“I don’t trust them,” he told me. “You know, the guys that drive around in the ice cream trucks, selling ice cream to kids. What’s their motivation? The ice cream man should have to get a license to be around children. Wouldn’t it make more sense if the ice cream person was a kind, motherly old lady? Why is it always some guy with sunglasses and a goatee and an earring? That makes me nervous, man.”
I don’t fear the ice cream man, but there are some jobs that I guess I’d look wearily upon. Shady jobs. I don’t think I would trust someone who was a bouncer at a nightclub or who sold cars. And what about those people with the signs that say, “Will work for food”? I would need to see their work experience and a list of references. You’re not gonna dupe this guy out of a cheese sandwich and some Cool Ranch Doritos with shoddy workmanship.
Taxi drivers would have to fall into this category as well. I’m not saying they’re bad people, just that I’m quick to get on the defense when dealing with them. I’ve been ripped off in too many cabs (I overpaid one cabbie in Manila so much money he’s been able to send two kids to college). I’ve also seen the movies and shows: Taxi Driver, Taxi Cab Confessions and, worst of all, the TV series Taxi (that Devito guy freaks me out!). From these pieces of entertainment, I’ve ascertained that taxi drivers (or dispatchers) are unhinged, creepy, and sometimes resemble little bald Italian gnomes.
My outlook hasn’t gotten any sunnier after a bad incident with a cab driver about a week ago. I was on vacation, and my girlfriend and I had to get a cab at 4:30 in the morning one day. We quickly found one, agreed on a price (rip off!) and were off. About ten minutes into the ride, I noticed our cab swaying into the lane of oncoming traffic.
“Hmm,” I thought, “I guess he’s inattentive because the roads are empty.” I sat up and looked more closely at him. The cabbie was an older guy, probably in his late forties. He shifted around in his seat, wiped his face with his hand, and kept leaning forward as though he was going to rest his chin on the steering wheel. “I think this guy’s falling asleep,” I said to myself, the car wavering side to side like it was being driven by Bluto from Animal House.
To properly gauge the appropriate level of anxiety I should be having, I checked to see if my girlfriend was worried. Nope. She was sitting there calm and relaxed. This didn’t comfort me much. Since I couldn’t talk to the cabbie, I started talking to her, loudly, thinking that maybe the sound of my booming voice would help him stay awake.
“Yeah,” I said, struggling to make conversation, “how about those bananas we had for breakfast!?!”
It wasn’t working. The cabbie was still shifting around and drifting all over the place. I thought about how dumb I’d feel if he crashed and killed us. It was turning into a “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” situation; I felt like Will Shatner watching the guy in the monster suit rip up the airplane’s wing. It’s a tough spot to be in. You don’t want to sit there and say nothing, and on the other hand, you don’t want to freak out and seem crazy. At what point, I wondered, would it be necessary to start screaming and leap from the moving vehicle.
She did, and he sort of chuckled. “He says this is just the way he drives,” she translated for me.
It’s just the way he drives? I didn’t trust him. Thankfully our destination soon appeared, out of nowhere, like a miracle sent from a merciful God. I paid the cabbie and got the heck out of the car. It occurred to me that I hadn’t only sat there idly, for the most part, while the guy almost killed me, but I then paid him for it.
“Well,” I thought, “people pay for bungee jumping. It’s sort of the same, only this was less safe.”
What a thrill seeker I am. I nodded to myself, appreciative of my own courage, while in the background the cab drove off, presumably weaving all over the place and running over small animals and children as it disappeared into the distance.