(This is part 2 of a two-part entry. Read Part 1 )
My cab had been hijacked. Like the world's most ridiculous pirate, my insane passenger had commandeered my vessel and set a course for the nation's capital. And who fucking knew how long his deluded idea of visiting the US-Embassy would keep running in that twisted brain of his?
Maybe somewhere down the road, he'd decide it would be easier to rob me. Or maybe he'd decide that I was Satan and he had to do the Lord's work on my face.
We're going to have a nice trip
I realised I had frozen in place. And he was staring at me, expectantly. I wasn't looking at him, but it felt like he was looking at my fear and seeing it was good. Because I was terrified. A sickening, cold, sinking feeling washed through me, turning my guts into water.
I was stuck in this cab with a maniac. I was going to have a nice trip with this maniac. He was on edge and he wasn't going to let me go. I'd been doing this job for seven years, and I realised with horror that I might die in this cab.
Two distinct possibilities formed in my head.
1. Keep things cool. Keep treating him like any other customer. And whenever possible press the alarm button. Whatever happens, keep shit from escalating. Play nice and trust in the system.
2. If things got really, really hairy -say, if he started threatening me directly, pulled a weapon or whatever- slam the brakes. The idiot, like most of his peers, wasn't wearing his seat belt. They never do. Maybe it feels too constraining. Maybe they simply take whatever chance they get to rebel. Either way, he's not wearing his seat belt and we're barrelling down the road. Speeding a little, in fact. Slam the brakes (or hit something) and the bastard will go flying through the window.
Things would have to go really, really bad for that to happen. Because I wasn't sure I had the guts to do something that directly to him. Big risk to myself, as well as the moral component. I wasn't sure if I was prepared to hurt another human being.
Of course, should things go that far south, I'd find out.
However, for now, I decided to stick with plan 1.
But the man had been really particular about me keeping my hands on the wheel, so a certain amount of subtlety was required. Luckily, after we'd left Parthaella way behind, chewing miles and miles past Greyhome and further down the road towards Aling's Ridge, he made the job easy for me.
"I want you to turn on music. Its going to be a long trip and we're going to need music. The Champion, by Carrie Underwood! Play it!"
The lyrics are fucking chilling
considering the context.
"Don't you have an AUX-cable? Connect it to your phone!"
"That's my work phone... We use it for cab stuff. I don't think it has youtube."
"So use the phone you hid in your jacket."
"No, no, I've used up all the bandwidth. Sorry."
"Fine, fine, we'll use my phone!"
So I handed him the cable (an FM-transmitter, rather than AUX) and he started fiddling with it. And he was making a pig's breakfast out of the whole thing. I saw my chance and started pressing the alarm button.
Dispatch hailed me on the radio
"Car 62? Car 62, come in?"
Of course, I couldn't respond. Instead, I pressed the alarm button again to show them it wasn't an accident. Suddenly my phone started ringing.
I clicked my earpiece, but didn't say anything. On the other end was Suze.
"Crabby, are you there? Can you hear me, Crabby?"
I couldn't respond. I couldn't say shit. Instead, I pressed the alarm button again, praying they'd get the message.
Next to me, my insane passenger was having trouble with his phone. He snarled.
"Look at this shit!" he said, showing me the screen. I saw a 404-error. "You see that? They did it again!"
"The ISP! They hacked me! The bastards. I have a thousand phones at home, and they've hacked every single one. Now they got this one too. Fucking bullshit!"
Suze again: "Crabby, can you hear me?"
Here was another chance.
"Oh I hear you, man!" I said. "Freaking phone companies, always screwing people over. Hacking phones. Yeah, I hear you just fine. Assholes."
"Damn right," said my insane passenger.
"Crabby, can you hear me? Please confirm." Suze was sounding increasingly worried. I hung up on her. If communication was impossible, I didn't need the stress of her in my ear. So I clicked her, and hit the alarm button again, all the while maintaining a calm, disjointed, friendly, tense conversation with my insane passenger.
