Sunday, October 23, 2011

A very strange taxi ride

I don't take taxis a lot. Partly because I'm cheap, partly because I don't often need to go very far, and partly because a lot of them are jerks.

Last night, I had occasion to take one, and it was a rather surreal experience.

As I got in and told him the landmark nearest where I wanted to go (not very far, actually), his reaction reflected a quantum superposition of knowing and not knowing where this was. I'd quote him, but I was a bit distracted from hearing his exact response because I was having difficulty buckling my seatbelt.

I told him I'd be paying cash, but I wanted a receipt. He replied, "we don't take cash... ... ... only jewellery." I didn't know what the hell that meant either. I mean, I could tell the jewellery part was a joke, but the pause was too long for me to tell whether the whole thing was a joke, or just the part about the jewellery. I put away my cash and readied my credit card to be on the safe side.

Throughout this peculiar exchange, an annoying beeping was coming from the dashboard. I leaned forward and saw over the driver's shoulder what looked like the "fasten safety belt" indicator flashing in time with the warning. I looked over next to the driver's seat, and the seatbelt was snugly holstered. He was probably keeping it in its original packaging so he could later trade it to a collector, still in mint condition, for some jewellery. After getting more frequent and annoying, the beeping eventually stopped and the light just flashed silently for the rest of the otherwise brief ride.

This was good, I thought: This guy must drive so safely that he knows he doesn't need his seatbelt. My faith in this hypothesis waned, however, as he crept the nose of the car past both lines of the crosswalk while the crossing traffic still had a green light. At least *I* was buckled up. I ignored the traffic signals and just looked both ways as we crossed for indications I should brace myself for a collision.

Finally, we got to our destination (double-parked, of course), and I handed the driver my credit card. He stared at me. He looked down at the credit card machine in the front seat. "I'm sorry. Were you kidding about the cash thing earlier?" I asked. He explained, vaguely, that the credit card machines were new and he wasn't yet very familiar with their operation.

I put my credit card away and pulled out a US $20 bill that I'd been trying to get rid of since I returned from a trip a few months ago. "Is US cash alright?" I asked. "It's not alright, but I'll take it" he said, again, cryptically. Go ahead and quit your taxi job, guy, but please don't think you'll make it a comedian.

As I unloaded my bags onto the sidewalk (made more awkward by the line of parked cars separating the sidewalk from the car door), the driver prepared a receipt for me. By the amount of time it took him, I figured he was trying to get the machine to prepare it for me, but it turns out he was just taking an unusually long time writing a couple of numbers onto a small card.

After taking my chances riding in a taxi, I was relieved to be at my destination, in one piece. I hope his other passengers will be able to enjoy that relief, too.

- RG>


Anonymous said...

Agree, hate taxi, mandetory small talk, sticky 'fresh pine tree' scent. I prefer to take even the bus from the airport and the via rail stations home.

RealGrouchy said...

Note: edited for some silly typos and to improve a couple of bits.

- RG>