Monday, June 9, 2008

Cabbing it

Summertime! Finally here. I celebrated by spending the weekend out and about, on the sidewalks, in the malls, always on the move. My feet still ache from all the roaming.

I feel happy to be alive, not only in a generalized, existential sense, but in a specific, Thank-God-That-Was-A-Close-Call sense.

On Friday morning, I took a taxi to a work-related conference. At 8:00 am sharp I called the cab. By 8:07 it was at my door, its windows down to let the warm morning air flow in.

The cabbie motioned me to sit up front with him. It's a better view, he said. I thought, sure! Why not? The backseat has no particular appeal. I got in.

So, where are we going? asks the cabbie. I tell him the name of the hotel. He's not familiar with it. This is not encouraging. Fortunately, I wrote down all the directions. We go over them once together before pulling away from the curb. He drives around to the exit from the condo complex, and as he's pulling out into traffic he asks me again - right or left now?

Not encouraging.

We get out into traffic. The hot sun is blazing through the windshield even at this time of the morning. I do a Houdini-style escape from my cardigan, wiggling out of it without taking off my seatbelt. Things are moving slowly along the main street. I don't pay much attention at first, but as we proceed I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. He's driving right up the tailpipe of the car in front of us in stop-and-go traffic. It's not going to get us there any faster, but it might land us in a fender-bender.

The cabbie looks over at me and sees my face, which is completely transparent at all times, no matter how well I think I'm hiding my feelings. Don't worry! he tells me. You're in good hands! I get you there safe!

Sure. I'll believe that when the end of the day comes and I'm not wearing a neck brace.

Then he slams on the brakes and we lurch to a stop one inch from the side of a pool maintenance van that's turning left in front of us. Next turn-off: the highway.

Now we're on the 401. Traffic is heavy, and everyone's driving fast. I think back to the definition of a "safe following distance" as recommended by Young Drivers' of Canada. I can't remember it exactly, but I'm sure my cabbie isn't abiding by it. Nor the guidelines for safe lane changes. I'm thinking he must come from one of those countries where everyone drives like a maniac and it's considered normal. I feel a panic attack coming on. I begin to pray under my breath, and feel marginally better.

The sun is glaring right into my face. I pull down the eyeshade and two dozen crumpled paper napkins fall into my lap. I flick them off as the car weaves from lane to lane.

Finally we reach our exit. In the last few blocks before the hotel, the cabbie tries to jolly me up for a good tip by making friendly conversation. You don't drive? he asks me. Why not? It's good to drive. I teach you. I give you my number. I can teach you good.

Um. No thanks. Next time I think I'll get up an hour early and take the bus.


Warped Mind of Ron said...

OMG!! I would be so crazed! First and foremost you are paying for them to take you somewhere which means that they should know how to get there without you giving directions. Secondly and more important they should be safe and not scare you. A scared client will not tip well!! Glad you are safe and sound.

Aurora said...

What a dumb cab driver in so many senses of the word. I'm glad you are safe and sound.

Karen said...

For some crazy reason I love taking taxis. I love making stupid conversation with the drivers. But I have not run into a wacko like this one. LOL.

Anonymous said...

In his old country he probably ran the nuclear reactor...

Nilsa S. said...

I honestly hate that so many cabbies make such a bad name for the few good ones. Seriously?!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely hate DC cab drivers. I had a bad experience with one and now I refuse to take cabs! I walk, bus, drive, metro, anything not to get into a cab.

What a nut job! Did you give him a tip? Here's a tip, learn how to drive.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Also it's a well-known principle of good business that a dead customer will not be a repeat customer!

Aurora: Thanks. :-) Except for an elevated heart rate and tense shoulders, I suffered no physical injuries.

Karen: I've had wildly varying experiences with taxi drivers. Some went far beyond the call of duty to help me out, and some were freaky and tried to rip me off. It's always a crapshoot. I do enjoy chatting with the friendly ones.

Unsigned: You mean like Homer Simpson?

Nilsa: Yeah, it's a hard job and I have a lot of respect for the drivers who do it well. Navigating bad traffic all day every day must be horribly stressful for them.

GirlInterrupted: Considering that he knows where I live, I gave him a fair tip. It was worth the $5 to have peace of mind. :-p

jameil1922 said...

i do not like when people endanger my life. even worse when i'm paying them to do so!!!!

Tink said...

Taxi cabs should come with huge inflated bumpers all the way around the vehicle.

nancypearlwannabe said...

"I can teach you good" just creeped me out. I don't know about there, but the cab drivers in Boston are insanely bad at their job. Not one of them should even be allowed to have a license, let alone to cart other people around for a living.

Sparkling Red said...

Jameil: If I'm going to endanger my life, I'd like it to be something that gives me good bragging rights, like rock climbing or parachuting out of an airplane. No one's impressed by a taxi ride.

Tink: That's an excellent idea. I agree wholeheartedly.

NancyPearlWannaBe: I think Toronto cab drivers get a "special" license. I don't know for sure, but it seems to me that the "special" aspect refers to much lower standards of driving skill than a regular license.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking he must come from one of those countries where everyone drives like a maniac and it's considered normal.

Oh, you mean Woodbridge.

Sparkling Red said...

whatigotsofar: Uh, yeah, that's what I meant. Exotic, steamy, known for its involvement in espionage and other international intrigues... Woodbridge.

Jenski said...

What a way to wake up in the morning on the way to a conference. I'm glad you made it incident-free!