Taking a taxi to the town center, I grew conscious of the fact that the taxi
driver was staring at me through the rear-view mirror. I was sure that he
had finally recognized me and, while I don't consider myself a vain person,
I felt flattered by his interest. No doubt you too will have heard of me. I
am Vicente Holgado, the expert on household plants and a leading TV and
radio personality, renowned for unraveling mysteries known only to the
After setting off, the taxi driver asked:
"Haven't I seen you before?"
"Could be," I said, playing dumb.
"Your face looks familiar."
"Then perhaps you've seen me on TV," I replied, thinking this might jog his
Before he started interrogating me as to my identity, I had been on the
verge of suggesting he festoon his taxi with plants. I am convinced that
such a gesture could start a trend—taxis would make ideal habitats for
interior gardens and a number of upholstered surfaces, normally left empty
or cluttered with useless objects, could be pressed into service for this
purpose. All it would take would be a small layer of well-manured earth,
placed on a hermetically sealed tray, to turn cars into mobile gardens.
Tending these plants would be the perfect antidote to the daily stresses
endured by taxi-drivers, with the result that these gardens would not only
be esthetically pleasing but would serve as a kind of occupational therapy.
"It's not from television that I know you."
"So you're not interested in gardening?"
"Not at all. You know, I'm sure I've had you in my cab once before."
"Could be," I replied, piqued that my celebrity was wasted on him.
"Now I remember, Wasn't it you who got onto the taxi the other day, carrying
a small dog?"
"Out of the question! I can't stand dogs and would never dream of keeping
one. Houses may be ideal for plants but, so far as I'm concerned, they are
ill-suited for supposedly domesticated pets."
The taxi driver, convinced that I was lying, looked at me quizzically. He
went on to explain that, much to his chagrin, the dog in question had
urinated all over his vehicle and, were he ever to meet the owner again, he
was determined to give him a piece of his mind. Although I had nothing to do
with the irreverent act he had described, for some inexplicable reason I
fell prey to vicarious remorse. The driver, sensing my discomfiture, worked
himself up into a true fury, leaving me in little doubt that his revenge,
once unleashed, would be frightful to behold. The remainder of the journey
was sheer purgatory, and it was an immense relief when I finally alighted at
the department store to do my Christmas shopping.
Keen to buy pruning shears, I made my way to the gardening department. No
sooner had I arrived than I sensed the agitation of the shop assistants as
they pointed at me, whispering conspiratorially. However, I did not feel put
out as it was only to be expected that, working in this section of the
store, the assistants would be avid viewers of TV gardening programmes, and
would therefore recognize me. Indeed, I was gratified by their attention, a
far cry from the recriminatory atmosphere that had prevailed in the taxi
and, after choosing the requisite shears, I lingered for a moment, basking
in their adulation. Why rush? In any case, I was convinced that, when I
went to pay, the shop assistant would refuse outright to accept any
money—how could she deign to accept a derisory sum from none other than
Vicente Holgado, the foremost authority on household plants?
With studied aplomb, I made my way to the checkout counter where I asked the
assistant to wrap the shears in Christmas paper. By now the poor girl was so
beside herself that it was only with the greatest physical exertion that she
managed to suppress a smirk. Seeking to defuse the tension, I asked:
"You've recognized me?"
"So you're not with your lapdog today?"
"My lapdog? What lapdog?"
"The one that you tried to hide under your jacket, the one that looked like
a skinned rat. You obviously don't know the store's policy, animals are
expressly forbidden here."
Faced with my bemusement, she went on to inform me that, just a few days
before, someone bearing an uncanny resemblance to me had had the temerity to
enter the premises, carrying a small dog. After it had escaped, the
customers scattered helter-skelter, mistaking it for a large rat.
Conscious that all eyes were upon me, and anxiously searching for the
quickest exit, I made my way to a nearby café. But, once there, it proved no
refuge, the clientele asking me what I had done with my lapdog. In the end,
accosted by an army of inquisitors at every turn, I had little choice but
return home. Opening the front door, I was overpowered by the stench of
excrement and, reaching the kitchen, I saw that a minuscule canine had
somehow gained access to my apartment and was chomping on some leftovers.
Indignant, I picked it up and tossed the ubiquitous jinx out of the window.
My neighbors promptly called the police and the story was covered in the
press. No sooner had my photo appeared in the papers than one lawsuit after
another was filed against me. I fear I will have to give up my interest in
plants now that my contacts at the TV and the radio, branding me a criminal,
no longer phone me.