Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gone in a Heartbeat

His full name was Xuan Van Pham, but everyone called him Subie. I first met him back when I first started driving a cab in 1992. He was easily the best mechanic in the company's garage. Subie had been working there pretty much since leaving his native Vietnam and settling in the U.S. in the late '70s. I quickly learned from longtime drivers that if you had a problem with the car, Subie was the one to see. He would quickly get you back on the road.

But aside from his mechanical abilities, the most amazing thing about Subie was his laugh. It was, well, just really, really loud. You could be out by the gas pumps with a dump truck rolling by in the street, and you would still hear his laugh from all the way in the building. It would shake everything in the area. I swear I once saw a brick come loose from the roof of the building and crash to the parking lot below. Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers movies would have done well to have that laugh.

And if someone in the shop dropped something, Subie would let loose with his trademark "Uh-oh, better call Maaco." Hell, sometimes I'd go in there and deliberately knock things over just to hear him yell it. As often as he said it, he should have been getting a commission check from Maaco.

In Fairfax county, every cab has to go through meter course twice a year. Subie was always there, making sure every car had the necessary paperwork ready for the hack inspector. And while everyone should have gone to the shop the day before for a quick safety check, there would invariably be one or two guys who would show up with a burned out bulb. It would fall to Subie to quickly change it so the cab could get through meter course and back on the road. When it happened to me, my excuse was a highly believable "Um, it must have burned out last night?" It was right about then that Subie told me to call Maaco.... Among other things.

Yesterday morning Subie was sitting in his car at a red light in Arlington, Virginia when he had a heart attack. His car then rolled into the intersection where it was struck by several other vehicles. By that time, however, he was apparently already dead. He was 59.

Subie, you will be missed.

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