(This is a long one. There are two separate stories here, divided for your convenience.)
One of my colleagues gave me a ride home. He's a rookie; three weeks into the business. Already he works five nights a week, fighting for every coin. I remember being that guy, back when I still had the energy and the innocence to believe that this was a fine way to make a living. He'll learn though. We all do.
However, he did call me an "old veteran" and asked me for advice, which pleased me far more than I am comfortable admitting.
Tonight, I was on fire. Fare after fare after fare, with nary a break. Everything went smoothly, except for one notable fare. It was a mother and a daughter, both of them middle aged. The daughter clearly was not happy with the oncoming decay of her mortal flesh, and so had sought to prevent it by working out and copious injections of all manner of neurotoxins to her face. She looked like a particularly beautiful cadaver. My initial suspicion was that the amount of polish on her surface directly correlated to her complete lack of depth. This was soon confirmed.
The trip started out fairly standard; talk about the weather. Such a cold summer. Such a rainy summer. This isn't really summer, is it? You can't trust the weather-report. Its never warm during the summer. Its probably going to rain again. On. And on. And on. Etc, etc, world without end, amen.
God, I hate talking about the weather. Especially in this country, where summer is literally front-page news. And it doesn't matter how lovely the summer is, because the moment there's even a hint of rain or chill in the air, people will break down and whine. Dear reader, if you ever end up in my cab, please understand that I would rather discuss my hemorrhoids with you than the weather. Those, at least, can be treated.
Anyway, what set this particular lecture on amateur metereology apart were the many references to Spain, where she lived, and how hot it was there, and how different it was.
I get it, lady. You moved to better climes. Good on you. No need to rub it in.
A reckless asshole passed us by, attempting to break the sound barrier while angrily honking at anyone who had the audacity not to risk other people's lives on the road. I swore softly at him.
"See, this is what I'm talking about!" she snarled. "The police never go after these assholes!"
"Well," said I, unsure of how the police related to preceding climate discussion. "The police are kinda tied up in Bishop's Yard, what with the gang war."
"This country is too soft," she scoffed. "Look at america. No nonsense there. They shoot the bad guys, and their punishments are much harsher."
"Yes," I said, "And despite this, their crime rate is much higher than ours."
"You can't say that! Its a much bigger country than ours! Besides, do you know how many Mexicans illegally enter the US every night? A thousand? Ten thousand? Give me your best guess."
"100 000?" I asked, hating myself and hating her, for now I knew where this conversation was going.
"Exactly! And we're in the exact same situation!"
Of course we are. Because one of our neighbouring countries is a corrupt place overrun by drug lords, with zero opportunities for the population. Don't believe the hype; Finland is a shithole. I sighed, and listened while she went off on an increasingly erratic and racist rant about Syria, Afghanistan and "all them arab people".
"I don't follow you," I said honestly. She was literally making no sense, jumping from one part of the topic to another, with only ignorance as a common thread.
"Oh," she sneered. "So are you saying that you want three million Syrians to enter our country, and live on money that should go to our elderly?"
This was the level of stupid I was dealing with. I chose to remain silent, as she continued ranting. What really offended me by all of this was not the xenophobia. Aside from it being a fairly natural reaction to the unknown, there are valid points to make when criticizing this country's immigration policy. There are valid criticisms to level against our justice system. Immigration and refuge-seeking is fraught with all kinds of problems that need to be addressed. My problem was her ignorance. Her utter, selfish pride in her reasoning. She was so sure of her own idiocy that she could laugh at those who disagreed with her.
Xenophobia I can understand. Having a contrary view to the dominant political climate I can understand too. But the rejoicing in one's own ignorance to the point of laughing at people who can and regularly do prove you wrong is a fucking crime. This is NOT what we gained sentience for, damn it.
I finally cut the conversation short by saying: "Look, you're obviously very upset and perhaps we should drop the subject."
We did. And the world was new.
