Sunday, 17 August 2014

On the importance of consummate professionalism.

"I'm an actress."
"Oh, cool. I considered it, but the starving actor lifestyle just didn't seem right for me. Do you work at the theatre?"
"Actually, I was in a movie recently."

Sweden doesn't have a lot of celebrities. And out of that meager pool, many choose to pursue their careers elsewhere. The rest of them are mostly found in Stockholm. But that doesn't mean that the dazzling diamond lights of fame and fortune never shine upon my humble cab. It just means it doesn't happen very often, and when it does it pretty much never involves anyone any of you non-swedes would care about (with one or two exceptions ).

I've also driven this guy:

There's no story to this. He's a nice guy, a regular customer
and just eccentric enough to make driving fun.

Avid listeners of Swedish public radio station P3 already know tonight's story. For the rest of you, sit back and listen to how I got a taste the nectar of fame and lost it in a heartbeat.

This was a couple of years ago, and I was down by Iron Square waiting for my fare. It was Saturday, with all the madness that entails. Out of the crowd comes a couple. They identify themselves properly and climb into the cab.

"We're waiting for another. She'll be here any minute."
"Sure," I said, turned on the meter and settled down, enjoying actually getting paid for my time. My customers were chatting with each other, mostly about how fun it is to be away from Stockholm and how awesome it is to be on stage. After a while, they grow restless, and the guy steps out to find their missing friend.

With the guy gone, an awkward silence fell upon the cab.
"So," I said. "I heard your friend mention being on stage. Are you guys musicians?"
"Haha, no," she said. "We're radio jockeys."
"Oh yeah? What station?"
"Morgonpasset, at P3."

(I know this means absolutely zilch to you international readers. But its a morning show that's broadcast across the nation.)

I wasn't star-struck as much as star-gently-poked. I knew these people. The lady in the back seat was Martina, the guy who had gone was Kodjo, and the friend he was looking for was Hanna. I have friends who are avid listeners and I relished the bragging-opportunity this fare would afford me.

Finally Kodjo arrived with Hanna and off we went. From the moment Hanna entered the cab and sat down next to me, it became very clear that this was no longer my cab. Hanna is a gigantic presence, and I do not mean this physically. The woman has an energy and a charisma not unlike that of an avalanche; love it or hate it, you better get out of its way when its rolling toward you.

Luckily, her attention was turned to her colleagues. They chatted, while she shouted. And none of them seemed to have any interest in me, and that suited me fine. Finally we arrived at their hotel and I made a decision. After all, how often do you get to have nationally famous radio-jocks in the car?

I turned off the meter.  "I'd just like to say that Morgonpasset is probably the only show on P3 worth a damn."

Luckily, they took it in the best way possible. Kodjo and Martina in the back were ever so grateful.
"Aww, that's so sweet of you."
"Thanks, man. Nice to hear."

But Hanna, who had been a social thunderstorm throughout the trip said nothing. She merely smiled and opened her arms.

Now, this was early in my career. I hadn't yet defined my role as a cabbie, and I still lived with the (completely unfounded) fear that every mistake might lead to me getting fired. Thus, I found myself wondering just how professional I could be considered, if I actually hugged a customer.

On the other hand, I reasoned, how often do I get to hug a nationally famous radio jock?

So I leaned in to embrace her, when suddenly reality turned itself inside out and shot out of the window. For as much arms were about to close around her, her hands closed around my ears. Before I had time to react, Hanna made her move and engulfed my mouth with hers, giving me the slobbiest, most violent kiss of my life. I'm talking lips, tongue, teeth, the works. Somewhere in the distance, small rational voice was wondering about the professionalism of trading spit with a nationally famous radio jock.

Finally, it was over. And a stone cold silence settled over the cab. Only Hanna seemed unconcerned.

"Oh my god," Martina whispered. "Did you just make out with the cab-driver?"

Clarity returned. I broke the silence.

"I'll be damned if I don't have the most interesting job in town," I said. "That'll be 129 sek please."

Hanna, if you're reading this, know that you'll always have a place in this cabbie's bitter lump of a heart.

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