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!

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.

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.

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.

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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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:


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)


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.

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.


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.


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. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Vaguely Important People

"So how do I go about getting a VIP-card with you guys?"
"That depends. Do you consider yourself very important?"

( Here's My Stop has a facebook page now! Join it here and tell your friends all about it!)

( There's a story underneath this wall of text. Jump to it, if you want to get straight to the action. )

I've mentioned before that I'm a firm believer in the equality between buyer and seller. Especially in a cab. After all, without your money I can't pay my bills and without my driving, you can't get home. We both have something that the other wants. Let's make a deal where we both go home happy.

Of course, not everyone shares this view. Anyone reading this who has ever worked in any part of the service industry knows this intimately well. Some people believe that the customer is a cut above the seller. And in a way, that's true. It is in the seller's interest to satisfy his customer, because they can take their business elsewhere. When it comes to the terms of that mutually beneficial deal, the customer does have a slight edge. That being said, some people feel that this slight edge entitles them. After all, the customer is always right, yes?

The company I work for services two kinds of customers. First and foremost, there's the mob. The peasants. The random strangers who call for a cab, or hail it on the street, travel to their destination, and pay. The other group are our VIP-customers.

I personally find the whole idea of VIP to be idiotic. Not, mind you, that you give certain customers special treatment. After all, not all customers are created equal when it comes to business and benefit, and so it might behoove a company to give a certain subset of them special treatment. The trouble I have with it is the phrasing. VIP. Very Important Person.

You all know my views of humanity; that I fundamentally (and mostly compassionately) view us as a bunch of frightened apes clinging to a messy pebble floating out in the cold vast nothingness of space. In the grand scheme of things, we mean absolutely nothing. So from that perspective, the very idea some of these terrified lonely chimps lost in the abyss would be more important than others is just ridiculous.

The VIP-system at Taxi M came about as a result of deals made between the company and various others, chiefly restaurants and bars. By giving their personnel VIP-status, we are guaranteed that when said customers need to get home after a long shift at work, the restaurants will call us.

As a VIP-customer at Taxi M, you get the following benefits:
1. A special phone number which allows you to skip ahead the other people waiting in line for dispatch to take your call (thus increasing your chances of getting a cab, theoretically at least)
2. No matter what time of day it is, or what time of year, you'll always ride on the cheapest tariff.

In return, you only have three obligations:
1. Provide us with consistent repeat business (less of an obligation and more of a decent thing to do)
2. Display your VIP card in the cab in order to reap the benefits of it.
3. Treat the driver with a certain amount of respect - after all, we know where you live.

Simple, right? Mutual benefit. But here's the nasty truth: Most of us don't really like driving VIP-customers. We make less money off of them, and many of them only take trips from one block to another, meaning that we (at least those of us on the night shift) make peanuts off of them. We have a professional expectation to drive them, and we have an economic incentive not to. Guess which one wins out when we're given a choice?

That being said, most VIPeople are like any other fare: pleasant enough. But then there are that small subset of people...

Gavrilo Princip: anarchist, assassin, 
and friend of cabbies everywhere.

The entitled assholes who think that the world was made for their benefit, only this is one step worse because now they have a card that actually confirms what they so desperately want other people to believe: that they are very important indeed.

A common problem I have with the VIPeople is when I ask them to show me their card. If they fail to produce it, I'm supposed to drive them on a regular tariff, rather than the cheapest one. The reason for this is simple:
1. Its part of the fucking deal.
2. It happens that some people give their friends the VIP phone number (or some enterprising people find out about it) in order to give them cheap cab rides. Displaying the card shows that you're a customer in good standing with us, and not some impostor. If you are the latter, that means you're a regular customer and are expected to pay the regular price.

Sounds simple, no?

Well some people don't think it is. Some people take umbrage when I ask them to display their card.
"But I've been a customer at Taxi M for fifteen years!"

And I've been driving full time for four years, and part time for three. That's a full ten years I've not driven your ass. You're not that fucking memorable, buddy!

