Issue 9

Evil Taxis


                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 around.

                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.


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