He shrugs. "It's rush hour. You're already late, then. Relax."
My day had been sidetracked, first by deadlines, then wandering in the sunshine, and finally by old friends at the American Academy in Rome, where I lived from 2000-2001. They hugged me and berated me with entirely sensible statements like, "next time call or email first, so we can spend time with you."
Somewhere around the sambuca con la mosca ("the fly": aniseed liqueur with coffee beans), the statistical improbability of being on time for the gala sunk in. I bolted for the gate and ordered a taxi. Even so, the cause was lost.
"Maybe I can tell everyone I was stuck in traffic," I suggest.
"That excuse always works," the cabbie confirms. "Because Roman traffic is always horrible. For extra drama, you could say we had a mild accident."
Not 45 seconds later, a minivan clips our wing mirror. Such precision slapstick is rare, outside old Chaplin and Keaton films, sadly.
The taxi driver accelerates alongside and cranks down the window. Oh man. Next we'd have to pull over, exchange insurance details, maybe even explain this minor vehicular scuffle to the cops. Italy has at least five brands of polizia: the process never is simple. We could be here all night. Or all weekend.
The cabbie tuts. He wags his finger at the passenger. "Signora," he intones. And then he accelerates over the Tiber River.
"But your mirror..."
"It happens all the time here. This thing, the accident, it's a small misfortune for me. A scratch. But for you, for you it is a beautiful excuse."
He wasn't wrong.