Remember when riding in cabs was a luxury and a “special” thing? When I was a kid, we only took cabs on rare, special occasions making them a somewhat magical, exciting, and revered experience for me.
Now that I’m living on my own in a cab-filled city, they bring to mind a significantly longer list of adjectives that does not include magical. They drive like traffic laws are more guidelines that rules and speed bumps are opportunities to see how much air a cab can get- both of which trigger intense nausea and a foul mood. They never use the AC and can be just plain rude (extending the nausea and foul mood) . Then they end the whole horrific ordeal by asking you how much of a tip you’d like to give them. I’d like to give them nothing. But, I’m a believer in obligatory tipping, so I cave.
I took one of these, let’s say delightful, cabs home from the airport a few weeks ago which got me thinking about this phenomenon that seems to consume all cabbies (at least in Chicago)- the phone conversation. How is it possible that every cab driver has the ability to sustain a never-ending phone call? Think about it- they’re already on the phone when you get in, talk through the entire ride and keep going after you get out. And for it to happen in 97% of the cabs I take, they must do it all-shift, everyday. Who could possibly want to talk THAT much? I’m sure you think I’m exaggerating, but they’ve actually adapted the Rights of the Taxi Passager to include: “You have the right to a ride without the driver on his cell phone.” This obnoxious trait has become such an issue that enough people complained and the Rights of the Passenger had to be amended! That little line addition has not changed the experience at all, but I feel justified in being annoyed as hell. I’ve never summoned up enough courage to point out that my driver’s yelling into his phone is something he’s not technically supposed to be doing.
So during that last trip, in which I was clearly not focusing on anything other than his oh-so-pleasant and not-at-all-obtrusive speaking voice that was reverberating through the cab, I started wondering who had the time to be on the other end of this 8 hour phone call. It’s a pretty intense time commitment for someone who isn’t driving around in a cab with nothing better to do. And that’s when it hit me. They must be talking to each other. I can just imagine them dishing about their passengers (“This has got to be the smelliest dude I’ve ever encountered”) or locations (“She’s making me go up to Edgewater- we shouldn’t have to leave downtown”). At that thought I couldn’t decide what kind of passenger I wanted to be. Did I want a good review? Or did I want to leave him with a good story for his next several hours? I contemplated making an extremely odd request (“Would you mind switching lanes every 3.5 seconds?) or having an extremely intense break-up conversation with myself. Anything to throw him off his game a bit. But, I spent far too much time deliberating and we got to my apartment before I made a decision. Next time, next time.
And now all of you can entertain yourselves during your cab rides by wondering what impression you leave and what his cabbie friends might think of you.