Later she stormed out of the cab before we arrived at the location, ostensibly to "pick up a few things" at the nearby supermarket. However, the way she slammed the door told me she was furious. It was up to her mortified mother to pay the fare.
"Ma'm, please speak to your daughter about this. Because if I drive her again, and she maintains that attitude, I can guarantee it will be a very short trip for her."
By the end of the shift, I was exhausted. Quietly I prayed for one final fare, one final fare that would take me above quota and allow me to go home with a measure of peace. The Lord God of Cabs was merciful and did just that. The fellow was going to Bishops Yard, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from HQ, meaning I could drop him off first, and then drop off the cab and crawl back home. Bingo.
How to describe these fellows... One was very small. In his early twenties, with a thick dark beard and stylish hairdo, and a foxish face. The other... well...
I hear he has a posse
So, off we went.
"Would you mind if we go to the drive-through at McDonalds on the way?" asked Mr Fox. "We need to pick up some breakfast."
"Sure," said I. And why not? Time spent in the drive-through is time I get paid for. Then the BDG in the back seat opened his mouth, and out came a steady stream of words. He had that thick, scanian-swedish accent that I will forever equate with manure, sheepfucking, and tooth decay. Words can't do justice to the insanity that spouted from the man's mouth, but I will attempt a paraphrase.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I was an ice-cream man? Man this was back when I ran with the other albanians down in Oaktown. And you know us albanians, right? Crazy as shit. We will shoot first, ask questions later and shoot again. So one summer we met this colombian guy, Diego. Great guy. Honest as fuck. And he offered us the purest, whitest coke you can imagine. Said he had a cousin back in Bogotá who was with the cartels. We did a line, and it had us screaming, man. So I turned to him and I said; 'Diego, give me fifty grams'. He told me 'fuck you, you broke fuck'. But this is the kind of guy Diego was, you know? He let us do a few more lines, because he was just that great.
"But it was a hot day, remember? Summer down in Oaktown. And so we heard the jingle from the ice-cream van. So I said to Agron: Fuck man, lets get some ice-cream. Ten minutes later, BAM! The ice-cream man was lying on the side of the road, tied up with duct tape, and we were off in his van, blaring the jingle all accross town."
"Well," said I, trying not to laugh. "Aim for the stars, and you'll land in the treetops."
"Exactly, man! We wanted ice-cream, so we took the entire van. That's fucking ambition right there. And whenever we saw a bunch of kids, we stopped. They came running to buy ice-cream. And we sold to to them. 200 a pop, we said. And they said: we don't have 200. So we said: Shut up, little shits. Give us what you got!
"Man, we were fucked up! Finally we pulled over on the side of the road, by this huge field. Full of flowers, shit was beautiful. So we sat down by the van, each of us with a box of ice-cream cones in our laps and stuffed our faces. Then the cops came, because we were fucking stupid and didn't realize that there was a GPS tracker in the van."
"Jesus, dude," I said. "How the hell did you get away with it?"
"Oh it was close," he said. "But I got lucky. The van was returned after all, and Agron decided to take the blame. Great guy, Agron. Six months he did for me, while I got a slap on the wrist. I owe that guy so much."
After that, for a solid 25 minutes, André the severely criminal Giant kept babbling about cars he had stolen, how he had lost his virginity to a "land-whale" in a truckbed filled with recently harvested beans, and about his friend Agron who had once taken on twenty cops, laughing all the way.
"But these days, I'm as white as newly fallen snow on lilies. The straight and narrow for me. But not too narrow, cause I'm kind of a fat bastard."
There were so many stories, too wild, too detailed, and too many to be put down here. Most, if not all, were probably bullshit. And if they are true, then this guy was a very special breed of scumbag indeed. Still, as he and Mr Fox wandered off and I started making my way back to HQ, I was reminded of a line by Hunter S. Thompson (because I'm trite as fuck):
"There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die."