"I'm surprised you're saying this, miss. I am a stranger, after all."
"Whatever, its not as if we'll ever see each other again."
My city is not a big city.
Sure, its one of the biggest in the country, but with a population of a mere 9 million people, Sweden is (globally speaking)0, a nation of small towns.
Thus, I often find myself running into old friends, or friends of friends, or lovers of friends of friends. There is a passive game of Six Degrees of Separation running through the land.
With this in mind, I have a special treat tonight. It's not just a story; its two, rolled into one. The ghost of Geoffrey Chaucer is nodding in approval over my shoulder.
Tonight was the first night in a long time where working actually was fun. Being easter eve, a lot of people chose to comemorate the sacrifice of our lord and saviour by either working, or getting shitfaced, or working with shitfaced people. I was no exception. And people were cheerful and the fares were plenty.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I got a fare out in Hill Bay. Hill Bay lies south of Isthmus, and like its neighbour, its an area outside of town where only the very rich live. So I headed out there, and had to navigate a private road filled with drunken brats (rich teenagers, if you remember). Once I arrived at the place, I was accosted by a gaggle of these wealthy healthy kids, until one of them managed to break through the crowd and identify himself as my fare. So he, and three of his friends hopped into the cab and off we were.
"Got any music?"
"Is a fixed rate ok?"
"Gawwwd i'm sooooo wasted"
The subject of the car stereo is worth its own entry. I'll get to that some other night. But suffice it to say, in order to keep the peace, I allowed them to connect a phone to my fm-transmitter. The music was your typical brat fare: douche-rap and House. I tuned it out and kept up a light banter with the kid next to me.
"So what kind of music do you listen to, if you don't like House?"
"Oh there's a bunch... I tend to switch it out every month."
"Oh, you like real music."
"I like music."
"Do you like Motörhead?"
"Sure. I actually have a story about them."
The kid grinned. "Let's hear it."
The story of how I didn't drive one of Sweden's Greatest Rock Legends, as told to Rich Kid from Hill Bay.
Last autumn I received a fare from a place called Brewhouse. Brewhouse had during the summer been the site of a very popular club. Since high season was over, I was surprised but not concerned. Fare is a fare is a fare.
So I arrived and waited for my customers. After a while, a group of people arrived. One guy, two women, and a person I can only describe as a transvestite who'd stopped caring about his looks. This fellow was huge, wearing skin-tight leather pants and a matching jacket. On his head was what can only be described as an electrocuted poodle. He basically looked like Jared, king of the Goblins. My smuggysense was tingling.
So, the Goblin king climbed into the backseat, and sat in the middle with his legs spread wide. He was wearing a shit-eating grin a mile wide. The others filed into the remaining seats.
"So!" he said. "We wanna go to the Avenue."
"I'd be happy to take you," I said. "Would the lady behind me and the gentleman in the middle please put on your safety belts?"
Before I continue, let me give some context. I am not a stickler for safety. I believe that it is every persons right to make their own mistakes. Thus, if someone wants to ride unbuckled in a car, risking their lives and the fury of the police, that's their business. However, this liberty only extends as far as yourself. The moment your lack of self-preservation threatens my safety, I will demand that you do something about it. Backseat passengers are not only endangering themselves, but they also endanger the people sitting in front of them. To put it succinctly: If any of my passengers are hurt during my work, I will feel very bad. But I prefer feeling back with my spine intact.
The Goblin king just stared at me. "You're kidding."
"I am not. If there is an accident, I don't want you flying through the car and breaking my shoulder. Please put on your belt." At this point, I noticed that he had brought an open beer into the car.
"Also, i'm going to have to ask you to leave that outside."
"What the fuck for? It's not as if I'm planning on dropping it."
"Nobody ever does, sir. But if I have to brake suddenly and you drop it, that's 30 minutes of income I lose cleaning up the mess. Do me this favour sir, and I'd be very grateful."
"And what if I don't?"
"Then, sir, I will not drive until you do."
"To hell with this! Let's get a different cab."
"Very good, sir."
The Goblin king and his entourage left the cab. I wrote off the fare and contacted HQ so that they too would write it off.
Suddenly a man appeared at my window. Big fellow. Rough and rugged.
"Is there a problem?"
"Not at all. We have a few rules. One of them is the safety of the driver, the other is that no food or drink may be consumed in the car."
"Because we want to minimize the amount of time we have to spend cleaning the cab."
"What if we gave you 500 sek if he spills anything? Wouldn't that cover your lost time?"
"Sir, nevermind that you're bribing me, the thing is; you could give me a thousand and I'd still refuse. Its not a matter of money, its a matter of me not wanting a cab that smells like a bar."
Rough and Rugged looked at me and leaned in, with a conspiratorial air.
"Do you know who that is?"
Rod Stewarts evil twin? "I can't say I do, sir."
"This country has two great rock legends. One is Yngwie Malmsteen, the other is Mikkey Dee. That's Mikkey Dee. So maybe you can make an exception, huh?"
"Well," I said. "That sure puts things in perspective. Tell Mr Dee that I'd be happy to drive him, once he's finished his beer."
R&R was about to say something more, when Mikkey Dee came storming over, screaming:
"This is bullshit! I've been riding with your company for years! I know your boss! I'm fucking calling him tomorrow."
"Give him my regards, sir. Have a good evening."
I rolled up the window and left.
Thus the story of how I did not drive Mikkey Dee ended. And immediately I realized something. The guys behind me were laughing. The kid next to me was silent. More than silent, he was mortified.
"Dude..." he said. "Mikkey Dee is my dad."
The sun's coming up and I'm sitting here feeling a bit like an asshole. No teenager likes to hear embarrassing stories about their dads. No teenager likes to hear embarrassing stories about their dads while their friends are listening. And no teenager should ever be subjected to having their dad be mistaken of a transvestite who stopped caring about his looks.
It turned out well, however. He was a good sport about it. I get the feeling this wasn't the first time he'd heard a story like that. And who knows, maybe if Mr Dee hears it from his kids, he'll change his ways and we can meet again, this time as equals.
And if any of them ever reads this (and resists the temptation to sue me for defamation), let me give one final piece of advice: if you're so high and mighty that you need no longer respect the workplace of your fellow man, call a limo. Because if you decide to stoop to the level of commoners and call a low-price cab, then by God you better play by the same rules as the other peasants.