Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Taxi Passenger Prototypes: Drunks & Bullies

As anyone involved in a service-related industry will attest, customers, also referred to as our bread and butter, can be as palatable as burnt toast.  Until the majority comprehends that civility is our only viable option, obnoxious behavior will be the norm for an unfortunate minority.  I will make the not very profound pronouncement  that such nonsense will end when it does and not a moment sooner.  What does that statement mean, or imply?  That we may be waiting centuries before people stop reverting to their more primitive selves.  Though evolutionary or adaptive change can occur rather quickly in endemic or isolated environments, expecting the entire human community to quickly remedy egregious behavior can only be termed an opiate fueled pipe dream.  Now after my dismal introduction, let me introduce you to three examples taken solely from this past weekend.  Exhibit A sort of fits both categories because he was both  drunk and a bully.  Of course all taxi drivers throughout the known world know full well that alcohol and bullying are often peas in the same behavioral pod.  Drunks always enjoy giving convoluted directions.  And the hardest blow I have ever received under any circumstances was administered by a drunk woman.  Alcohol is the unfortunate truth serum revealing an individuals' true hidden self.  Exhibit B was completely sober so what was her excuse?  And my last example featured tonight was just pleasantly inebriated, somehow a connoisseur of wavy locks though perhaps the most irresponsible of the entire trio. I will let you choose your favorite. For me they are curdled memory souring mind and sour though all three of them shared a common trait: the permission to justify any and all behavior regardless of appropriateness or consequence.  Passengers like these are nightmarish.  Welcome to my worst dreams.

Though he had kept me waiting nearly fifteen minutes he insisted that he get a flat rate from West Seattle to Redmond located twelve miles or so directly east.  If not I had to take him downtown but since it was nearly 4:20 Saturday morning I knew he was bluffing.  I told him make it fifty paid in advance and you got a deal.  What he failed to tell me was that he resided nearly two long miles past State Route 520 down Avondale Road which resulted in a sixty-two dollar meter. I suppose I should take responsibility for not having him be more specific but he was being intentionally vague and I bitterly dislike negotiating with the disoriented mind.  The gentleman in question certainly fit the Redmond profile which varies in race but usually not in temper: in his case a well-educated white European, probably Germanic in his mid-thirties working in the IT industry and grossing approximately 100,000 grand a year.  Normally it is the upper-caste sub-continent Indians who take the taxi insufferable cake though perhaps he was only emulating his peers.  That he was sneering should go without mention though I will anyway.  My philosophy in taking him home was that it was more or less 30-40 minutes in duration which translated into a fifty dollar hour which is always acceptable despite in this case the associated pain and insult.  Thankfully he fell asleep and was I spared his drivel. Awakening him as I came off 520 he it was then he informed me of his actual location.  More than once I requested that he please tell me when to stop. I thought he was paying attention when he suddenly spoke up saying whoa! whoa! you passed it!  That he blacked out in a mere 60 seconds was astonishing.

I then lost my temper and told him at this juncture he should be walking, pointing to the meter.  I dislike a lying thief who was just being cheap, having every ability to pay.  I did my u-turn and stopped at the entrance to his complex and said "walk, it will do you good!"  After all this the fool actually expected me to drive him to his door.  Good luck with that as he went off bitching into the night air.  Good riddance was my sentiment.  Nothing like a good dose of privileged insolence to christen my weekend!  Thanks a lot.

My second example, this time of the "routing bully" came during another protracted period of everything that could go wrong did.  The weekend was generally maddening because I would have wonderfully smooth periods then bam! no-shows and other assorted trouble would leap out of nowhere, gleefully stopping me in place, in this case the north-end. Given I have seen this scenario repeatedly over my twenty-five years I usually just take a deep breath and bear with it.  The taxi gods, like Zeus of old, occasionally love to toss a few thunderbolts. It is always in jest so why take its seriously?  But the young woman leaving work got my attention immediately.  I sensed her dismissive cruelty.  Her avoidance of any real human contact transmitted her attitude.  She was instant trouble.  Her workplace was located at the corner of N. 78th & Greenwood N.

She gruffly informed me that she was going to Magnolia and that she would tell me how to go and that was end of the story, and turn around too! When I told her that this type of response wasn't acceptable she said, as they always do, that she was paying me and I would do what she wanted.  In other words, I was the dirt beneath her feet and she would do and say anything that pleased her.  This type of individual always follows the same pattern. Instead of politely engaging in a conversation about various possible routes, the taxi and its driver is suddenly hijacked, commandeered by the distrusting customer.  All control is wrenched away with the customer refusing any possible dialogue or compromise. I learned many years ago that this kind of attitude is potentially dangerous, similar to being held at knife or gun point. Surrender, the passenger demands, and shut up!  It is humiliating position to be put in, especially when the person in question wasn't even born when I first started driving taxi. All I can say is that the routes to the address she gave (at least she did that, making her an exception to the "route bully" rule) are elementary, either over the Fremont or Ballard bridges as you have to cross the canal.  There are no other options.  Clearly she probably has had some less than satisfactory taxi rides but that doesn't excuse her brutality.  Given half a chance we could have discussed potential routes as we headed toward her address.  Little did she know or care that one of my most enduring memories was a picnic in Magnolia I had in 1976 with the woman I later married.  But I bullies don't concern themselves with reality or sentiment.  All they want to do is punish.  And all I would have provided was perhaps the most efficient ride possible.  But again, why care when instead you have permission to destroy everything in your path, a human tornado or hurricane knocking down all perceived obstructions.  How pleasant it isn't!  And will the City of Seattle and King County stop licensing all these ill-prepared drivers that help perpetuate this kind of response and attitude?  We all know the answer to that one.  I have also suggested that we begin posting a customer code of conduct inside the taxi. No one should be allowed to be a pirate upon the taxi seas, be it driver or passenger.  May commonsense one day prevail!

Last but certainly not least though it was one of my last fares of the weekend was the drunk woman who fancied my hair.  She fell in the category of the drunken molester and I will tell you from too much experience that this category is difficult to dissuade.  The only saving grace was her reasonably sober friend. Without her assistance the ride would have been a complete disaster.  Can you believe we were all laughing at the end?  Such is taxi madness!

I picked the pair up on Alki Beach and they were headed to South Park to buy drugs.  I know this from the telephone call the molester made. She immediately made a strong impression by mistaking me for a woman.  Given her drunken state that was understandable. What wasn't was the stroking of my hair. Being a nice guy I made her stop, with her friend also suggesting that she behave herself.  A block forward she again commenced her activity, this time grabbing my neck. I instinctively grabbed her hand and crunch! went her long artificial nails!  I started shouting while simultaneously pulling over to the curb demanding that they get out. The molester, who by the way weighed a good three hundred pounds began wailing while her friend yelled No! No! No!  Above the din we finally came to an agreement and off we continued to South Park with the molester singing Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry! more times than I wish to remember.  As we neared the destination she kept repeating "Now I understand! Now I understand!" as at that point we were all laughing because it was all too stupid not to mention insane for any response other than laughter.  The ride was totally ridiculous but I did get twenty-five dollars so it was all worth it, wasn't it?

Beyond these three sweethearts the rest of the eighty-four fares I had this weekend were all wonderful but truthfully I don't truly remember.   It was busy but all those fits and starts are certainly irritating though come Saturday morning I will be ready to do it all over again. Does anyone really believe that?  I hope so.





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