Most people take it in stride. Others get a little huffy, but accept it. Especially after I politely tell them that if they're displeased, they should call HQ and ask them about it, and that I'm only doing what my boss told me to do.

For some people, that's not good enough. I usually kick them out and ask my boss to remove their VIP-status. That's usually the end of the story. But one man, one glorious man, with a level of self-righteous stubbornness that matches my own decided to buck the trend.

Let me tell you about him.
Story: Viciously Impotent Pighead

This tale is one I've waited  a year to tell. Every midsummer's eve, I bust my ass to make as much money as I can. The goal is 6000 sek, which amounts to double pay. And last year, I was on a roll. I had reached the quota and then some, and I was ready to turn in. Then came the call from dispatch:

"VIP fare from Hill Bay within twenty minutes..."

Within a microsecond, the mike was in my hand and I called out: "Car 3 in 17."
"Car 3, 17"
"Acknowledged, Car 3."

Hill Bay is half an hour outside of town center, so even if it was a VIP fare, I'd still be making a nice sum. I headed off. Spurred on by my own greed, I set off. Seventeen minutes later, I arrived. The sun was rising, and I took a moment to enjoy the view as my customer arrived. He was a big fellow; red from sunburn and booze, with a great big bushy beard. He kinda looked like Santa Claus somewhat less successful cousin.

"3456 Jack?" he asked, looking at me through bleary eyes.

I really, really hate it when they introduce themselves with their VIP number and name. A simple "hello" will get you a lot more with me. I nodded to him and he said he was going to get his wife and two friends. "We'll be dropping them off in Highhome, and then we're going to Linnaeus."


After a while, his wife and friends arrived. He got into the cab and I turned on the meter. I turned it to the cheapest tariff .

"May I see your VIP card, sir?"

"What? Why?" he was clearly surprised and a little put out.

"Standard procedure, sir."

"Can't you see I'm VIP on your screen."

"Of course, but I need to see the card in order to confirm it."

He sighed heavily and rolled his eyes.
"Fine!" he showed me his card and I nodded.

"Thank you sir."

Off we went. In the back seat, his wife and friends were chatting amiably about how lovely the evening had been. I asked Mr Claus about his night and if he'd had a nice Midsummer.

"Sure... But I don't get it. Why did I have to show the card? I never show the card."

"As I said sir, standard procedure."

"But I never have to show my card to other drivers."

"Most likely those drivers know you, or they don't care. I'm just doing my job, sir."

"It's still really weird," it was clear by his tone that by 'weird' he meant 'insulting to my ego'. I sighed. I was in no mood. So I said: "Sir, I'm just following the instructions my boss has given me. This is how I do my job. I'm sorry if you feel I've insulted you. If you want, I can ask if one of my colleagues can take you, if you'd rather not ride in this cab."

"No no, don't be silly. Of course I'll ride with you."

"Good," I said, confident that the conversation was over and we could get on with more pleasant topics.

Of course, Cousin Claus didn't agree.

"I still think it's weird. I've been a loyal customer for thirteen years, but you must be new. After all, I am VIP-"

At this point, I had been working for twelve hours. Twelve solid hours, wearing a big happy smile every inch of the way. I'd been playing the part of the happy servant all night, and it had borne fruit. In a flash, I realized that I had no reason, economic or otherwise, to treat this guy as anything less than he was. So I slammed on the breaks and turned on him.

"Who the fuck do you think you are?"

"What??" he stared at me like a deer in the headlight.

"You signed a deal with Taxi M. When you received your card, you also received a letter. In it, it says what the terms of the deal are. You know damn well what you're expected to do, and you step into my car and act like a spoiled little brat because I'm doing my fucking job? Get the fuck out of my cab, you entitled piece of shit."

"Is this any way to talk to VIP-customers?"

"You are one out of ten thousand. That goddamn card is more important than you."

His wife and friends now began hurling abuse over me. I don't blame them even slightly. They hadn't heard the exchange between us. For all they knew, I had flipped my lid out of nowhere. They called me things like "psycho" and "asshole", and again, I don't blame them.

