Thursday, May 27, 2004

I'd like to announce that I'm off hiatus for the duration of this post. Then, after the post is done, I will be back on hiatus. I'll be off doing other things. Maybe I'll be having a sandwich.

I just don't want you getting comfortable. Got to keep it edgy, jack.


Cabbies I Have Known

I have been flying around this questionably great land of ours with alarming frequency lately. This allows me to spend quality time with my favorite people: cabbies.

A couple of weeks ago I had the singular experience of being driven around by a clearly insane Thai woman who tried to force me to charge my phone in her cab.

"YOU HAVE PHONE?!" she cried as I stepped into the minivan.

"Yes. Yes I do." I smiled. I thought she was being motherly, trying to make sure that I had brought all the necessary items for a trip.

"WHAT KIND OF PHONE?!" she demanded. Incidentally, I should add that she really spoke all in caps.

"Siemens?" I replied meekly.

"YOU CHARGE YOUR PHONE!" she yelped and began to fumble in the glove box. "I HAVE CHARGER!" She found the charger and thrust it at me menacingly.

"No. No. I've just charged it, you see." I brandished my nine dollar phone.

"CHARGE?" she assayed once again.

"No, really. It's fine."

She stared back at me quizzically, almost woundedly. And gave me a "hmmmm." It could have been a "hmmmmph." I'm not sure. I just hoped it was not a "Hmmm, I think I will drive you into a cement pillar at high velocity, Siemens-phone-charger-rejector!"

I slid the door of the minivan shut and we were on our way to the airport. The airport is about ten minutes from my house, and I go the same way every time. I told her "Go down Williams, left on Sutter." [the names of the streets have been changed in this post to protect the innocent].

She replied "No."

"No?" I repeated, but added a question mark.

"No. We go on Meadow. Faster." I was frankly a little puzzled. Not only was she refusing to take me the way I wanted to go, but she seemed to be saying she wanted to take a road which didn't go through to the airport. It ends about a block away from my house, in an open corridor filled with giant weeds that look like they want to eat small dogs. There are plans to put Meadow through, but unless it was going to take us the better part of two years to drive the block and a half to Meadow, it wasn't going to work.

I started to object but she was on the case. She made it to Meadow and turned right, into the mouth of the open corridor. She was thrown momentarily, evidently trying to decide if she could drive through the open corridor (and a square mile of military base the lay between us and the airport).

I screeched "NO ROAD!"

"Oh!" she said, and swung the van around, apologizing profusely. In fact, she swung the van right back through the intersection, against a red light and through oncoming cars. I emitted a series of small "ah! ah!" sounds as we narrowly missed Focuses and Hondas.

But then, we were on Meadow. Headed in completely the wrong direction.

She recovered her composure. "We take freeway." she said.

"No. Go back and take Williams."

"I don't think soooo," she drummed her fingers on the dash. "Traffic."

I said "Listen, there is no traffic right now. We'll be there in ten minutes."

"You want to bet?" She turned back to me and grinned maniacally. "You miss your flight. What time your flight?!"

"I've got an hour and a half. We'll be there in ten minutes. I promise you."

She made tutting sounds, but gave in and duly drove me to the airport, on Williams, without killing me. And we made it in ten minutes. But I did get to hear lots and lots about the cabbie. I think people become cabbies for the express reason of complaining to strangers about how miserable they are. It must be fun for your passengers to know that you are one missed check away from putting your head in the oven, as you propel them down busy streets at high speeds.

She had been a translator, she said. And a stewardess. She had made lots of money at those occupations, but she said they were boring. Now she was struggling to make ends meet. She told me how much her rent was. How much her cab rental was. Exactly how much money she made. By the end of it I could have filled out a loan application for this woman.

She also told me she was from Thailand. She said something about "in her country", and I asked what country she was from. "THAILAND!" she screamed as if she were at a Thailand High School football game.

"Must be nice there," I said, hoping to distract her from any more suicidal thoughts.

"Thailand is number one," she replied [and I hasten to point out that I am merely describing actual events here, and not trying to stereotype anyone. If you have a problem with the depiction of the Thai cabbie, you can email me and I will seek her out and let you know you are on her side. Maybe there will be a class action suit.] Then she grew serious, looking at me in the rear-view and pulling her Risky Business style Ray Bans down her nose. "Sir, Thailand is number one," as if I had been arguing that no, in fact, Kazakhstan was clearly number one, with Thailand a distant sixth. And then she began to hum.

A little later, she did impressions. She was talking about tips, and which nationalities give the best tips. This led to a long impression of Indian cab-riders giving her thanks and blessings for the safe ride. More likely they were thanking her for not killing them. I made the mistake of giggling confusedly at her Indian passenger impression, so she continued for a good two minutes. It was a stellar impression, of course, and in no way offensive to the Indian people.

Somehow we made it to the airport, and I tipped her, for the impressions more than anything else. I strode into the terminal with the "Man, did I just almost get killed there?" feeling that only a truly insane cabbie can give you.

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