Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A nice trip together. Part 1.

"How would you handle someone, like... trying to rob you?"
"Very carefully."


I've been working sporadically for the past few months, mostly the day shift, so very few interesting things actually happen. Mostly old people who putter around from A to B, complaining about their hips and complimenting me on my manners.

Not a whole lot of blogworthy material, is what I'm saying. The fun stuff happens at night, after all.

Well, this weekend, I decided it would be a good idea to make a lot of money in a short amount of time - Easter being a major holiday and all. And things went swimmingly. No fighting, no puking, little if any haggling about prices. That is until last night.

Enough with the introduction. Let's get to the meat of this, because this was the single most terrifying experience I've had during my time behind the wheel. So without further ado, let's get to it. This is the story of how my cab got hijacked by a psychotic speed-freak.


About two hours into my shift, I received a fare from Television Street, out in Iron Quarry. The fare would go from there to Parthaella, which is a small community (which almost, but not quite, manages to define itself as a town) just outside the city. Not a bad one at all.

So I arrive at Television Street, and there he was.

My cabbie-sense started tingling immediately. He was somewhere between 35 and 47, overweight, with sores on his face, and an unhealthy sheen to his skin, dressed in a pair of old sweatpants and a worn parka. I knew he was bad news from the get-go. It wasn't a single thing that stood out. Maybe it was something in his posture, maybe something in his expression. Or maybe I was just being judgemental. Either way, I had a fully formed idea of just what kind of a person this guy was:

criminal, down on his luck, probably a drunk, possibly some kind of junkie, highly suspicious of everything and with little or no regard to what society deems sensible. I've driven a hundred of them, and usually, at worst, you get some grumpy pissy behaviour. It is the kind of customer where the smartest course of action is to shut up, nod thoughtfully, and every once in a while throw in a jab at The Man just to show you're on their side.

In the far future, this problem will persist


Still, I'd driven worse. Most of them are harmless, provided you treat them with a modicum of respect. At worst, I could always throw him out.

"Hey."
"Hi," he said. He was stressed out, twitching. "I'm John."
"Hop in."

Once inside the car, he kept looking around.

"How long are you working for tonight?"

"Until sunrise, I suppose."

"All right, all right," he said, tapping his knee incessantly. "What time is it?"

Before I had a chance to answer, he pulled out a huge wristwatch. Huge, in gaudy metallic colours. His hand was shaking as he looked at it.

And who's the poor bastard you stole that from? I wondered quietly.

"Its my brother's watch," he snarled. "I got it from him. Let's go, let's go."

So I drove out.

Now, from Iron Quarry to Parthaella there's two roads, both of them take just as long. One goes through the city, the other goes south of it, along the highway. I decided to take the highway.

"Why are you going in this direction?" he asked, in the same tone one might use when asking someone about how many bodies they have buried in their back yard.  I explained the situation to him and he nodded and kinda waved me off.

"Sure, sure, as long as we get where we're going."
"Parthaella, right?"
"In that direction, sure."

Well, that sounded weird, huh?

"So..." I said. "What's the address?"

"I'll tell you when we get there."

All right. Not exactly kosher, but I can chalk that up to general low-life paranoia/existential frustration.

The com burbled.

"Is that a police radio?" he said, in a tone that said that it better not fucking be a police radio.

I'd heard that question before. Usually from junkies on the run. I laughed in what I hoped was a friendly manner and said: "No, man. It's the com. A taxi radio."

"Ah!" he laughed. "I just thought you might be like a trucker, sitting and listening on the police wavelength."

... Okay.

"Wouldn't that be nice?" I said. "I'd be able to hear whenever they were doing speed checks on the road."

He grunted a laugh, and went silent again. Still tapping his knee. Still twitching. He talked - not mumbled mind you, but talked. It was still difficult to follow what he was on about. He talked about serving in the army. Or that he had known someone who had served in the army. Possibly his brother. or that he'd been to war.

"Are you a veteran?"

"What?" he said, surprised and confused. "No, I'm not that old."

By this time I had realised that he was crazy. So far, he seemed like the harmless kind of crazy.

I reached for the com to turn down the volume a bit.

"Keep your hands on the wheel!" he snarled. "Ten o'clock and two o'clock. That's how we do it in Sweden, or am I wrong? huh? Isn't that how we do it in Sweden?"

All right, he was most certainly not the harmless kind of crazy.

I was pondering my situation. Most likely, I'd be able to take him where he wanted to go, he'd pay (or not) and we'd part and never See each other again. This is true in 80% of all these kinds of fares. Of course, within the remaining 20% the scenarios ranged from being yelled at, to being mugged, to getting strung up on a meat hook in some dank cellar.

He said something.

"Pardon?" I said.

"Don't fucking ask me to repeat myself," he shouted. "I'm used to giving fucking orders and I expect people to listen, you got that?"

"Sure thing, man."

"I'm me, and you are you, right? Right??"

"Right."

By now, it was time to consider what options I had. I didn't want him in my cab anymore, but my usual tactic of calmly stopping the car, explaining to the customer just what kind of subhuman scum I think he is and then kicking him out would not suffice. My usual tactics rest on the assumption that me and said asshole share a fundamental view about the nature of reality and social norms.

This guy was from outer space. I couldn't be sure of any of his reactions. So I would have to come up with some kind of plan.





Now, as far as security measures go, it works as follows:

There's a hidden alarm button in the car. When I press it, dispatch gets the alarm. it will also open up a channel on the com, and so they (and the entire fleet of cabbies tuned into that frequency) can hear exactly what's going on in the cab. They will attempt to contact the cabbie via telephone to assess the situation. If the situation is dire, they call the cops and give them the GPS-coordinates of the car.

I discovered all this by mistake a long time ago, while arguing with a friend on my phone and pressing the mysterious button that I'd never seen before. But that's another story.

I figured that I'd keep things cool and easy. If the situation escalated, I could always hit the alarm button. And, at worst, I could always slam the brakes. After all, he wasn't wearing a seat belt.

But I began to prepare for trouble. I felt for the alarm button, so I could reach it quickly. I also reached into the storage compartment between the seats to fish out my phone and put it in my -

"What's that?"

Fuck.

"Just my phone, man."

"Hands on the wheel," he said, a cold warning in his voice. Fuck it, I thought, and put the phone into my pocket. No use sneaking about the phone. If he was going to rob me, I wouldn't be able to just hand him my work-phone. Oh well.

I settled on treating him like any drunken idiot: with friendly, professional patience.

 We were approaching Parthaella, and he kept talking somewhat disjointedly about ... his brother, the army, and he was he and I was I and that was the truth, right?

Suddenly he caught a glimpse of the meter. "What tariff are you running? Getting awfully expensive."

"It's Easter, so we're doing the holiday tariff. But if you feel like you're going to be paying more money than expected, I could pause the meter. We're approaching Parthaella after all-"

"No," he said. "No, you'll get your money. We're going to have a nice trip, right?"

"Right."

The exit to Parthaella was coming up. I asked if he wanted me to take it.

"No. Keep driving."

"I'm going to need an address."

"I'm not going to tell you the address."

"All right..."

His voice went cold, all business and blood thirst. "I will show you the address. You will read it. You won't say where it is, where we're going. Just read and take me there. Got that?"

This was turning into some serial killer shit.

"All right..."

He showed me his phone. It was open to Google Maps. And the address was the US embassy in Stockholm. On the other side of the country. Easily a five hour drive.

Five hours. With this lunatic.

"I can't take you that far."

"Yes you can. And you will. I will pay you good."

"But I'm getting off the shift soon."

"Don't fucking lie to me. You said you'd be working all night. So you're going to keep your hands on the wheel, turn up the music, and we're gonna have a nice trip together. Got that?"

This was where I began fearing for my life.

To be continued in Part 2


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A nice trip together. Part 2





(This is part 2 of a two-part entry. Read Part 1 )

My cab had been hijacked. Like the world's most ridiculous pirate, my insane passenger had commandeered my vessel and set a course for the nation's capital. And who fucking knew how long his deluded idea of visiting the US-Embassy would keep running in that twisted brain of his?

Maybe somewhere down the road, he'd decide it would be easier to rob me. Or maybe he'd decide that I was Satan and he had to do the Lord's work on my face.

