What is it about each of us that attracts a particular kind of evil of
this world like a white shirt is a magnet for spaghetti sauce or red wine?
Perhaps it is a vestige of our childhood from when we used to think that
every corrosive poison was candy. If the bottle was within reach, we
would find it, giving our parents white hair and ulcers prematurely in
their efforts to simply keep us alive. As we grow up, we somehow
shake this tendency to put deadly substances other than cigarettes and
alcohol, of course into our mouths, but somehow one or two tenacious
evils that outright thirst for our blood like mosquitoes seem to hang
I am a magnet for rotten cab drivers. Not that I ever experienced
this evil while growing up; rather, it was an evil-in-waiting. Now
when I travel, I always discover that my $30 fare from the airport really
should have been $15. This is usually accomplished through the
"the freeway is faster" method of driving, where the cab takes
you miles out of your way to save less than thirty seconds driving time.
I rarely know where I am going, but I always have a sneaking suspicion
that somehow we're traveling in large, expensive circles.
I am not prejudiced: I know there are good, decent, admirable cab drivers
out there, especially in New York, where you have to be insane to be able
drive the streets of Manhattan. Evil people tend to know they are
evil, and as a consequence are usually quite sane and act with
premeditation. They know there are easier and safer ways to
profit from being evil than to drive a cab in New York City. I liken
a typical ride to a scene from a science fiction movie, where the ship
maneuvers through an impassible asteroid field. The difference is
that the asteroids are other cabs who don't want to move out of the way
anymore than your cab does. I have found few experiences which can
beat the adrenaline rush of running Broadway at dusk.
Some time ago I finally concluded that I must be the problem. Maybe
I'm tense, and cab drivers can sense my fear like a rabid dog. They
make up extra expenses I've never heard and cannot find on the posted list
of allowable charges. Yet I pay them, uncomfortable with
confrontation. The last driver left the meter running while he dug
up his tools to take my credit card imprint. The quarter that
clicked off while he did this angered me, that he thought I was so stupid
that I wouldn't notice. But I got him back. When I got out of
the car, I said, "Taking that quarter was wrong." My knees
trembled and my lip quivered. "I usually tip much better,"
I told him smugly. He looked at me, trying to pretend that I didn't
know what the hell I was talking about. Flustered, I repeated
myself, "It was wrong," reminiscent of those days when I was six
and the only retort I knew was "No I'm not."
How pathetic. I was the victim, and I was the one who felt like the
bad guy for telling the truth. As the cab drove off, I felt even
stupider because my idea of a bad tip was 10%. The extra miles on
the freeway were worth a few extra dollars too.
I threw my bags onto the bed in my pathetic hotel room which smelled of
cigarettes despite that the fact that the room was supposed to be
non-smoking. I grew angry with myself for my weakness. I have
been through this too many times in my life. I don't know how to
stand up to the bullies of the world never have and whenever I
try, I feel more pathetic than if I hadn't tried. I suspect that I'm
going about it all wrong, that if I had something like class or panache I
could be indifferent to evil. But I don't want to be indifferent to
evil. I'd rather feel the sorrow in knowing that there is someone
willing to cheat me out of a quarter.
I suppose evil cabbies have a place in the world. Of course that
purpose is closely linked to an unerring ability to seek me out.
It's a sobering thought, but so long as I travel, I will have to face cab
drivers. (I used to take shuttles, but they are even worse!)
Perhaps I just need to steel myself for each encounter and try to scrape
through with as much of my self-dignity as I can.
It's been said that whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.
If the universe really does revolve around me, as I suspect it does, then
evil cab drivers exist to make me a better person.
How extraordinary. I wonder if they know.