"Fuck you," they said. "Come on, Jack, let's call a real cab company."

They stepped out. But Jack Claus was in no mood.

"No," he said and turned to me. "You're going to get on that radio, and get me another car."

"That's not going to happen, now get the hell out."

"Jack!" said his wife. "A car from Taxi G is on its way. Get out and let this idiot go away."

"No," he said, looking at me. "I'm staying until he gets me another cab. Until that happens, he's not making another cent."

I laughed. I laughed and laughed. "Buddy, I've made double salary this evening. I can afford to sit here literally all day."

This entry is long enough, so I won't give you the word for word conversation we had. Besides, this was a year ago. But he called dispatch and explained to them was a complete asshole I was. Dispatch called me and asked about the situation and I explained it to them and that he refused to leave the car. They took my side and called the police.

So. One of the girls in dispatch kept talking to him, telling him that they were looking for another car, while the other was assuring me that they wouldn't give him anything and that the cops were coming.

The cab from Taxi G arrived. I looked at him.

"Sir, how about you leave the cab? The cops are on their way and they will remove you. Stop wasting my time, stop wasting your wife's time and stop wasting the cops' time and just leave, hm?"

"No. Now it's a matter of fucking principle."

"Your loss, man. Let's just wait here."

His wife appeared by the door. "Come on Jack, let's go."

"No, I'm not leaving until he gets me another cab."

She got angry with him. "Fine, do that. But give me the keys."

He stared at her. "I thought you had them?"

So she had to take the Taxi G cab back to the party to pick up their keys. I heard her swearing all the way to the door.

"I suppose its just you and me, now," I said.
"Yeah?" he sneered. "But I know someone's going to be driving this car during the day shift. You sure you can keep him waiting?"

"If I tell him some stubborn asshole refused to leave the car, I'm sure he'll understand. You're not the first to ride with us, and you won't be the last."

"You're sick."

"And you're an idiot. Seems we're going to get along just fine."

It took the police almost an hour to get out there. It was a very long, very awkward hour. At one point he made jokes about my sex life, which amounted to explaining to me that there was no chance in hell I'd ever get laid. I pointed out that last night's activities suggested otherwise.

"I bet she was a fat fucking whale."

I looked at him. He was rather spherical and his wife had a similar shape. I decided not to point that out.

By the time the cops had arrived, I had cleaned the cab twice, and he had made damn near twenty calls to dispatch, angrily demanding another cab. Two stubborn idiots can only maintain steam for so long, however. A weirdly tense truce formed between us. By the end, I even offered him gum which he politely declined.

Finally the cops arrived, and I stepped out and met them. I asked them to kindly move him a foot or two away from my car, so I could leave, and to take him home to his waiting wife. They asked him to step out, and he began angrily telling them that I refused to drive them, to which they replied that unless he had paid in advance, I was under no obligation to him whatsoever.

I closed the doors and turned on the engine. I wrote down my ID number and gave it to him.

"Sir, call HQ tomorrow. Tell them it was Crabby Cabby who was really really mean to you. If you ask them nicely, I'm sure they'll fire me without a moment's hesitation."

Then I drove off, screaming with laughter all the way back to town.

He never did call HQ.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The sheriff round these here parts.

"Just run the red light. We're cool with you going straight through."
"You might be, but the cops might not."
"We are cops. And you have our permission."
"Nice try, officers. But you're not getting me this time."

Before I got into this business, I had made an emergency call only once. As a cabbie, I've found that calling emergency services is not only an option, it is a necessity. Whether it be a customer that threatens you or somebody who needs help, it is a good thing to know that there's a whole slew of people getting paid to take care of that shit. So far, I've called the cops around seven or ten times. Sometimes because of awful people in my cab, sometimes in order to help people outside my cab. And every time, they've done their job. 

Now, before I launch into tonight's discussion, I want to make a few things clear.