We're going to have a nice trip

I realised I had frozen in place. And he was staring at me, expectantly. I wasn't looking at him, but it felt like he was looking at my fear and seeing it was good. Because I was terrified. A sickening, cold, sinking feeling washed through me, turning my guts into water.

I was stuck in this cab with a maniac. I was going to have a nice trip with this maniac. He was on edge and he wasn't going to let me go. I'd been doing this job for seven years, and I realised with horror that I might die in this cab.





Two distinct possibilities formed in my head.

1. Keep things cool. Keep treating him like any other customer. And whenever possible press the alarm button. Whatever happens, keep shit from escalating. Play nice and trust in the system.

2. If things got really, really hairy -say, if he started threatening me directly, pulled a weapon or whatever- slam the brakes. The idiot, like most of his peers, wasn't wearing his seat belt. They never do. Maybe it feels too constraining. Maybe they simply take whatever chance they get to rebel. Either way, he's not wearing his seat belt and we're barrelling down the road. Speeding a little, in fact. Slam the brakes (or hit something) and the bastard will go flying through the window.

Things would have to go really, really bad for that to happen. Because I wasn't sure I had the guts to do something that directly to him. Big risk to myself, as well as the moral component. I wasn't sure if I was prepared to hurt another human being.

Of course, should things go that far south, I'd find out.

However, for now, I decided to stick with plan 1.


But the man had been really particular about me keeping my hands on the wheel, so a certain amount of subtlety was required. Luckily, after we'd left Parthaella way behind, chewing miles and miles past Greyhome and further down the road towards Aling's Ridge, he made the job easy for me.

"I want you to turn on music. Its going to be a long trip and we're going to need music. The Champion, by Carrie Underwood! Play it!"

The lyrics are fucking chilling 
considering the context. 


 "I don't have it... Want me to turn on the radio?"

"Don't you have an AUX-cable? Connect it to your phone!"

"That's my work phone... We use it for cab stuff. I don't think it has youtube."

"So use the phone you hid in your jacket."

FUCK

"No, no, I've used up all the bandwidth. Sorry."

"Fine, fine, we'll use my phone!"

So I handed him the cable (an FM-transmitter, rather than AUX) and he started fiddling with it. And he was making a pig's breakfast out of the whole thing. I saw my chance and started pressing the alarm button.

Dispatch hailed me on the radio

"Car 62? Car 62, come in?"

Of course, I couldn't respond. Instead, I pressed the alarm button again to show them it wasn't an accident. Suddenly my phone started ringing.

Shit

I clicked my earpiece, but didn't say anything. On the other end was Suze.

"Crabby, are you there? Can you hear me, Crabby?"

I couldn't respond. I couldn't say shit. Instead, I pressed the alarm button again, praying they'd get the message.

Next to me, my insane passenger was having trouble with his phone. He snarled.

"Look at this shit!" he said, showing me the screen. I saw a 404-error. "You see that? They did it again!"

"Who?"

"The ISP! They hacked me! The bastards. I have a thousand phones at home, and they've hacked every single one. Now they got this one too. Fucking bullshit!"

Suze again: "Crabby, can you hear me?"

Here was another chance.

"Oh I hear you, man!" I said. "Freaking phone companies, always screwing people over. Hacking phones. Yeah, I hear you just fine. Assholes."

"Damn right," said my insane passenger.

"Crabby, can you hear me? Please confirm." Suze was sounding increasingly worried. I hung up on her. If communication was impossible, I didn't need the stress of her in my ear. So I clicked her, and hit the alarm button again, all the while maintaining a calm, disjointed, friendly, tense conversation with my insane passenger.

The phone started ringing again. And again I clicked it on.

"Crabby, don't hang up. If you hear me, cough."

I coughed.

"All right," said Suze, relieved. "We've notified the police. They have told us that they'll be sending squad cars from here as well as from Aling's Ridge. They'll catch up with you. Just keep calm and stay on the phone, all right? Cough if you got all that."

I coughed. And a small sense of relief dared to flicker in me.

The cab kept rolling and my insane passenger kept fighting with his phone, kept rambling. We were having a nice trip. I don't know how much time passed. It could have been minutes, but it felt much longer. The meter was running steadily, and now we were up to almost a thousand SEK. That's a full third of one day's pay.

So we'd been on this nice trip for some time. And there they were. Standing by the side of the road was a squad car. Only once before have I been this happy to see cops on the road.

"Of course its the cops," sighed my insane passenger. "I bet they're here for us. You did this."

"How could I have done anything?" I said "I've just been talking to you, remember?"

He seemed to accept this. "Ah, nevermind, nevermind. We've not done anything illegal, right? Just you and me, on our way to Stockholm. A nice cab trip."

"Sure," I said. I passed the cops and I could see them pulling out behind me. I blinked the indicator to the right, trying to show them that yes, I'm your man, and yes I want to pull over.

"What are you doing that for? Don't do that!" said my insane passenger. "They're not here for us! We've done nothing wrong! Just keep driving."

The cops started flashing their lights at us. "He wants me to stop."

"He's not here for you! We've done nothing wrong."

"Okay..."

I started to slow down, and pulled over by the side of the road. My insane passenger sighed with frustration. Then he resentfully put on his seat belt. "Fine, fine... I got nothing to hide. I've done nothing wrong."

I forced myself to relax. I made sure I had my cellphone. I then sighed deliberately, and sank down into my seat, as if I was leaning back to relax. I unbuckled my belt. My insane passenger said nothing. Just sat there, sullenly.

I took my chance. I turned off the engine, grabbed the keys, threw open the door and hurried to the nearest cop.

I told him: "Thank God you're here. This guy, he's insane. He's trying to force me to take him to the US Embassy in Stockholm. He's threatening and if you could get him out of my cab before he grabs my ID and learns my name, I'd be very happy."

Of course, it probably sounded more like: "OH THANK GOD, CRAZY MAN HE WANTS ME TO GO TO STOCKHOLM PLEASE GET HIM OUT OF MY CAR I DON'T WANT HIM TO SEE MY NAME!"

The cop seemed to understand it, though, and he and his colleagues (they were joined shortly by two more cars. They had pulled no punches on this one) approached my insane passenger.

My phone started ringing. People from work; dispatch, my boss, the traffic overseer, all of them wanting to make sure I was OK.

Behind me, I heard the cops talk to my insane passenger. They checked him for weapons and found something.

"Why are you carrying a weapon in public, sir?"

"In my home country, its totally legal to carry a knife in public!"

"What home country is that?"

"The USA, damn it. I'm an American citizen! All I want is to go to the embassy, okay? I need to get back to my home country. Why can't you let me go home?"

"All right sir," said the cop.

"I'm me, I know I'm me! And you are you, right?"

All this while, I was talking to Tiffy in dispatch on the other end of the phone. Then my boss. And everyone.

Suddenly my insane passenger started screaming.

"I'M AN AMERICAN CITIZEN! I JUST WANT TO GO HOME TO MY COUNTRY! I'M A SOLIDER, I SERVED IN THE WAR! THE AMERICAN ARMY! PLEASE LET ME GO HOME!"'

I looked over, and I saw six cops in a pile on the man. The cuffed him and threw him into the car.

I simply stared at the whole thing.

One cop approached me and said:

"We've checked him out, sir. This man is very psychotic, and he's also high as a kite. He's seeing things. He is convinced you had a secret police radio, that you're undercover or something. "

"No shit," I mumbled. "So what happens now?"

"We're going to take him to jail. Then he'll be handed over to the state. This man is a danger to himself and others and needs psychiatric care. Do you wish to press charges?"

I declined. I figured that he hadn't threatened me directly, nor had he committed any violence. I just wanted to get out of this madness.

It was over.

On the way home, my head was aching and my fingers trembled. A colleague, Doug, drove up amidships with me and hailed me on the com.

"Are you all right, Crabby?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Jesus Christ."

"What happened!"

I gave him the cliffs notes version.

"Holy shit," said Doug. "The alarm went out to all cars. Ram said: 'calling all cars, car 62 in dire need of assistance. I drove out here at 130 kph, flashing my  lights and honking my horn... Good to see you're all right."

My boss told me to take the rest of the night off. The company would reimburse me for missed work. So I did. I went home and spent the next day in the tender care of friends.

