Tuesday, 3 April 2018

A nice trip together. Part 1.

"How would you handle someone, like... trying to rob you?"
"Very carefully."


I've been working sporadically for the past few months, mostly the day shift, so very few interesting things actually happen. Mostly old people who putter around from A to B, complaining about their hips and complimenting me on my manners.

Not a whole lot of blogworthy material, is what I'm saying. The fun stuff happens at night, after all.

Well, this weekend, I decided it would be a good idea to make a lot of money in a short amount of time - Easter being a major holiday and all. And things went swimmingly. No fighting, no puking, little if any haggling about prices. That is until last night.

Enough with the introduction. Let's get to the meat of this, because this was the single most terrifying experience I've had during my time behind the wheel. So without further ado, let's get to it. This is the story of how my cab got hijacked by a psychotic speed-freak.


About two hours into my shift, I received a fare from Television Street, out in Iron Quarry. The fare would go from there to Parthaella, which is a small community (which almost, but not quite, manages to define itself as a town) just outside the city. Not a bad one at all.

So I arrive at Television Street, and there he was.

My cabbie-sense started tingling immediately. He was somewhere between 35 and 47, overweight, with sores on his face, and an unhealthy sheen to his skin, dressed in a pair of old sweatpants and a worn parka. I knew he was bad news from the get-go. It wasn't a single thing that stood out. Maybe it was something in his posture, maybe something in his expression. Or maybe I was just being judgemental. Either way, I had a fully formed idea of just what kind of a person this guy was:

criminal, down on his luck, probably a drunk, possibly some kind of junkie, highly suspicious of everything and with little or no regard to what society deems sensible. I've driven a hundred of them, and usually, at worst, you get some grumpy pissy behaviour. It is the kind of customer where the smartest course of action is to shut up, nod thoughtfully, and every once in a while throw in a jab at The Man just to show you're on their side.

In the far future, this problem will persist


Still, I'd driven worse. Most of them are harmless, provided you treat them with a modicum of respect. At worst, I could always throw him out.

"Hey."
"Hi," he said. He was stressed out, twitching. "I'm John."
"Hop in."

Once inside the car, he kept looking around.

"How long are you working for tonight?"

"Until sunrise, I suppose."

"All right, all right," he said, tapping his knee incessantly. "What time is it?"

Before I had a chance to answer, he pulled out a huge wristwatch. Huge, in gaudy metallic colours. His hand was shaking as he looked at it.

And who's the poor bastard you stole that from? I wondered quietly.

"Its my brother's watch," he snarled. "I got it from him. Let's go, let's go."

So I drove out.

Now, from Iron Quarry to Parthaella there's two roads, both of them take just as long. One goes through the city, the other goes south of it, along the highway. I decided to take the highway.

"Why are you going in this direction?" he asked, in the same tone one might use when asking someone about how many bodies they have buried in their back yard.  I explained the situation to him and he nodded and kinda waved me off.

"Sure, sure, as long as we get where we're going."
"Parthaella, right?"
"In that direction, sure."

Well, that sounded weird, huh?

"So..." I said. "What's the address?"

"I'll tell you when we get there."

All right. Not exactly kosher, but I can chalk that up to general low-life paranoia/existential frustration.

The com burbled.

"Is that a police radio?" he said, in a tone that said that it better not fucking be a police radio.

I'd heard that question before. Usually from junkies on the run. I laughed in what I hoped was a friendly manner and said: "No, man. It's the com. A taxi radio."

"Ah!" he laughed. "I just thought you might be like a trucker, sitting and listening on the police wavelength."

... Okay.

"Wouldn't that be nice?" I said. "I'd be able to hear whenever they were doing speed checks on the road."

He grunted a laugh, and went silent again. Still tapping his knee. Still twitching. He talked - not mumbled mind you, but talked. It was still difficult to follow what he was on about. He talked about serving in the army. Or that he had known someone who had served in the army. Possibly his brother. or that he'd been to war.

