"Sir, why are you fiddling with the meter?"
"Oh, I'm sorry! I thought it was the stereo."
"Sir, why are you fiddling with the stereo?"
Astute readers remember that there is a code, to which I strictly adhere. Its a simple set of principles, governing the relationship between cabbie/fare in my car:
Do not attempt to humiliate me.
Do not attempt to humiliate anybody else.
Do not touch any of my instruments.
As long as everyone keeps to these rules, we're going to have a great time. I will take you from A to B in a safe and speedy manner, pausing the meter if I ever take a wrong turn. After all, you shouldn't pay for my mistakes. However, despite all my efforts, there is one principle that people have a lot of trouble with: the third one. Thou shalt not touch the cabbie's instruments.
More specifically, people fiddle with the stereo.
"But Crabby," you say. "I get that people can't fiddle with the transmission, breaks, or wheel. But the radio? Surely you don't need that in order to drive safely."
And with that, I know I won't be picking you up any time soon.
Actually, here's the thing; I am not a human being.
See, when riding in someone's car, there's an implicit understanding that all the knobs and buttons up front belong to the driver. Unless you're familiar with the driver, you keep your hands to yourself (unless you were raised by wolves). It is common courtesy, from one human being to another.
But here's the thing; as a worker in the service industry, I am not human. Much like the waiter is the-thing-that-brings-the-food, and a garbage man is that-which-collects-the-garbage, a cab driver is nothing more than that weird force that propels the car forward. I don't blame anyone for this outlook; humanizing the people that don't matter to us personally is a standing challenge in the human experience. Indeed, it is necessary to reduce the greater part of humanity to functions and remind ourselves intellectually that they are in fact people too.
Genocide and dickish customers are two possible results of failing to maintain that intellectual reminder.
This brings us back to the stereo. Why do people feel the need to play with the stereo? Why are people confused, sometimes even offended when I ask them to not touch my instruments? Why do people consistently think that my job description includes acting as an impromptu DJ, on top of driving them to their destination?
Simple: I am not a human being. I am that-which-drives-the-car. And that-which-drives-the-car does not need to be respected, because it has been paid. It is the same rationale people use when they feel they can say "shut up and drive"; the same rationale that allows a man to finger his wife in the back seat; the same rationale that allows someone to throw their garbage and leftover french fries in the back seat.
I am not alone in this. Ask anyone in the service industry, and they have similar stories. Personal space invaded. Common courtesy thrown out the window. Verbal abuse.
There's really nothing to be done about it. As human beings, we are incapable of humanizing everyone. If you are the kind of entitled creature who believes that paying for somebody's labour and time gives you power or some kind of ownership over a person, consider this:
You are not human in my eyes either. You are that-which-is-to-be-transported. You are cargo, until proven otherwise. But I will do you a favour: I will treat you as if you were a human being. I will act as if you were (despite no evidence to the contrary), and start the process of humanizing you. I do this because it is in my interest that you are satisfied with the trip, plus I try to be a good guy. So, if I can make the effort to treat you as if you were human, then you you will do the same for me.