I'm reconsidering my decision not to press charges. After all, this man might harm someone some day. And then, anything that weighs against his favour in the official record will be a good thing. Who knows?
------------------

I could end this with some rumination. Some moral of the story. But its basically this: When faced with a potentially lethal situation that you have no control over, your first instinct is to keep your head down. Again, if this guy hadn't been a lunatic, I would've happily thrown him out, cussing him out like a goddamn baboon. But he wasn't. He was crazy and (as it turned out) he was armed. I had no control over the situation - my first instinct was to keep shit from escalating. It turned out the be the right choice.

So far, people have been kind enough not to ask me why I didn't fight back, or why I didn't slam the brakes (aside from one friendly, but misguided, question about whether or not mace was legal and a suggestion that I should use that next time). The answer is simple: I had no control over the situation.

I've never felt fear for my life before. I hope to God I won't have to feel it again. But I'm okay now. The way I've been treated by my colleagues, and by my boss in the aftermath of all this makes me very proud and happy to work for Taxi M. But the real heroes in all this is Suze and Tiffy. I couldn't have made it, if the dispatch hadn't come through like the fucking saints they are.

Thanks to them, I won't have to spend the rest of my life as a cabbie.

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Here's My Stop has a facebook page! Join here for updates! Also, if you like what I do, please share it around! I'm always happy for new readers.
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Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Fare's Survival Guide, part 2

"Shut up and drive."
"Shut up and walk."

Read Part 1 here.

Part Two: The customer is often wrong.

So you've finally managed to snare a cab, made sure that the price is right, the cabby is legal and so far he hasn't attempted to molest you. Pat yourself on your back for making sure that the cabby's end of the bargain is being held up. You should be proud of yourself. However, as with all deals, you have an end to hold up as well.

You as a customer have  a lot of legroom within in a cab. After all, if we denied service to every person who rubbed us the wrong way, we'd all starve (and some of us would have a lot less to write about). That being said, there's a whole bunch of behaviours that are just plain unacceptable. Not intolerable, mind you. We can tolerate a whole lot of things, but that doesn't mean we accept it.

The level of tolerance/acceptance varies between cabbies. Some of us meet everything with a patient shrug. Others will flip right the fuck out, and dump you in a neighbouring town, possibly without your shoes. But we all seem to be in agreement on what kind of behaviour we prefer in our cab and what kind of behaviour we despise.


This shit? Barely tolerable.


As you may well understand, this brings us to the third spot of trouble you might face while riding a cab, that being the consequences of you engaging in unacceptable and/or intolerable behaviour. The potential consequences, listed in no particular order, are the following:

Being denied service.
Being thrown out of the car.
Being smacked.
Getting chained to the rear bumper and dragged along the street behind the car.
Getting chained to the front bumper and get dragged along the street under the car.
Getting blacklisted by the cab company.
Getting told very politely that you're not being very nice.
Ending up as the subject of a self-aggrandizing entry in a cab-related blog.
Embarrassing your friends.
Ruining an already tough job for the cabby.

As we all can agree, none of these outcomes are particularly pleasant. So how does the discerning customer avoid this predicament? Don't worry, I'm here to help. I will list a couple of areas where the average fare may have trouble understanding the proper conduct, explain what they're about and how to best approach them.

Before we begin, however, let me make one thing perfectly clear: the cab is the cabby's office. It is their workspace. Their ship. It is to be respected. Can you think of any kind of behaviour you wouldn't engage in while talking to your banker? Trust me, that applies just as much to your cabby. Whatever rules the cabby has in his car are to be followed; they are there because that is how he keeps his workplace in order. If any of them don't suit you, there's no shortage of cabs in the world.

 Let's begin!

Obligations
At its heart, taking a cab is a matter of exchange. Quid pro quo, as it were. The cabby has the means of transportation, and you have the means to pay for it. If the cabby wants to get paid, he will provide transportation. If the fare wants transportation, they will provide money. Simple, straightforward, and on top of it all, a matter of mutual understanding.

However, until money has changed hands, the cabby is under no obligation to drive you. Nor are we under any obligation to carry your bags, adjust your seat, rub your back or provide you with a tasty beverage. Our duty is to drive you safely and comfortably from A to B in a timely manner. That is the full extent of our duty. Anything beyond that we do out of the kindness of our hearts, a sense of decency, or in the hopes of increasing the chances of repeat business and/or tips. Or because we're simply nice people.

You are not entitled to anything. This means we may deny service at any point during the trip for any reason, provided it isn't illegal (racial, sexual and other kinds of illegal discrimination is for instance not a valid reason to deny someone service). Ironically, there is a legal obligation for you to pay for the trip up until the point you're thrown out. Legal, mind you. Unless there are cops nearby, there's no real way for the cabby to enforce this (except by sheer force of personality, and/or violence, which kinda defeats the point of enforcing a legal obligation anyway). So if you're thrown out and you refuse to pay, nobody can blame you. I've used the phrase "I don't want your money - only your absence" or variations thereof many, many times.

But what if you want something from the cabby that goes beyond their duty? Well, that brings us to our next area.

Requests
It is not uncommon for a customer to want the cabby to go above and beyond duty. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a customer to want any kind of service worker to go above and beyond duty. And conversely, it is not uncommon for the service worker to do just that. While there are no obligations, we as humans regularly go beyond our obligations in order to facilitate social interaction and satisfy our own sense of justice and decency. With this in mind, all cultures have developed various codes and methods to request things of their fellow human that they might not be entitled to. We call this "politeness". Some of you may be familiar with the concept. For those who aren't, consider the following example:

You want milk. You know someone has the means and the opportunity to get milk. There's two ways you can go about it.
You can shout "GET ME MILK!"
You can also say: "Would you mind picking up some milk for me, please?"
Both expressions serve the same purpose, namely getting you that delicious moo-juice. But which one do you think would be the more acceptable one?

Unless you were raised by wolves, I assume we can both agree that the second alternative is the proper one. And, believe it or not, that applies to cabs as well. The single most common ground for conflict in my cab tends to center around the stereo. A customer comes in, wants to listen to music. The customer will often demand that I turn on a particular radio station or that they get to hook up their phones to the stereo. Never once does it cross their minds that I might not be interested in their music, or that I might have a headache, or that perhaps I don't like being bossed around. When I deny them this, things get tense. Either they accept what I say, or (at worst) they'll literally start screaming like toddlers (I swear to God this happened once).

Making demands is bad enough. But fiddling with the car's settings (stereo or otherwise) is a mortal sin. Everything beyond the seat you're in is my business. You want anything changed or done, ASK. Nine times out of ten, I guarantee, the cabbie will agree. And if he doesn't, he will respond to your politeness in kind.

In essence: If you want something from the cabbie beyond a smooth ride from A to B, ask politely. It will get you far.

Backseat driving.
This is a minor one. Some customers are wary of cabbies. After all, they could be swindlers! And so, they will give directions during the trip. Many cabbies find this annoying. Some of us don't. I, in fact, like it. It allows me to turn off my brain completely and let the customer do my work for me. However, there's a fine line between giving directions and actively trying to control the car. We're driving this cab for a reason. If you want a certain route, speed, or other kind of mode of driving, again... ask for it. Am I going too fast? Ask me to slow down. Am I taking a road you're not used to? Ask. If there's a certain road you want me to take, show me.

But do not question my every move. Do not comment on what gear I'm in, do not tell me to check my blind spot. You wouldn't tell a  surgeon where to cut during an operation, nor would you tell a carpenter which tool he needs in order to hammer in a nail.

Despite being a carpenter, Jesus still refrained
from telling his crucifiers how to do their job. 


Even if you don't trust any cabby, please attempt to give them the benefit of the doubt. If you have any questions about the route or the price, phrase them politely. If it turns out that your cabby is a dishonest asshole, or an incompetent driver, at least you'll come out of it smelling like roses.

Party time
Many are the customers who begin the evening drinking with friends, getting into that party mood. Once the mood has risen sufficiently, they call a cab and go to town, potentially to paint it red. It is Friday night (or Saturday) after all! This is the great time, the time for parties! Fun times, fun day! But we can't let the party stop!

So let's get into the cab! Surely the cabby won't let the party stop! Hey Cabby! Help us keep the party going! Turn up the music! Sing with us! Let us take a selfie with you! No, let us film you! Lets make out violently! Because there ain't no party like a taxi party-

All right enough. This is the bane of all service workers around the weekends. Especially cabbies. I get it. The party must roll. But believe it or not, tonight is not my party night. Tonight is my work night. I'm here to work. To you it is Saturday. To me, it is any day but Saturday. Imagine, if you will, a bunch of rowdy people going into your place of work, screaming at the top of your lungs, demanding that you turn up the music, and getting really pissed off when you tell them not to swill booze where you are. That, my friends, is what I go through.