"Are you a veteran?"

"What?" he said, surprised and confused. "No, I'm not that old."

By this time I had realised that he was crazy. So far, he seemed like the harmless kind of crazy.

I reached for the com to turn down the volume a bit.

"Keep your hands on the wheel!" he snarled. "Ten o'clock and two o'clock. That's how we do it in Sweden, or am I wrong? huh? Isn't that how we do it in Sweden?"

All right, he was most certainly not the harmless kind of crazy.

I was pondering my situation. Most likely, I'd be able to take him where he wanted to go, he'd pay (or not) and we'd part and never See each other again. This is true in 80% of all these kinds of fares. Of course, within the remaining 20% the scenarios ranged from being yelled at, to being mugged, to getting strung up on a meat hook in some dank cellar.

He said something.

"Pardon?" I said.

"Don't fucking ask me to repeat myself," he shouted. "I'm used to giving fucking orders and I expect people to listen, you got that?"

"Sure thing, man."

"I'm me, and you are you, right? Right??"

"Right."

By now, it was time to consider what options I had. I didn't want him in my cab anymore, but my usual tactic of calmly stopping the car, explaining to the customer just what kind of subhuman scum I think he is and then kicking him out would not suffice. My usual tactics rest on the assumption that me and said asshole share a fundamental view about the nature of reality and social norms.

This guy was from outer space. I couldn't be sure of any of his reactions. So I would have to come up with some kind of plan.





Now, as far as security measures go, it works as follows:

There's a hidden alarm button in the car. When I press it, dispatch gets the alarm. it will also open up a channel on the com, and so they (and the entire fleet of cabbies tuned into that frequency) can hear exactly what's going on in the cab. They will attempt to contact the cabbie via telephone to assess the situation. If the situation is dire, they call the cops and give them the GPS-coordinates of the car.

I discovered all this by mistake a long time ago, while arguing with a friend on my phone and pressing the mysterious button that I'd never seen before. But that's another story.

I figured that I'd keep things cool and easy. If the situation escalated, I could always hit the alarm button. And, at worst, I could always slam the brakes. After all, he wasn't wearing a seat belt.

But I began to prepare for trouble. I felt for the alarm button, so I could reach it quickly. I also reached into the storage compartment between the seats to fish out my phone and put it in my -

"What's that?"

Fuck.

"Just my phone, man."

"Hands on the wheel," he said, a cold warning in his voice. Fuck it, I thought, and put the phone into my pocket. No use sneaking about the phone. If he was going to rob me, I wouldn't be able to just hand him my work-phone. Oh well.

I settled on treating him like any drunken idiot: with friendly, professional patience.

 We were approaching Parthaella, and he kept talking somewhat disjointedly about ... his brother, the army, and he was he and I was I and that was the truth, right?

Suddenly he caught a glimpse of the meter. "What tariff are you running? Getting awfully expensive."

"It's Easter, so we're doing the holiday tariff. But if you feel like you're going to be paying more money than expected, I could pause the meter. We're approaching Parthaella after all-"

"No," he said. "No, you'll get your money. We're going to have a nice trip, right?"

"Right."

The exit to Parthaella was coming up. I asked if he wanted me to take it.

"No. Keep driving."

"I'm going to need an address."

"I'm not going to tell you the address."

"All right..."

His voice went cold, all business and blood thirst. "I will show you the address. You will read it. You won't say where it is, where we're going. Just read and take me there. Got that?"

This was turning into some serial killer shit.

"All right..."

He showed me his phone. It was open to Google Maps. And the address was the US embassy in Stockholm. On the other side of the country. Easily a five hour drive.

Five hours. With this lunatic.

"I can't take you that far."

"Yes you can. And you will. I will pay you good."

"But I'm getting off the shift soon."

"Don't fucking lie to me. You said you'd be working all night. So you're going to keep your hands on the wheel, turn up the music, and we're gonna have a nice trip together. Got that?"

This was where I began fearing for my life.

To be continued in Part 2


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