"Working on midsummers eve must suck."
"Nah, it's fine. People are happy and I'm making money. In fact, it might be a little too fine."
"Well, usually when things look this good, something bad is waiting to happen."
Last night was Midsummer's Eve. It is a significant date in Swedish culture, as it is the brightest day of the year, which in a country with nine months of winter darkness means a lot. It is also a time for dignified and solemn celebration.
Me, I've not celebrated it in years. Midsummer is one of our Big Holidays, and thus I drive using the Big Holiday Tariff, which means Big Money (or as big as this job allows, which isn't huge). It's a fine time to work: lots of people leave the city and travel to the coastal resorts to celebrate, and the indies follow them, leaving us decent cabbies with little to no competition. The fares tend to be long, going from the city to the countryside, and back again.
Of course, Midsummer, like all holidays in this country, is a time of excessive drinking. And so, it is also a time of excessive idiocy. I steeled myself, started my engine, and rolled off into the night.
To my great surprise, things were very calm. A steady stream of fares and cash flowed into my cab. At the start of the evening, I drove two hungarian tourist girls to a party out in Black Valley. By chance, I ended up picking them up again a few hours later, though this time they weren't talkative, what with having their tongues solidly lodged in each other's throats. I also drove an old lady who had "decided to go all out, and party until half past midnight". Things were looking good. People were happy and pleasant, and I was having fun too.
But what comes up must inevitably come down- hard.
And so it was that I picked up Wendy (a VIP customer) and her friend Pete.
How do I describe these two? They were like two characters straight out of a Tom Waits song. Middle aged, haggard, and wobbly, the remains of their prime clinging to them in booze-soaked tatters. Pete was dressed in stained jeans, with a doughy belly spilling out accross the top of them. A sad grey ponytail clung to the edge of his rapidly balding head. Wendy was razor thin, with a deeply lined face, and a rasp that spoke of endless cigarettes and whiskey.
"Take us to Erikshome first, and then Landwood," said Wendy and showed me her VIP-card. I nodded (already counting the excessive cash that would soon be mine) and off we went.
They didn't have a lot to say to me, but plenty to say to each other. Pete was expressing his feelings for Wendy, that she had "left a mark in [his] heart". Wendy kept saying that she wasn't interested, and he started demanding that she tell him why.
I could give you a transcript of the conversation, but really, I'm sure you've all heard it. And if you haven't heard it, you've probably said it and should be ashamed of yourselves.
But what he came back to again and again was: "I can't help what I feel! [so how dare you reject me since you made me feel this way?]. Alll the while, I was chewing my mustache in an ever-growing fury.
Is there anything more pathetic than a guy who is so fucking entitled that he is comfortable demanding that a woman takes responsibility for his feelings? Is there anything more loathsome? Probably, but not at that moment. Finally, I snapped.
"Pete," I said. "Is that your name? Pete?"
"Yeah," he said, laughing. "What, am I wanted dead or alive?" (I don't even...)
"Pete, if you want me to drive you even a meter further, then for the love of God show some fucking respect and accept that she does not want you. This is my workplace, and if I'm to do my job, I refuse to listen to your sad bullshit."
He was dumbfounded. He blubbered something, but didn't seem sure of what to do. And you'd think I'd won there, but the trip was far from over. And as we drove, I could hear him muttering, talking about how "you learn your lessons" and other such vaguely threatening stuff. While Wendy was laughing and trying to distract him. Me, I began wondering if I'd not made a mistake. As much as I like standing up for the principles, I'm no fan of getting my ass kicked. So I prepared my phone with the emergency number and let my hand hover closer to the alarm button.
As we approached Wendy's destination in Erikshome, she said:
"After this, you're gonna take Pete to Landwood."
"No fucking way I'm riding with this cabby," Pete snarled.
"That is not a problem, sir," I said. "I wasn't intending to drive you anyway."
And this is where Wendy lost her patience. And by losing her patience, she flipped her lid and started telling me that I should shut the fuck up and just drive that cab and stay out of other people's business.
In a way, I see her point. She didn't ask for my help, nor was it my duty to defend her. So yes, from that perspective, she was completely correct. But there's another perspective, and that perspective is this:
The cab is my place of work. It is my office. It is where I spend time and energy in order to support myself. The moment you drag your personal bullshit into my place of work, you make it my business. I can't ignore you. There is no divider between us. And if you're acting like an entitled, pathetic dick, I see absolutely no reason why I shouldn't put a stop to it, for the sake of my own sanity.
So take this to heart, dear reader: it is NEVER the cabbie's duty to "just shut up and drive". We offer you a service and a certain amount of discretion. In return, we ask for payment and some discretion on your part. If you cannot keep the deal, then all bets are off.
With that, I threw both of them out.
The night ended well, however. Immediately after this kerfuffle, I received a fare way outside of town. In an hour, I made back three times what I lost on Wendy and Pete.
I will return to the subject of male entitlement and sexism. THere's a veritable goldmine of that stuff. Until then, I wish you a happy, if belated, midsummer.
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