Mind you, I am aware that a part of my job is to drive party-goers from one party to another. But there are reasons why I don't allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages in my car. The same reason I don't allow smoking, doing drugs, or eating. See, I don't want to clean up the potential mess and I don't want to deal with the potential smell either. Its not YOU that I'm singling out. I'm sure YOU would never spill anything ever. But you are one out of two hundred people that I'll drive this week. If I allow consumption of food or alcohol in the car every time, sooner or later someone will spill it. And sooner or later, that will be you.

In short: If your party spirit is so weak that you need a cabby to help keep it going, perhaps you should consider just how good at partying you really are.

This fellow doesn't need a cabby to keep the party going
and neither should you.



Commission
There is a certain subset of people who make it their business to "dine and dash". A few years ago, a friend of mine described it as something some of her more hipstery friends enjoyed doing. Their rationale was the following: restaurant budgets have certain margins of loss. Thus, you haven't deprived the restaurant of any profit if you skip out on the check once in a while, since it doesn't put a dent in their budget.

And sure, economically this might well be the case. As for morality, well... We live in a society where the sweat of our brow is converted into currency. That currency flows to others, in order to convert the sweat of their brow. Etc, etc. I really shouldn't have to explain this.

Most people, however, don't even need that rationale. Most people who help themselves to free service (that is, stealing the sweat of the brow from other workers/businesses) are usually satisfied with the following rationale: "I want something, and I don't want to pay for it". Nobody is totally innocent of this, of course. Especially in this day and age, where data has become a commodity.

And I can even, on some level, understand the willingness to stick it to the man. To beat the system, as it were. And if you steal occasionally from a restaurant, fine. Its not as if it will affect its workers directly in the short run. It's still a shitty thing to do, of course. But the damage is not immediately huge.

Not so much with cabbies. We work on commission. I've spoken of this before, so I'll be brief. Every time you skip out on paying, don't have enough money, or try to haggle some kind of fixed rate, you are literally asking the cabby to pay you out of his pocket. True, some of us will drive you off the meter, which means that the only one losing money is the cab company. However, I do believe I covered why riding off the meter is a bad idea. There's also some really good reasons for cabby to stay legal too, but this is not a survival guide for them.

Point being: don't haggle. Don't skip on the check. Pay us what we're owed. And if you're not sure if you have enough money, inform us! Sometimes we might take pity on you, and accept a lower rate. Sometimes, some other kind of arrangement can be made. But don't tell us in the middle of the trip that you can't afford it. And if you know you don't have enough money, don't offer it to us and tell us to take it off the meter. We are workers. We sell our labour at a set price. If that isn't good enough for you, well... walking is free. We offer our labour at certain terms. Meet them, and we're going to get along just fine. When you're haggling or asking to be driven off the meter, you're either saying that your trip is worth more than getting paid, or you're implying that our greed is more important than our integrity.

Gratuity
I once drove a fellow. We made a great connection. He was the kind of customer I would happily go above and beyond for. Once the trip was over, he opened his wallet and looked at me seriously.

"Now," he said. "there's no tipping-culture in Sweden."
"Oh? I wasn't aware," I said.
"No. So I'm not going to tip you. But once that makes its way over here, you can bet I'll tip you every time."

This was deeply insulting. Not the fact that he wouldn't tip, mind you. In Sweden, we actually believe in giving people a living wage and it is illegal to structure work in such a way that the worker is reliant on gratuity to make ends meet. Thus gratuity becomes what it is supposed to be: a sign of appreciation for service beyond the line of duty.

Some cabbies get really bitter when they don't get tipped. They're idiots. Just like we don't owe anyone anything except what's in our job description, nor does the customer owe us anything beyond the set price. Anything I do beyond driving from A to B, I do out of the kindness of my heart. And anything the customer chooses to give me, they do for the same reason. Nothing owed, either way.

That being said, there's a few things you should keep in mind while tipping, if that is what you choose to do.

a) Do not use the tip as leverage. The moment someone tells me 'If you don't do X, there will be no tip for you', I will slam on the brakes, tell them I'm not a fucking dog begging for a bone and tell them to fuck right off. We do not dance for nickles, and nor do we hope that if we do the right trick, maybe Master will be nice enough to pat us on the head. We are labourers. We sell out labour at a price. Fuck you for thinking anything else.

b) Whatever amount you tip is fine. Be it the smallest coin or the largest bill. Again, you don't owe us anything. However, if you choose to give us small change, don't make a joke about 'every little helps', or 'so you can buy a cup of coffee'. This is the age of Starbucks. Coffee is expensive these days. Again, it is insulting. Give, or do not give. But don't joke about how little you give.

c) If you're the kind of person that never tips, that is fine! Again, and I can't overstate this, you do not owe it to us. But if you're happy with the service, please tell us! Trust me, a single happy customer can make up for an entire night of ungrateful idiots. Genuine gratitude from a customer is wonderful. Whether or not that comes with extra money isn't really that important.

Personal space.
You know how you don't like random strangers touching your face, stroking your hair, patting your stomach or rubbing your shoulders? Guess what: cabbies don't either. So don't. And if you do, and the cabby calls you out on it, don't spend the rest of the trip saying that you "just wanted to be friendly". Your intentions in this case is irrelevant. Don't fucking molest us.

A final word

Your cabby is a person. A human being. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they're having a rough day. Sometimes, there's a misunderstanding between you. When communicating with a cabby, try to keep in in mind the principle of charity. Despite the often unforgiving attitude I show in this blog, I do try to keep that in mind when dealing with my customers. Do not assume the worst to begin with. Take a moment to figure out whether or not your cabby truly is an asshole, or whether something went wrong down the line. Chances are that your cabby is just as scared of you, as you are of him.

Now, go forth bravely into the night. Call a cab, safe in the knowledge that you now know everything you need to survive your trip.

Safe travels!
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Fare's Survival Guide, part 1.

"Now don't you take any detours. The quickest, cheapest way, all right?"
"When you go to a restaurant, do you usually tell your waiter not to spit in your food?"

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Here's My Stop has a facebook page! Join here for updates! Also, if you like what I do, please share it around! I'm always happy for new readers.


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The Fare's Survival Guide 
- How to get the most out of your taxi-trip without getting cheated or put on a hit list. 

So you've decided to take a cab! Good for you! Taking a cab has several benefits that other modes of transportation do not. As opposed to public transportation, taking a cab poses no risks of strangers falling asleep on your shoulder, or stressed out parents accidentally bumping you with their strollers. The cab will also not stop at set intervals to pick up yet more strangers who further increase the likelihood of encountering said risks. It also has the benefit that you may sit down during your entire trip! No standing up in a crowd of stressed commuters for you! 

Although sometimes sitting has its drawbacks.


Taking a cab is also far superior to walking. You know who else spent a lot of time walking? That's right, cave people. You're not a neanderthal, are you? Would you rather be travelling on foot for an entire day, wearing down the soles of your feet, (while potentially being stalked by sabre-toothed tigers and vengeful mammoths), or would you rather get in a moving wheelbox and get to where you're going in ten minutes? No fuss, no muss, and all it takes is some sweat and time converted into currency.

Who in their right mind would ever say no to a deal like that?

Pictured: the worst case scenario.

Of course, while a modern traveller such as yourself can plainly see the superiority of paying a stranger to drive you, cabs have their share of risks too. Cabbies are a peculiar breed. Indeed, it takes a certain kind of mental twistedness if you voluntarily spend a significant part of your life driving potential lunatics around a city for what often amounts to peanuts. As some of you already know, the way the cab business is structured offers incentives  to play fast and loose with legal, economic and social rules of conduct. Sometimes this can be for your benefit, and sometimes it can be to your horrific detriment. After all, you're about to spend some time, often alone, with a person who is literally chasing his money, and has power over whether or not you'll be walking home. Indeed, there are other, more horrifying things that might happen when you're alone in a car with a stranger.

So, in order to ensure that both you and your driver get the most out of  the fare, I present you with some helpful tips and guidelines. Follow these, and I guarantee that the risk of you getting cheated, assaulted, thrown out or (rightfully) shanked will decrease dramatically.

