Thursday, May 11, 2006

an ode to cab drivers

now that i live in austin, i didn't think i'd be cabbing it up with nearly as much regularity as i did back in the DC days, which, in all honesty, were mainly for nights when i had gone out drinking and needed to get my drunken ass back home or when it had taken me forever to get back into the city from tysons f'ing corner and i was therefore running late for dinner or drinks and would rush down to connecticut ave to desperately hail a cab to whisk me down to dupont or u street or wherever (and yes, i am fully aware that could possibly win the prize for Longest Sentence Ever). it's funny, mentioning my old commute makes it seem odd that something that was so central to my daily routine -- the daily cleveland park to tysons round-trip schlep -- now seems like such a foreign activity. weird how your daily reality can change so quickly, huh?

but i digress. contrary to my expectation, it feels like i have been quite the frequent rider of cabs lately, largely owing to the fact that i've been on the road so much for work. and when i stop to think about it, that cab driver really does make a world of difference in determining what your life is going to be like for however many more minutes you are in his or her care. if you think about it, the act of piling into someone's cab is an incredible exchange of trust btwn both parties. i am trusting them to safely transport me from point A to point B, trusting that they will neither kill me nor get me lost, and trusting that they will avoid car accidents to their best of their ability. they are trusting that i will have the money to pay the fare and not pull a gun on them or engage in illicit activities in the back of their cab, the cab that represents the very entity which enables them to make a living.

yet the driver. ah yes, the driver. given that all those basic exchanges that i outlined in the previous paragraph go off without a hitch, the driver can then make an incredibly important difference. and it's just so damn interesting to conjecture about the person to whom i have entrusted my precious, precious life for those few minutes. in my humble opinion, the best cab drivers are the ones who give a basic and friendly greeting when i get in and out of the cab, drive quickly and efficiently but not extremely recklessly, and then pretty much leave me alone so they can focus on driving. it really doesn't bother me if they have music or news playing quietly (unless i have a headache or something) or if they're quietly chatting on their hands-free cell phone.

yet that is not always the case, now is it? i recently found myself in a situation where i had take a cab in dallas. finished w/my business, i had driven my rental car back to dallas love field airport (where i had flown in several days before), returned said rental car, and headed to the terminal with plenty of time to kill. yet when i approached the american airlines counter to check in at the kiosk, the agent at the counter gave me a weird look and asked where i was heading. long story short and much to my frustration, it turns out that i was actually booked to fly out of dallas ft. worth, despite the fact that i had flown into dallas love field and had rented a car from dallas love field. a cab was therefore necessary to get me from love field over to DFW so i could try and catch my plane. needless to say, this was a bit of a sticky situation to be in, but i went to the front of the taxi line, made sure he accepted visa b/c i was low on cash and it would be a long ride, and hoped for the best.

so, then. this particular cab gave off an interesting odor that combined cheap car freshener and natural b.o. not necessarily vomit-inducing, but not exactly fresh and breezy either. he was a short and stocky man with pale, freckled skin, pale red hair and weird blue eyes. he had a weird shifty look about him, a rodent-y type dude who can pass in mainstream society without causing serious alarm but probably indulges in some crazy-ass shit when no one's looking. the main issue? HE WOULDN'T FUCKING SHUT UP. he had this weird, overly polite/formal way of speaking that made him sound like he was a closet lunatic (i was reminded of the robin williams character in that one-hour photo movie). he kept saying things like, "i sure do appreciate your business, ma'am. it's because of nice people like you taking cabs once in a while that we can stay in business. so please sit back and enjoy the ride." over and over. then there was the "so, did you have a nice flight? everyone treat you all right on the plane?" which he asked me ON THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS, even though i told him i had only been at love-field b/c of an error and i was actually boarding a plane at DFW. it was as if he was on auto-pilot or something. all said, of course, in this odd southern accent - the kind that bothers my ears instead of having a pleasing lilt. he kept hunched over his wheel the entire time, but i kept on noticing him looking at me in the rearview mirror as he kept up his steady stream of overly formal bullshit. at first i answered his questions to be polite but eventually started staring out the window at the passing highways, breathing out of my mouth and trying not to think of what crazy things could happen to me. when we finally got to the airport, he had to take my credit card the old-fashioned way where you take an imprint of it. it took FOUR TRIES to get this right, and i was literally yelling at him b/c i had a flight to catch. THEN he told me he had to call the base office to approve my credit card and i nearly had a conniption. i gave him my office number, told him to call that number of the card didn't go through and i'd wire him the fucking money. the entire time he kept fumbling with his machine and saying "i apologize for the inconvenience, ma'am" and i was tempted to tell him to STOP FUCKING APOLOGIZING AND JUST GIVE ME MY CARD ALREADY.

my mom told me when she visited that i seemed nicer now that i live in texas - that i'm more friendly with sales people and strangers instead of just being business-only. good old loyal parents. always thinking the best of their kids, you know?


At 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

aww. your mom. so cute. you are unfailingly polite, though, i have to say. perhaps it's austin, i dunno. you'd better keep blogging because i am so enjoying the reading. sorry about the yucko cabbies. nothing like getting in a cab with that bizarro smell. eww! talk soon. (it's Di, btw)


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