The police are citizens whom society has given the right to commit violent acts upon their fellow citizens, provided it is in the name of upholding the code of conduct that allows thousands (even millions!) of strangers to co-exist peacefully in a limited area. In a perfect society, they wouldn't be necessary, because people wouldn't be assholes to one another. I do not believe the police are by definition heroes, nor do I believe them to be the extended arm of an oppressive system. They are, first and foremost, people tasked with a job that is difficult as hell, both practically and morally. People who raise them to the heavens as paragons of humanity are just as deluded as those who dismiss them as mere oppressors. For choosing their profession, they deserve our respect. But this is also a democratic society: power comes from the consent of the governed. Thus, my attitude toward cops is that they are to be treated with respect, but they must also be kept on a tight leash.

The job of the police is to uphold the law. But the law is not absolute. Most of the most horrible things ever done in the world were (and are!) perfectly legal. So while cops are necessary, do not for  a moment think that their uniform by definition makes them right. They are human, prone to the same faults and virtues. But if we want to live in a civilized society, we need them. And if we want to live in a just society, we must scrutinize them.

I'm telling you this, because tonight I want to talk about how the cops impact my work. Cabbies and cops have a rather, shall we say, complicated relationship. On the one hand, they are on hand to help us out when we inevitably suffer our various work hazards. On the other hand, they're also there to pull us over and slap us around whenever we interpret the traffic laws a little too liberally. And we do, frequently and often (as anyone who's ever seen cabbies in action in pretty much any country can attest).

As shown in this excellent documentary.

Cops will stop us for all kinds of reasons. They will check if we've been drinking, if we've filled out the proper paper work, if we've been driving people off the meter... We are a shady bunch of people, and as I've said before, many of us are cheats and swindlers. The cops have every reason to keep an eye on us. In particular because of the way most of us relate to the laws that govern traffic. Or rather, how we don't relate to it at all.

All right. So why do cabbies have their own interpretation of traffic laws? Well, it comes down to how the work is structured.

I've spoken of the challenges of working on commission. A cabbie can only have a rough idea of how much he'll be getting by the end of the month; he can set some goals, sure. He can stick it out an hour or two extra for that extra handful of gold, but in the end we can never be sure of how much we'll be paid at any given time. All we can be sure of is this: the more fares per hour, the more money we get. So it is in our interest to cram as many fares as possible in any given hour. This doesn't mean we actually do, but the incentive is there. And in the way of that incentive are traffic laws. 

Now, let me make this perfectly clear: I do not advocate breaking traffic laws. Cars are big, hard and irresistible. Human bodies are small, squishy and very, very fragile. Those laws are there to maximize the survival and well-being of everyone who partakes in traffic. That being said, if breaking the traffic laws were a sin in the eyes of God, nobody with a driver's license would ever be able to cast the first stone. We've all driven a little too fast, accidentally run a red light, made a wrong turn, gotten distracted, rubbernecked, etc etc. We're chimps who every day reach velocities our bodies never evolved to truly deal with. Frankly, its a miracle Henry Ford didn't kill us all.

We're all sinners, and cabbies more than most. The job often demands it. I myself have had several brushes with the law, and I always feel anxious whenever I see a police cruiser driving toward or near me. It's kinda like swimming with sharks. Provided you don't look too tasty, and they're not hungry, you're probably fine. Probably.

Some of my colleagues have nothing but contempt for the cops. If they get hit with a speeding ticket, they will pull every trick in the book to get out of trouble. They've also given me several earfuls about "the fucking pigs" and "fascists" and "fucking assholes who need to push people around in order to get it up". This is, in my view, fucking stupid.

While there certainly are cops (far more than there should be) who are bullies, I can't help but roll my eyes at people who break the rules then whine about getting caught. At the risk of sounding flippant, 'thems the rules'. If you choose to break the rules and it doesn't hurt anyone, more power to you. The law is not absolute, and I am a firm believer in following the spirit of the law rather than the letter. However, if you do break the rules knowingly, you know the consequences if you're caught. To whine about it is ridiculous.