Part One: Caveat Emptor
There are several perils associated with being a fare. While these can range from the relatively innocuous (your cabby hasn't showered in a while) to the horrifying (your cabby is a cannibal), there are two major areas where most people suffer for choosing the wrong cabby: being cheated, and  harassment (including sexual).

Let me be perfectly clear here: cabbies are not, as a rule, prone to harassing their customers. But there are a lot of assholes out there and some of them drive cabs. It is far more common that a cabby abuses your wallet than your personal space, but that being said, the phenomenon is common enough that it warrants a discussion.

All right. So! How to deal with a cheating cabby.

All cabs traditionally have a meter. The meter measures the distance travelled and the time it takes to travel. Thus, the further you travel (or the longer the fare takes) the more money it will cost. Every meter has different tariffs, which may change depending on time of day, if its during the weekend or during some major holiday. Thus it is far cheaper to take a cab during a regular Monday than it is during New Years eve.

With me so far?

Thus the simplest way to con somebody out of their money is to make the fare as long as possible and/or use a higher tariff than is allowed. Thus your regular Monday morning trip to work becomes an expensive New Year's Eve sightseeing tour of the city.

How does a wise fare ensure this doesn't happen?

Well, on the meter, next to the cost, will be a small number which indicates the tariff. And within the cab, plainly visible to the passengers, is the price list. Thus you can check the tariff, compare it to the list and determine whether or not it is correct. If it is, you're fine. If it isn't, point it out. If the cabby has any decency, he will apologize and correct it. Don't count on that, though. I have friends who have been thrown out of the cab for daring to politely ask that the cabby charges them correctly.

All right. So that's step one.
Get in the cab. Check the tariff to the price list. If correct, relax. If not, call him out on it.
Easy peasy, but its something most people don't even think about (indeed, most aren't even aware of it).

What's the worst that could happen, right?

All right, so you've made sure your cabby is charging you correctly, but you're still uneasy about the price. Is he taking a detour? Doesn't that building look very much like the three other identical ones you passed by earlier? What to do!

The detour is another easy way to cheat someone. Instead of relying on extra money per mile/minute, the cabby relies on extra miles and that the fare isn't aware of it. The cabby may drive very slowly too, to make sure he gets as much milk out of the meter-cow as possible. So what's a clever fare to do?

Well first and foremost, if you're a local and know the way, you can ask ahead of time that the cab takes a road you're familiar with and know well. If he's taking a road you're not familiar with, ask him (politely) why he's taking this particular road. It could well be that he's new on the job and is either winging it, or taking a road that he is familiar with.

If you're a tourist, then things get a little tougher. After all, you don't know shit about this city and for all you know, your destination might just be a block away. My advice to you here, if you're unsure, take a look at a map.

"But Crabby! I don't have a map! And besides, I don't know how to read one!"

All right, sure. But unless you're a minority, you do have a smartphone, don't you? Google maps is your friend. Get it into navigation mode, and ask the cabby to take the road you specify. Some of them might get a little offended by it, but if they're professional, they'll do it.

Now, as for harassment in the cab:
Cabs, like all places where you find yourself alone with someone, are a risk zone when it comes to harassment, sexual or otherwise, and many is the woman who has suffered inappropriate comments, touching, and yes, even rape from their driver. The only concrete cab-related thing you can do to avoid this is to sit in the back seat. This puts the onus of defense on the victim, which is of course wrong (after all, it is not the fare's duty to avoid harassment, but the cabby's to not harass). I personally always find it a little disheartening when a female passenger chooses to sit behind me, but I understand it. Aside from whatever skills you may have in self-defense, or staying on the phone, there's not much else that can be concretely done during the event. There is no "in case of grabby cabby, break glass" - case in the cars.

However, let's say you've had a miserable trip for whatever reason (you've been cheated, or harassed). There's plenty of things you can do afterward. The simplest (but also the least effective in the long run) solution is to simply leave the cab and refuse to pay.  This is definitely a viable method, provided the cab company doesn't save your number and sends you a bill later. Or perhaps you decide to not take the fight and deal with the matter later. Also a valid (and safer) choice. And there are several things in that very cab that's there to help you.

1. The ID: Every cabby is by law required to display his license. Here you'll find his name, and his ID number. If you end up paying far more than you think is reasonable, or if  you step into a cab, and you feel unsafe, then write down the number (or take a picture). If you can't see an ID, ask where it is. If the cabby doesn't produce it, call another cab.

2. The receipt: The receipt is your FRIEND, people. Here you will see
how much the trip cost,
how many miles it took,
how much time it took, and how much money those two racked up.

Here is also the number of the car that you rode in, when you took the trip, and- most importantly- the ID of the cabby. So say you've had a miserable cab ride, and you want to put the cabby up against the wall, then there's only one sure-fire way to do it:

TAKE  THE  RECEIPT

Here it says in black and white, all the particulars of the trip itself. This is also why you should never accept it when a cabby wants you to pay off the meter. Never mind that it is illegal: if something happens to you, economically or otherwise, then the receipt is a viable piece of evidence in bringing the cabby to justice. A friend of mine did just that after a cabby got handsy with her. Rather than fight him, she grit her teeth, until he took her to where she was going. Then she paid, took the receipt and successfully got him fired. I don't know if she managed to take him to trial, and I most certainly don't recommend sitting out harassment, it does prove the usefulness of that flimsy piece of paper most people just throw away.

And on a final note, most cabs that belong to a company (or have some kind of app) usually also have some kind of GPS service. That means that if they have an HQ, HQ has an eye on them. If worst comes to worst, you can always ask HQ to look at just what route the cab took. While I'm no fan of surveillance in general, in this case it is a very, very good thing.

Quick repetition:
Check the tariff and the price list.
Try to have some kind of foreknowledge of where you're going (if worst comes to worst, use google maps).
If you're unhappy with the trip for whatever reason GET THE RECEIPT.
Check the ID - if there's no ID, ask for it. If none can be produced, call a different cab. You are under no obligation to ride with any given cab.


All right, by now I should have given you all the tools you need to deal with the most common troubles you as a customer may run into when taking a cab. Bear in mind, most of us are just people trying to do our job and get paid. But there's enough bad apples in the bunch for this to be valuable information regardless.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I'll tell you what you need in order to avoid becoming the victim of the righteous fury of the pissed off cabby.

Click here to read Part 2

Monday, 7 August 2017

The script.

"You must meet so many weird people."
"Not so much anymore. Either I've lucked out, or I've seen the same shit so many times I don't notice it anymore."

(Did you know that Here's My Stop has a facebook page now? Join it here and get your updates, news about the blog and the chance to tell me exactly what kind of a smartass I am)

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At the bottom of this entry, there are two links to two episodes from the podcast Risk! Even if you don't feel like reading this all the way through, I urge you to listen to them both. They are, if anything, extremely relevant to this entry and, really, to the world at large. So even if you skim this entry, be sure to check them out.
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I've written before on the subject of abusive relationships. There was Amanda, and there was the the couple from Isthmus. There was the tacky piece of shit with the printed chains, and let's not forget the girl who flipped the script on abusiveness and and dragged an unwilling guy to Trollhat after breaking him down. There's probably a whole bunch of others in the blog I haven't mentioned.

The point I'm trying to make is that this is a very common thing. I don't think I got a single work-period (that being the time I put aside the books and get behind the wheel and slave away) without encountering at least one or two examples of someone abusing somebody they're romantically involved with somehow. Whether they're married, living together, or just a random hookup, it is always the same story. Always the same script.

This summer has been particularly egregious. I figured that Mr Douche-chain would have filled up my abuse quota for this summer. With him, at least, something could be done. Dear God, I was wrong.

"Yep. Can't have you getting
too comfortable down there."

This summer I've witnessed at least six different examples of people trapped in some kind of toxic relationship, or otherwise being abused by someone who they chose to trust. And while their particular circumstances may have differed, I realized there was a chilling similarity between them. Indeed, a chilling similarity between all such cases I've witnessed, read about, or otherwise looked into.

It's as if some horrible, bland play is being interpreted by different troops of actors. The same script, the same roles and the same beats. The same structure, repeated again and again. A two-character show, following the same lines and the same dynamic.

I'm going to give you a few examples. A rundown of the various toxic relationships I encountered during this summer. I'll exclude the ones that have already been given their own entries. 

