Ada slid into the seat of the cab. The noise of the New York streets grew suddenly quieter as she shut the door. The cab driver grunted. “Where are you going?” he asked, hunched over the steering wheel.
Ada started as though surprised to hear a voice. After a pause in which she looked dazedly at the man in the driver’s seat, she stammered, “Um…Ninety-fifth street. Ninety-fifth street and Broadway.” She leaned back in her seat. Suddenly, many colored lights flashed above her head and a horn blared. She jumped, stiffening in her seat. The man in the driver’s seat turned to look back at her, a huge grin on his face.
“You’re in the Cash Cab!” he exclaimed. “It’s a TV game show that takes place right here in my taxi!”
Ada, thoroughly confused and frightened, flinched away from his beaming face. “Ninety-fifth and Broadway…” she repeated in a whisper, reaching for the door handle.
The man must have seen her movement, for he said quickly, “I’ll take you to Ninety-fifth and Broadway! My name’s Ben Bailey, and I’m your host tonight. I will drive you to your destination, asking you general-knowledge questions along the way. They will start off easy…and they’re gonna get harder! As long as you continue to answer the questions correctly, you’re gonna win cash all the way, but here’s the catch. If you get three wrong, that’s three strikes, and you are out – which means I’m going to kick you out on the spot right where we are, and you lose it all. So what do you say? Do you want to play?” He winked at her, and she cringed back in her seat. As the strange man continued staring at her, Ada finally nodded her head, hoping he would drive on so she could get out and away.
Ben Bailey laughed, and the cab pulled away from the sidewalk. “Alright! Let’s take a ride in the Cash Cab!” he said, then continued, “So. Tell me your name.”
“Ada,” she answered.
“Alright Ada, we have ten blocks to go to get to your destination, so you have ten blocks to win as much cash as you can! So let’s get started. The first questions are worth twenty-five dollars a piece. Here we go!” He gave the first question. “Introduced in Australia in 1914, what skimpy brand of swim trunks have been dubbed competition briefs?”
Ada looked at the driver as though he was insane. Which he definitely was, in her opinion. As he prompted her to answer a few seconds later, she said softly, “I don’t know…”
A buzzer went off, and more lights flashed, making Ada jump and flinch for the third time. “Oooh! Strike one! The correct answer is Speedo! Alright, here’s the next question. Used in tanks and submarines, what retractable instrument provides secretive sight lines with the help of mirrors or prisms?”
Ada trembled in her seat, frightened beyond measure by all the noise and flashing lights, and the strange driver. She did not speak.
“Five seconds! Four…three…two…one…Oh! Too bad! Strike two! One more of those and I kick you out! The correct answer was periscope. Alright, here’s your third twenty-five dollar question. Once reserved for the British gentry, what honorary title is often used to indicate that someone is a lawyer?” the man asked, completely oblivious to the terror of the girl in the seat behind him.
Once again, Ada remained silent, dazed and confused. Again, Ben Bailey counted down the seconds and a buzzer blared. Ada jumped for the fourth time.
“Aw, strike again! The correct answer was Esquire. I’m sorry, I have to kick you out,” Ben said, pulling the cab over to the curb. “Thank you for…” Ada was out the door and melting into the crowd of people before the driver finished his sentence.