seth hadn’t turned when I talked to him about a month ago.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter which side you’re on,” says this man in my backseat, “the choices we have are not very appealing.”
I think: Republican. I ask: “Who shall I tell Seth I had in my cab?”
“Chris Warmouth,” he says.
“Are you the president at Citi National?”
“I am,” he says.
I drop him at the Citi National Bank office at 150 California, and immediately punch “Leadbeater” on my cell phone menu. His secretary tells me Seth’s on vacation and puts me through to his voicemail. I drop my voice low and serious, trying to sound presidential, entirely un-Newsham-like, and just a little alarmed:
“Seth, this is Chris Warmouth, Citi National Bank. I’m up here in San Francisco for the day, and I just got out of a cab driven by a fellow who claims he was your roommate in college. He is absolutely, rabidly anti-Bush. He talked my ear off from the moment I got into his cab until the moment I got out. He's quite a ranter. I would steer way, way clear of that guy if I were you.”
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