Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Continued from Last Week: Schizophrenics in the Taxi & This Week: Thirty-two Dollar Tip & I Made a Mistake

Schizophrenia in the taxi, meaning extremely mentally ill passengers are, from my experience , the most unpredictable passengers.  The rookie driver will create demons from the most ordinary of folks, basing their judgement upon discriminatory generalizations or cultural mythologies, while completely ignoring the "concealed personality" perfectly capable of literally stabbing you in the back  The extremely mentally ill individual begins with intangental justifications frightening in their internal (and confused) structure and foundation. Call it a contorted rhetoric that for them represents reality, a twisted dialogue relaying incredibly outlandish and (at times) very dangerous permissions.  I met one such person last week and was just glad to get her to her destination.  I had her as a passenger a few months back and didn't quite make it to where she was going, having jumped out of the taxi because she felt that she lacked the kind of unquestioned control that she demands.  This particular individual doesn't take a taxi, instead commandeering the cab.  Her attitude is unique because it is like being kidnapped, you the driver having no real say whatsoever in the route or in the operation of the car.  You have been hijacked and don't you dare deviate from anything I might order.  Why, if you disobey me, I might have to kill you.  To say that this kind of message is disconcerting is a gross understatement, making it difficult to concentrate upon the roadway.

The situation I am referencing couldn't be more commonplace, picking up a shopper at a local grocery store.  Realizing that I had an instant loon in the taxi I ignored her implicit instructions as they made no sense and besides the signal was green and I wanted this fare to be over before it began.  One very annoying attribute of the severely disturbed passenger is the requirement to be totally in control.  Schizophrenia ( and other such similar illnesses) appear in part to be based on an extreme and exaggerated fear, a terror that is all consuming.  The trick in such an intimate setting as the interior of a taxicab is not to let that fear overwhelm the situation, prompting some melodramatic response resulting in a physical attack upon the driver.  The prime imperative should always be to get the passenger, no matter how crazy, from point A to B in a safe and efficient manner.

After I turned left on to 14th I made every attempt to keep the atmosphere reasonable and get this person home.  Nearing the intersection of Boren & Jefferson I turned off the meter, saying to call it five dollars.  It is always best to make it simple, facilitating the passenger rapidly out of the taxi.

Opening the rear passenger door she turned to me and said something to the affect that being a woman, it was important that a man respect what he is being told.  While speaking this her mouth was so physically twisted and contorted that this could have been something out of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  Of course Hitchcock would have armed her with a hideous-looking knife. I responded that she would not be saying this to an airline pilot.  She responded that this was different.  Different all right in that the pilot is protected behind a locked door and the taxi driver has to negotiate with lunacy, the cabbie exposed and vulnerable.  This just past weekend a Yellow driver was attacked in West Seattle by a young man armed with a stun gun.  Yes, it is more than imperative that the driver holds the ability to make instantaneous assessments.  Your life depends on it.

This lady makes only the third individual I have had in 24 years fitting the just described category.  Earlier this winter I had a well-dressed young gentleman, possibly from China, who kept requesting receipts delivered in a particular manner, turning the simple into something ritualistic. After I hit the automatic door lock switch, essentially ending the deranged ceremony, he began screaming out loud and kicking the cab.  Thankfully 478 got me quickly out of harms way as the gentleman in question attempted to mimic a  gazelle.  He was an airline pilot, then he was this, then he was that.  Initially I thought it was just alcohol.  Unfortunately for him it was something far more serious.

Now for the Past Weekend

I can honestly say that if it hadn't been for an irritated Seattle police officer I would not have gotten this  particular $32.00 tip, coming on top of a $28.00 fare, all adding up to a $60.00 hour.  They also wanted me to take them to the airport in the morning but I declined, knowing that I would be asleep.

I was heading north-bound down First Avenue South near South Atlantic as scores of folks were heading to the Seahawks exhibition game with the Minnesota Vikings.  One older gentleman decided he wanted a taxi and stupidly stepped directly in the path of an oncoming car as I was stopped one lane over.  This did not impress the officer directing traffic and told the fool to get back upon the sidewalk.  He still wanted a taxi and all I had to do was turn right and he could have safely entered the taxi.  But no, the cop was mad (which I don't truly blame him) and I proceeded forward and saw to my left and forward some young ladies jumping up and down to get my attention, which they accomplished.

Turned out these four young Mid-Westerners had just completed some kind of benefit marathon and had numerous large articles like giant boxes and suitcases to be taken to the Federal Express office up on Capital Hill.  I loaded 478 while they flagged another taxi and all of us went up to the office.  I helped unload the various heavy items and sat with the meter running while they finished their business.  I then took the friendly quartet downtown and hence the big tip.  Thanks Officer Not So Friendly!

My last example shows that I can make a mistake.  I honestly attempt to do my best with every passenger but sometimes I goof up.  This was one of those occasions.

I was called in to Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum to pick up a passenger.  She didn't appear to be there but  another woman walked up wanting to go somewhere in the Eastlake neighborhood, which is just west of the park.  It all started badly because she was new to Seattle and didn't know precisely where she was going.  I said fine, don't worry, I know where everything is.  She then said she was going somewhere near Fairview Park which in my tired state could have been one of two in that general area.  When I said I wasn't sure which park she was referring to she made the mistake of laughing at me, saying hadn't I just said that I knew where everything was.  Given that my response wasn't completely friendly in return to her unnecessary taunting I told her that if she wished  she could exit the cab.  She then said something to the affect that she didn't deserve this kind of "battery."  I realized later if I had just turned right and left out of the park on to 15th East I would have had the damsel to her destination in about 6-8 minutes.  Instead I now had a sullen, angry passenger making  every inch forward a misery.

I attempted to lighten the situation but she wasn't having any of that.  This is when I told her that she had to leave and I would again attempt to find the passenger I was originally called in for, which I did attempt to do.  Thankfully I had a legitimate excuse.  She called me some version of moron and got out.

I parked 478 and went inside the museum just as it was closing.  Still no person answering to the name of Sandy though luckily someone else wanted to go back to the Olympic Hotel.  As I drove the person downtown I understood that a moment of fatigue prevented me from making the best tactical decisions.  I felt upset.  I didn't blame the passenger.  It was and always be my responsibility to know exactly what I am doing at all times.  In the taxi, failure to do so often results in the entire situation instantly falling apart.  I know this and truly don't need to be reminded.  I will never say taxi is a simple emdeavor.  It isn't and never will be.  Not much else I can say.

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