First up is a young man and the gutless fuck that he had decided to date. It was a fare from Hill Bay down to the Grove (not Rose Grove). A long, deliciously lucrative trip. Three gorgeous young fops hop into the car and they immediately begin chattering away. I liked their energy; they were young, flamingly homosexual and very very happy. They blathered on about all kinds of stuff that was completely meaningless to me, but their happiness was infectious. I couldn't help but smile. 

The third one was a little busy, as seen below.

Except one of them wasn't quite as happy to join in their reindeer games. This guy (let's call him Rudolph) was the smallest of the three. Very slight, almost pixie-like with white-blonde hair and bronzed skin. He was texting on his phone, and then made a call. What followed was a conversation that was both annoyed and attempted to be cheerful. Apparently there had been some massive drama, which resulted in his boyfriend storming out of the party. And now he was sulking at the nearby bus stop. Young Rudolph debated with him, telling him that they were in a taxi and he could join them, that he didn't need to wait for a bus. The boyfriend was angrily refusing, until we approached the bus stop, at which point a guy dressed all in black with eyes that blazed with drunken fury stepped out on the road and flagged me down.
"There he is," sighed Rudolph. "My boyfriend."

So in hops Mr Blaze, looking like Satan's pissed off little brother. He sits down next to Rudolph and the others welcome him with forced smiles. Not the kind of smile you force when you have to endure someone you really don't like, but the kind you put on when a friend is acting out and you need to keep a lid on things. I began to drive, when I saw in the rear-view how this asshole slapped Rudolph several times around the back of the head. "Call your mama," he snarled. "I bet she's reeaal fucking proud of you."

I was about to tell him off, when he immediately stopped, turned his eyes to the window and sat silently. Young Rudolph ignored him and the rest of the trio started chattering away. One of them spent a sizable amount of time trying to entertain both Rudolph and his boyfriend, to lift the mood as it were. 

After a long trip, we arrived. Rudolph and his boyfriend got off first. Or rather, the boyfriend leaped out of the cab, slammed the door and stalked down the street. Rudolph paid his part of the fare and disappeared. 

The other two were going home a few blocks away. I asked them if this was common, this behaviour between Rudolph and his boyfriend. 

"Yeah," said one. "He always flips out when he's drunk. But he always apologizes in the morning. He needs to get his shit together. And he's always bitching with Rudolph."
"You realize that he was this close to getting thrown out, right?"
"Yeah, and you'd be right too! I always tell him he's being an asshole."
"Ever told him that while sober? Because if I were in your shoes, I'd tell him to shape up or fuck off. That shit is toxic."
"Oh I totally do that all the time!"

Later on I drove a fellow who had been having trouble with his significantly younger lover (I drove him several times. He ended up becoming one of my favourite customers), and he knew Rudolph and his boyfriend. He confirmed to me that Rudolph had a tendency to get into relationships with guys who treated him like shit. That he was a very young, very insecure guy who leaped at the chance of affirmation, even the negative kind.

A few weeks later I drove a girl and her friend. They were talking in the back seat. Some kind of drama, some guy was an asshole and some people didn't like that and it was a problem and omigod like so totally stupid you guyz... I admit I wasn't listening very closely. But we dropped off the friend first and she told the girl: "Go sit next to the cabbie. Maybe he has something sensible to say."

I have to admit, I was deeply tickled by her vote of confidence. So the girl, Elinor, switched seats and rode shotgun to Isthmus, where she lived. She told me the whole story. In short:

She had dated a guy for four years. He was an insecure, ADHD riddled mess (her words), but she had loved him so.

He was insanely controlling. At one point he had called her at work, screaming "You have some explaining to do! I found a pair of boxer shorts here and they're not fucking mine, so whose is it??"
She had told him not to call her work, because her boss needed the phone. She got back to work, trying not to think about it. Her cellphone buzzed constantly throughout the day. When she got home, he apologized because those boxer shorts belonged to one of his friends, who had crashed at their place a couple of nights the week before. She made it clear to me that this story kinda summed up their entire relationship.

Finally, she had broken up with him. But she had continued to live with him. Mainly because Isthmus is close to Seed Grove, where she worked. She had made it abundantly clear that they'd never ever be back together again, but they could still be friends.
Kinda like this, but slightly less sensible.

But the dynamic didn't stop there. He stilled called her constantly. And he didn't know she was taking a cab. If he did, he'd flip his lid. And now her friends were pissy with her because, even though they didn't like him, they felt she was leading him on.

"So I guess I'm the bad guy, and that sucks," she said.
"Well..." I said, choosing my words. "It's a bad fucking idea, but I wouldn't say you're a bad guy."

So we started talking about toxicity in relationships. About how he didn't have a right to neither her time or her obedience. There was no obligation, because they weren't in any kind of relationship. And so on. I'm not going to paint myself as a hero; I merely said what I believed. But I will say she was stunned. Apparently I was the first person who actually believed that this asshole of hers had a responsibility to not be an asshole.

In the middle of the conversation, he called her. She picked up the phone, told me not to make a sound, because... you know, apparently she had a habit of seducing cab drivers or something. She assured him she'd be home soon. Then she hung up and sighed heavily. I asked her where she lived otherwise; she was merely sleeping at the guy's place. Legally, she still lived with her parents. So I offered to turn off the meter and take her there.

But no, she couldn't. She didn't want to. Her relationship to her parents was miserable.

"I don't know what the fuck I'm doing," she said. "I always dreamed of being married with kids at 25. Finding Mr Right. But I'm 24 now, so that's not going to happen. I just..."

"... are terrified of being alone?"

"Yes.. that's exactly it." she said and there were tears in her eyes, which she blinked away. I made the offer again, and she declined again. So we arrived at Isthmus and she didn't leave the car.

"You have been so kind to me," she said. "I'd give you a hug, but.. he might see."

"No need for that," I said. "Just... do what you can to get yourself your own place. He doesn't own you and you don't owe him anything."

"I don't get it," she said. "Most cabbies just ... sit quietly and drive. But you actually seem to care about people. You seemed to understand me, took my point of view. Why?"

"Because we all go through shit," I said. "And I see shit like this all the time. I've seen it up close and in some ways, I've grown up with it. So I care."

"I'd like to ride with you again."

I gave her my number. Since then she hasn't called. I hope its because she didn't need a cab for the rest of the summer, rather than not being allowed one.

Finally, and perhaps the most revolting one is the woman I drove from the central station out to Thor's Landing. She had a goodie bag with her, full of flowers and a newly purchased iPad. She was talking quickly, hurriedly, and had a tense smile and a slightly hysterical laugh.

"I'm sorry, I'll try not to cry!"

I was taking her to her boyfriend in Thor's landing. She had done something bad, she said. So she had bought flowers and an iPad as a reconciliation gift. "He must forgive me!" she said over and over again. "So many times that I forgave him, he owes me that much!"

Which would then be followed by a slightly despairing: "I did something bad, he'll never forgive me."

It went in a cycle, but with every cycle I gleaned new information. She loved him. She couldn't stand the idea of not being with him. But he beat her, he humiliated her, manipulated her, was constantly unfaithful (though he called it an Open Relationship. Open to him, that is). One day, she had gotten fed up, written a long, extremely detailed facebook post about their relationship and just what kind of a pig he was, and posted it on his wall. He had flipped out, they had broken up. Somewhere between then and now, she had (possibly, I can't say I was sure that this is what she meant) slept with someone else. And now, full of remorse, she had gone off, bought him flowers and an iPad and called a cab so she could apologize.

"Apologize for what?" I said. "He sounds like a fucking pig."
"But I'm a nice girl," she said. "I don't do things like this. I don't write things like that."
"So what? He's treated you like shit for years. You stood up to him, and good for you."

She laughed then. Hard and proud and terrified. "Yes, he's an asshole!"
Then immediately switched: "No, no I did a bad thing. I don't do things like that. He won't forgive me. He has to forgive me."

The conversation went this way, again and again, around and around. I listened, I told her that she was under no obligation. She agreed and then immediately disagreed. She loved him, she loved him, she'd die without him, but he wasn't nice he didn't love her but she loved him and she wanted his forgiveness but he wouldn't forgive her but he had to forgive her because she had forgiven so much because she loved him and she loved him and she'd die without him etc etc etc etc.