I have fought the law, and the law has usually been a good sport about winning. At these times, I've come to identify three types of cops.

1. The Buddy: This is usually an older member of the force. He's been around, seen his share of crimes and usually doesn't care unless you've done something serious. Will likely joke about whatever it is you did and let you off with a friendly warning. While I've never complained about this kind of treatment, I'd say that

2. The Power tripper: More often than not a young man. He is no mere cop; he is the law personified. His job is not only to catch you in the act, but to make you feel bad about it. He gets off on power and feeds on the delicious tears of his traumatized prey.

 I remember a meeting with one of them in Thor's Landing This was, for once an honest mistake. I was careful to keep the cab at 80 km/h, so that the blue and white car behind me wouldn't have a reason to start flashing those blue lights at me. As it turned out, it was a 70-road. Now, this isn't a major thing. It is very, very rare to get fined for going 10 over the limit. However, the lights started flashing and I pulled over. Within minutes, this young fellow in blue, with a gun on his hip, a full beard and a man-bun was yelling at me, questioning my sanity and calling me an idiot for daring to commit such a dastardly deed. When I pointed out that I acted in good faith, particularly because I didn't want to give him a reason to pull me over, he once again called me an idiot and lectured me on the stupidity of breaking traffic laws as a cabbie.

"Keep this up, and you'll lose your license, and your income. Do you want that?"
"Are you going to fine me?"
"No, I'm not. Get your shit together and use your head." 

Officer Hipster then stormed off to his car, and took off with screeching tires. Funny. In the time he spent humiliating a cabbie for driving what amounts to jogging speed over the limit on the highway, he could've arrested ten, or fifteen people who at that very moment were speeding three or four times more over the limit in the inner city. But I suppose that if you're going to be a successful hypocrite, you got to prioritize.

3. The Professional: This is my kind of cop. Brisk, harsh, no nonsense. They're not there to give you a bad time, nor are they there to pat you on the back. They are there to do their job, which is to uphold the law. They deliver slaps on the wrist and shoot you with the same, cool, detached demeanor. They don't make it personal: they give you what they're supposed to give you. The cop that took my license away early in my cabbing career (I was a complete idiot then. These days, I've managed to upgrade to being a partial one) was one of these. He made it clear what I'd done wrong, and that he would've simply levied a hefty fine if I'd only been doing a little slower. As it was, he had to take my license away. It was a bitter pill, and I was without income for three months, but not for one moment did I feel as if I'd been mistreated, or given anything less than I deserved. He made me pay for breaking the law. No more, no less. This I respect. So I handed the license over to him and shook his hand. Since then, you better believe I've learned my lesson.
I find that most of the male cops I've encountered fall within the first two categories. Interestingly enough, every single female cop I've encountered falls into the third. For this reason, I heartily endorse more women on the force. I don't know what factors into it, but for some reason they seem to get that they have an official role to play, as an extension of society. They are not there to lord over you. They are there to do a job, and they do it excellently. They are the ones who are keeping society safe.


So what's the point of all this, you might ask.

I'm sure several of you are already sighing and wondering what kind of idiot I am. Again, I'm not trying to justify breaking rules or laws. The only time it can be justified, is when doing so prevents a greater wrong from being done. 90% of the time, I'm the very model of traffic safety. The other 10%, it is purely for my own (or my fare's) benefit. And even then, I mainly stretch the rules, rather than break them, and only if I can get away with it, and I'm guaranteed not to hurt or bother anyone. This severely limits my opportunity for criminal behaviour, though it does in no way justify it.

This entry was written, not as a justification, but merely an honest description. To summarize, my (and my peers') relationship to law enforcement is complicated. On the one hand, I use their services frequently to keep me and my fellows safe. On the other, they hold the power to make my evening miserable and make me effectively unemployed. The nature of my job (and my species) provides incentive to occasional take risks that sometimes are necessary (but often are not).

In a weird way, I view the whole thing as a game. And I am nothing, if not gracious in defeat.