"Wouldn't dream of it, sir."
Another night, another shift ended. I'm beginning to feel the old weariness creep up on me. To be fair, I've signed myself up for slavery. Throughout the month of July, I will be working five nights a week. With any luck, I'll make double my usual monthly wage.
So far it has gone well. Summer really is the right time to be a cabby. Its warm, its lucrative, and more than anything else, people are nice. That does a lot to keep a man going. But you didn't come here for the tired reflections of a weary cabby, hm? You came here for something entertaining, or at least thought provoking. Let's see if I can deliver.
As the proverbial Chinese curse goes, it has been interesting times. Tonight was Thursday, and Thursday is usually a decent night. In fact, I was goddamn cheerful. The money had been rolling in, and things were peachy. Of course, even the clearest sky must make room for a cloud of two. The first was a half-hour trip from the airport to Sheriff's Yard. The fare was a woman who worked at a commercial "research company" who specialized in skin products and dietary supplements. What followed was essentially a half hour lecture, riddled with pseudo-science. A few samples from the conversation, complete with the things I wish I had retorted with:
"Because of acid rain, there are no nutrients in the soil. Plants can't absorb minerals and vitamins from the soil, making them essentially empty leaves."
Retort: plants, like all living organisms, need minerals and vitamins too. If what you're saying is true, then we'd see massive extinctions plants and of herbivores all over the world, as nobody is giving them any dietary supplements.
"Well, we are all made of energy, so of course it is important that a Healer actually knows how to balance it."
Retort: The very fact that you say 'we are all made of energy' suggests that you (like so many of your peers) have no fucking clue what energy is, much less how it is part of our makeup.
"Well, its all a matter of interpretation. After all, in science you get the answers you pay for."
Retort: Big words, coming from someone who works for a commercial research company.
"Yes, there's so many fraudulent healers. Which is a shame, because those with genuine healing powers often get grouped in with them."
Retort: Fuck you. Our ancestors fought and starved and died, for millennia, going through an existence where everything could and would kill you. Throughout the ages, they stood screaming at the cold, uncaring void that they would survive and they would thrive. They would understand the world and they would master it. About a century ago, that struggle paid off. Finally, after untold aeons of strife, mankind got their collective shit together and could finally strike back at the shit that has been plaguing the world's animals since for ever: famine, predators and pestilence are now, if not defeated then at the very least held at bay. YOU, my dear fare, have no right to take pride in your ignorance and make a living out of it. You spit on the graves of all our ancestors, all the way back to the pre-cambrian soup out of which life crawled. You, and all those who believe as you do, are a big black mark in humanity's record of achievements. Fuck. You.
I of course said not a word. How could I? If I had been even slightly honest with her, I would have lost a significant chunk of income.
Still, I would not let this keep me down. I soldiered on with a cheery smile, and as the night wore on, drunk people started to feel the urge to return back home. And so, I got the call to head to Iron Square to pick up some dude named Jack. As I arrived, I settled back into my seat and waited. I noticed with grim amusement a couple; the guy was this massive bull of a man. All muscles, no neck. Hanging from his arm, flopping about like a ragdoll, was this tiny girl. I noted that there was a handbag not far from them, its contents spilled out all over the wet side-walk.
Poor bastards, I thought. I don't envy the cabby that'll have to take them home.
Suddenly there was a trembling in the air, as if in a celestial realm far beyond human understanding, a great omnipotent Creator was trying His damnedest not to laugh at the poor cabby. For behold, here the great man-bull turned his gaze toward me. Literally dragging the limp creature along, he approached the cab.
"I'm Jack. This is my cousin."
Here I was presented with a choice: I could exercise my right to deny them service. It is my experience that even tiny people can hold a surprising amount of alcohol-laced bile and gastric fluids. Had I been a smarter man, I may have done just that. Instead, I turned to a waiter who had stepped outside the bar for a breath of air. He was watching the spectacle with amused sympathy. I told him to help me out and get some plastic bags. If Raggedy Ann here decided to throw up, I wanted to be at least nominally prepared.
"My bag!" she growled as he carefully folded her and placed her in the back seat. "Gimme my bag."
"Sure sure, I'll get it. But you have to sit up, okay?"
"Whatever, gimme bag!" she collapsed, looking more like a deflated balloon than anything resembling a human.
As Jack trundled away to get her bag, I turned to face her, if only to assess the situation and be prepared to act.
She smiled at me in that lazy, droopy way reserved for the very drunk or very dead.
Without bothering with a response, she pulled down the front of her dress. Dangling from her nipple was a piercing the size of a padlock. I turned away immediately; the heavenly tittering I had heard before started to become a rumbling guffaw.
"I've got another one too," she said. "Wanna see?"
"No, no that's fine-" I closed my eyes and bowed my head, while the LORD was screaming with laughter.
"Keep your fucking panties on!" Jack had returned to save the day. "I told you before, nobody wants to see that shit."
She murmured something rude. He got into the cab and said: "I am so sorry for my cousin. She's very drunk."
"No no..." I said. "It's fine."
"If she throws up, I'll compensate you all the way. No questions asked, nothing. We just want to go home."
So I took them home. And while she whimpered throughout the trip, she did not throw up. Once we arrived at the destination, I helped Jack untangle her from the safety belt and carry her to the door. He was very grateful.
Once the trip was over, I realized I'd been holding my breath. Every second with Jack and his intimately be-jewelled cousin had been a struggle for sanity. With them gone, the tension released, taking all my energy with me.
The next couple of hours, I drove around in a fog of exhaustion and disinterest. I don't envy her the headache she'll have when she awakes. But I do hope she'll find someone to show off her piercings to. I'm sure they're all quite lovely.