I turned off the meter and told her I could take her home, no charge. She squeezed my hand, laughed that harsh, proud, terrified laugh. "You're a sweetie. I wish you were my boyfriend. But no. Take me to him. I need to apologize."

Aside from the fact that she was Asian, she could have been Amanda's twin. Again, here I was, driving a woman to someone who would hurt her. I felt sick to my stomach, though not quite as sick as back when I met Amanda. I guess somewhere along the line, I've gotten a bit numb.

I dropped her off and told her I could wait, that she could come out at any time and I could take her home. "No, but I'll take your number," she said. "If I need a cab, I'll call."

"Do so... If anything happens, call, all right? If he gets violent, get out of there and call."

"I will. But don't worry!" again, that laugh. "I'm fine. Everything is fine!"

She never called.

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All right. This is the part where I get all introspective about this shit. I won't. Whatever words I have about this stuff has already been said in other entries. I will say this though: the pattern is always the same. The Abuser makes the Victim emotionally dependent. The Abuser binds the Victim with bonds of love and fear. The Victim is terrified of the Abuser, but is more terrified of being alone. Their self-worth is measured in their Abusers approval. And they forgive and forgive and every time they forgive, they sacrifice another piece of their integrity. Every time, the same fucking story. Different actors, different setting, but the same toxic script, the same horrifying characters, the same vile beats.

It's as if there were some kind of international convention of abusers, where a certain kind of behaviour, certain norms and certain attitudes where decided upon to then be enacted world-wide. I suppose the good thing about this regularity is that there are signs that those who are in or outside abusive relationships can pick up on.

In fact, there are two stories that explain this far better than I ever could. I listen to a podcast called Risk. Its a show where people "tell true stories they'd thought they'd dare to share".  These two stories are stories of abuse. One is told by one who was the victim in an abusive relationship. The other is told by one who was the abuser in one. These stories are important, and they really say everything I wanted to say, in a far better way than I ever could.

Unbreakable

The Monster and the Man


Saturday, 5 August 2017

Patter song.

"So do you get time off? Will you be going on vacation?"
"Sure, in two weeks."
"For how long?"
"Two weeks. Or nine months. I've not decided yet."



For the past two months, I've been working more or less none stop. I can proudly (or perhaps, despairingly) say that I've not worked this hard and this much since I started in this business. Each shift has clocked in at around 11 hours, and damn if it hasn't paid off. This has been the single most lucrative summer I've ever worked, and I feel quite pleased with myself. I can now start school slightly richer than my classmates.

For now I am on vacation and happy to aggressively spend as much time I can  doing as little as possible.

But don't worry. While I may have gone on hiatus as far as taxi-driving goes, there's still a bunch of stories from this summer and last year that I've not told yet. I won't be updating as often as I have, but there will be updates.

One of the things I do when I'm not working is engage in pointless creative amusement. For some reason, I ended up in a youtube freefall and discovered this gem from Gilbert and Sullivan's  The Mikado.



This is only one of many, many 
many versions of this song.


This song has a long and proud tradition of being rewritten to reflect current and local annoyances. I decided to give it a try. Don't worry, I'll be back to my usual tricks later on. For now, I hope you enjoy my exercise in pomposity.
__________________________________________________________

A little list (Taxi version)

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found
I've got a little list - I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And who never would be missed - who never would be missed!
There's the drivers on the street who never give the right of way
and the people in the back-seat saying "Lots to do today?"
All suicidal morons who refuse to wear the belt.
and those who turn the heater up until your eyeballs melt. 
And those who  think my taxi is the right place for their tryst.
They'd none of them be missed - they'd none of them be missed!

Chorus: He's got 'em on the list - he's got 'em on the list
And they'll none of 'em be missed - they'll none of 'em be missed

There's the racist who is tolerant, and has got an open mind,
or so he does insist - I've got him on the list!
And the bratty little princess whose card was just declined.
They never would be missed - they never would be missed!
Not to mention all the sports fans who demand I make the call
"Which team of sweaty men do you prefer to kick a ball?"
And all the country bumpkins who believe the height of class
is a slurry made of vodka and red-bull poured in a glass. 
And the raving drunk pedestrian whom my bumper barely missed
You bet he's on the list - I've got him on the list.

Chorus: He's got him on the list - he's got him on the list
And next time he won't be missed - next time he won't be missed.

There's the weak-chinned little hipster, whose moustache is undeserved
with an iWatch on his wrist - I've got him on the list!
The misogynistic neckbeard for whom hygene is unheard
They'd none of 'em be missed - they'd none of 'em be missed
The obnoxious party people who can't operate the door
who vomit gastric fluids mixed with cocktails on the floor.
The fares that call a taxi, and then show up far too late
And those who have the gall to ask if I will fix the rate.
And all the new-age assholes who on supplements subsist
For now they're on the list - one day they'll meet my fist!

For now they're on the list - for now they're on the list
But in time they'll meet his fist - one day they'll meet his fist!



Tuesday, 25 July 2017

La cage aux fools.

(Story after the jump)
I've made no secret about the fact that I regularly drive beasts around town. Some of the creatures that end up in my cab are slavering, savage animals whose only motivation is the satisfaction of instinctual needs, marking territory, and angrily snarling at anyone who would dare to question their dominance. In that way, there is no practical difference between certain homo sapiens and other animals. However, unlike wolves, tigers, buffalo or pigs, all homo sapiens who make use of a taxi have disposable income. Thus they end up in my cab, and I have to do my best to keep from being eaten.

"I want a fixed rate."
"Bite me."

On occasion, the more conventional beasts (IE. the ones who don't have money) end up in my cab. These are usually pets. Dogs and cats, and most are well behaved. Some of my colleagues refuse to transport pets, usually for the same reason some of us refuse to transport the very drunk; we don't want to clean up the mess if an accident would happen.

As for me, I don't care. If your dog is small, it can sit on the floor by your feet. If it's big, it can sit in the trunk. In fact, even if a puppy won't pay its way in cash, it can definitely get some mileage out of just being freaking adorable. 

However, sometimes it becomes very clear why some of my colleagues only drive human animals. This is a story I've been meaning to tell for a long time (in fact, I thought I already had). I'm going to tell it tonight, because frankly, the only other stories I have off the top of my head are stories about toxic relationships and abused women. While their stories are worth telling, and will be told, tonight I really feel like we need something light-hearted. 

-----------------------------

Story: Only Crabby found Grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Back when I was still doing this full time, I received a call from dispatch. I was needed at Oakland Street. Dispatch also told me that the fare had a dog with them. 

Some people don't inform dispatch that they have animals with them. This is kinda rude: as stated earlier, some cabbies aren't comfortable with driving zero-income beasts. This one had done us the courtesy. 

Not that I thought of it at the time. To me, it was just another fare. 

On the screen was a name and address. There was also the special blue tab that appears whenever there's extra information the cabby should know. I clicked it and read:

Cat and Bird

It seemed a little weird, but I concluded that the guy was probably waiting at a pet store of that name (we're not very good with titles in Sweden). So I arrived at the address and saw a man in his early forties. He was dressed in shoddy jeans and a leather jacket. His face was haggard and his hair a mess. He had a haunted, nervous look about him. Next to him was a huge suitcase and a creature that I can only assume was the result of breeding a dog with a horse. 

What I didn't see was a pet store called Cat and Bird

The man came up to my cab. 

"Are you my ride to Major Street?"

"I am, sir," I smiled and got out of the cab. "Is the dog OK with riding in the trunk?"

"Oh sure," said the man, glancing this way and that. I opened the trunk and the great lumbering mass of fur and limbs hauled itself in and sat down, looking very zen and collected about the whole situation. I took the suitcase and placed it next to the dog.
"All right," I said and got in the driver's seat. "Let's go."

"No, wait," said the man. "I gotta get the cat."

"All right..." I said, and a terrible suspicion began to form in the back of my head.

The man disappeared and came back with a pet carrier. Inside was a tabby cat that didn't look particularly pleased at all. He placed the cat in the back seat. Once more, I climbed into the cab.  

"All right, let's go-"

"No, wait!" the man cried. "I gotta get the bird."

The man disappeared again. The suspicion in the back of my head began to grow into a nagging worry. The man came out, carrying an absolutely gigantic birdcage, more than half the size of him. A three year old child could've sat comfortably in it. Sitting in the cage was a gigantic parrot, who regarded me with silent curiosity. Our nervous tried to push the cage into the back seat, almost upending the whole thing in the process. 

The cage was filthy. Every bar was covered in ratty old feathers and grime; its floor was filled with guano, with little bits of newspaper peeking out between the turds. The worry turned into horror and disgust. I threw myself out of the cab.

"No, wait, not there," I said, biting back a snarled "you idiot". "put it in the shotgun seat seat. It's roomier."

Now... if this had happened today, I would've denied him the moment he brought the cage out. Hell, if this were now, I would've turned on the meter the moment I saw him. But I was a young cabby then, and I had an idea that the fare begins when the car is rolling. I also hadn't yet realized when denial of service is warranted. These days, I know that the fare begins the moment you make contact with the customer. I also know that filthy bird cages filled with shit do not belong in a taxi. 

"And just where do we belong, asshole?"


So we managed to wrestle the bird cage into the car. The parrot was not amused and started angrily screeching some avian complaint about the quality of the service I offered. Filthy old feathers and a few grains of grime fell onto the seat and the floor. With grim resignation, I figured I could wipe it off quickly once the trip was over.

"All right... We off then?" I asked the man, secretly dreading the answer. The man was halfway to the door again. 

"No, I gotta get the guinea pigs."

I looked up to the sky, idly wondering if God was planning on sending another deluge and had mistaken my cab for an ark.

"Of course, sir.." I said and sat down in the seat for the third time. This time I didn't get out again. I did, however, turn on the meter. The man appeared with a plastic travel cage, with three guinea pigs. It kinda looked like a breadbox, with an open top. Its floor was filled with wood shavings, and (as my nostrils made it very clear) guinea pig piss. He stood there, looking confused as to what to do with it. I told him to place it on the floor in front of the shotgun seat.

"OK," I said through gritted teeth, barely containing my annoyance. "Are there any more animals you need to get?"

"I gotta get my mom too."

"Of course, sir. I'm not going anywhere."

The man hurried back inside. I looked at the menagerie that had assembled in my cab and I realized I was trapped. And I wasn't alone. None of the animals were happy about this. The parrot was nervously polishing its feathers and raised its crest whenever it caught my eye. The cat was wailing and the guinea pigs shuffled about in their gross wood shavings. The only passenger who seemed cool with the whole situation was the dog, who looked at me with friendly eyes over the back seat.

I was tempted to unload the car and drive off, but pity (and the risk of a reprimand from my boss) stayed my hand. Plus, where the hell would I put the dog? There wasn't a lamppost I could tie it to. 

"Your owner is an idiot," I told it, and it gave a patient grunt. 

Finally the door opened, and out came our nervous friend and and his mother, a tiny old lady who blinked confusedly at the outside world. They climbed into the back seat.

"All right," I said, turning on my most cheerful voice in order not to upset the old lady. "Let's go!"

Halfway up Oakland Street, the guy said: "So how much is going to cost?"

"Major Street is in Linnaeus, so I'm guessing two hundred at most."

"Oh but I only have 150."

You son of a bitch. You god damn flaky Beastmaster piece of shit. I will take this car, drive it out in the woods and feed your liver to these god damn animals, is exactly what I didn't say. What I did say was this:

"All right... Then I need to inform you that its considered very rude among cabbies to hail us and then tell us you can't afford the trip once we're on the road. I can think of several of my colleagues who would've easily thrown you out for wasting their time-"

"I'm sorry-"

"-however, I will take your 150. But keep that in mind the next time you call a cab, all right?"

"Oh, but I have a debit card!" said his mother cheerfully. "Maybe I can help."

I smiled. Finally! Someone taking some responsibility around here. "OK, so you'll pay for the trip?"

"No, but I can add my money to my son's."

Again, that dark suspicion. "And how much money would that be..?"

"20!" she seemed pleased as punch about this. I smiled and congratulated myself on not driving the cab straight into a building right then and there. 

The trip continued on in silence. Well, mostly silence. The animals were having their say about the situation, and they found it just as annoying as I did. The parrot squawked, the can yowled, the guinea pigs squeaked. Only the dog remained calm, occasionally smiling in the rear-view, as if to say It's all good, bro

Finally we arrived. The proverbial dove had returned with an olive branch and it was time to unload the animals and leave the ark. First the guy opened the trunk to get the suitcase. The dog lumbered out, shook out its fur, and began trotting about idly on Major street. Its owner seemed utterly unconcerned about the fact that his dog was walking around unbound in a residential area. When it came by me, I grabbed its leash and led it to a nearby lamp post and tied it. It waved its tail happily and watched the rest of the idiocy unfold. 

Next came his mother, carrying the cat. She stood by, watching me and her idiot son unloading the rest of the animals. Her idiot son opened the door to the shot gun seat, and lifted the guinea pig cage. Or rather, he lifted the top of it. The floor came loose, spilling wood shavings, guinea piss and confused rodents all over the cab floor. 

"Oh come on!" I cried out, as Doctor Doolittle's idiot brother frantically put the cage back together and collected the guinea pigs (who seemed oddly calm about the whole ordeal. I suspect this wasn't their first rodeo). I stared at the mess he had made.

"I'm sorry!" he said. "I'm so sorry!"

I groaned. "Is there a broom and a dustpan up in that apartment?"

"Yes, yes there is. Do you want me to get it?"

"Please do," I sighed. 

All the while, the mother stood by with the dog and the cat, looking at us happily. "You're so nice." she said. I smiled thinly and ignored her. I decided she was senile, or that idiocy ran in her family. Either way, I decided not to hold her responsible for any of this. I proceeded to get the bird cage out of the cab, all the while the parrot was angrily flapping its wings, squawking and adding more shit to its already impressive collection. Filthy feathers and grime fell onto the seat. I idly wondered what parrot tasted like.

Finally Doofus Doolittle returned, with a small broom and a dustpan. For the first time since I met him, he actually used his brain cells and went straight for the mess he had made. However, I suspect that his brain had just used up its daily allowance of bandwidth, because all he did was to ineffectively push the crap around, managing to get very little onto the dust pan. 

I realized I didn't have time for this. I had been patient. I had accepted each and every bizarre piece of cargo he had brought. I had even, out of the kindness of my heart, accepted that he'd be underpaying me. But this was just too much and I wanted to go.

"All right, stop," I said.

"I'm so sorry, so sorry-"

"Yeah yeah, stop. That's enough, OK? I don't have time for this. This was a ten minute trip that has taken over thirty minutes of my time. I get paid by the fare, so I literally can't afford to stand here while you 'clean' my cab."

"So what happens now?"

"Now you pay me."

His eyes brightened and he reached for his money.

"After that, I'm going to the gas station to vacuum the cab. Going there and doing this will take me about twenty minutes. So that will be almost a full hour of my time that you have wasted. So I'm going to have to ask that you compensate me."

"But I don't have any money."

"That's perfectly all right," I said coldly. "This is how it'll work. I could easily demand 500 for this whole mess and it wouldn't be unjustified. But I'll settle for two hundred, because you've obviously got money troubles and I really don't want to make this shit difficult. We'll exchange numbers and you will give me something of yours as a bond. Something valuable. This can be your ID or anything like that. Once you have money, give me a call and we'll make the exchange and put this behind us."

"What about my mother's debit card?"

"Doesn't she need it?"

"She doesn't know how to use it, and there won't be any money on it until the end of the month."

I felt nothing but contempt for him. Not only had he stiffed out of my fare; he had made a mess of my cab, wasted my time and now he was about to pawn off his mother's debit card.

His mother approached us. "That sounds like a great idea!" 

She gave me her card. I looked at her. "Are you sure?" 

"Yes, of course!"

If I had been less infuriated, I may have refused, and simply left. But I took the card, gave the guy my number, and got the hell out.

Over the next week, I called him up to check in on the situation. He said he had the money, but any time I suggested we meet up and get this shit done with, he said he didn't have the time. One night, his mother called me, angrily saying that I had stolen her card and that she was going to report me to the police because I refused to give it to her son. I told her that I'd been in touch with him several times, and that he had always refused. I would give her her card back, but I'd appreciate it if she spoke to him about it.

The next day, he called me. We met up, made the exchange. He was thanking me and apologizing profusely. I told him politely that I was happy this thing was over and that he was now blacklisted from Taxi M.

The last part was a blatant lie. And lying is wrong. But at the time, it felt so right.