The phone started ringing again. And again I clicked it on.
"Crabby, don't hang up. If you hear me, cough."
"All right," said Suze, relieved. "We've notified the police. They have told us that they'll be sending squad cars from here as well as from Aling's Ridge. They'll catch up with you. Just keep calm and stay on the phone, all right? Cough if you got all that."
I coughed. And a small sense of relief dared to flicker in me.
The cab kept rolling and my insane passenger kept fighting with his phone, kept rambling. We were having a nice trip. I don't know how much time passed. It could have been minutes, but it felt much longer. The meter was running steadily, and now we were up to almost a thousand SEK. That's a full third of one day's pay.
So we'd been on this nice trip for some time. And there they were. Standing by the side of the road was a squad car. Only once before have I been this happy to see cops on the road.
"Of course its the cops," sighed my insane passenger. "I bet they're here for us. You did this."
"How could I have done anything?" I said "I've just been talking to you, remember?"
He seemed to accept this. "Ah, nevermind, nevermind. We've not done anything illegal, right? Just you and me, on our way to Stockholm. A nice cab trip."
"Sure," I said. I passed the cops and I could see them pulling out behind me. I blinked the indicator to the right, trying to show them that yes, I'm your man, and yes I want to pull over.
"What are you doing that for? Don't do that!" said my insane passenger. "They're not here for us! We've done nothing wrong! Just keep driving."
The cops started flashing their lights at us. "He wants me to stop."
"He's not here for you! We've done nothing wrong."
I started to slow down, and pulled over by the side of the road. My insane passenger sighed with frustration. Then he resentfully put on his seat belt. "Fine, fine... I got nothing to hide. I've done nothing wrong."
I forced myself to relax. I made sure I had my cellphone. I then sighed deliberately, and sank down into my seat, as if I was leaning back to relax. I unbuckled my belt. My insane passenger said nothing. Just sat there, sullenly.
I took my chance. I turned off the engine, grabbed the keys, threw open the door and hurried to the nearest cop.
I told him: "Thank God you're here. This guy, he's insane. He's trying to force me to take him to the US Embassy in Stockholm. He's threatening and if you could get him out of my cab before he grabs my ID and learns my name, I'd be very happy."
Of course, it probably sounded more like: "OH THANK GOD, CRAZY MAN HE WANTS ME TO GO TO STOCKHOLM PLEASE GET HIM OUT OF MY CAR I DON'T WANT HIM TO SEE MY NAME!"
The cop seemed to understand it, though, and he and his colleagues (they were joined shortly by two more cars. They had pulled no punches on this one) approached my insane passenger.
My phone started ringing. People from work; dispatch, my boss, the traffic overseer, all of them wanting to make sure I was OK.
Behind me, I heard the cops talk to my insane passenger. They checked him for weapons and found something.
"Why are you carrying a weapon in public, sir?"
"In my home country, its totally legal to carry a knife in public!"
"What home country is that?"
"The USA, damn it. I'm an American citizen! All I want is to go to the embassy, okay? I need to get back to my home country. Why can't you let me go home?"
"All right sir," said the cop.
"I'm me, I know I'm me! And you are you, right?"
All this while, I was talking to Tiffy in dispatch on the other end of the phone. Then my boss. And everyone.
Suddenly my insane passenger started screaming.
"I'M AN AMERICAN CITIZEN! I JUST WANT TO GO HOME TO MY COUNTRY! I'M A SOLIDER, I SERVED IN THE WAR! THE AMERICAN ARMY! PLEASE LET ME GO HOME!"'
I looked over, and I saw six cops in a pile on the man. The cuffed him and threw him into the car.
I simply stared at the whole thing.
One cop approached me and said:
"We've checked him out, sir. This man is very psychotic, and he's also high as a kite. He's seeing things. He is convinced you had a secret police radio, that you're undercover or something. "
"No shit," I mumbled. "So what happens now?"
"We're going to take him to jail. Then he'll be handed over to the state. This man is a danger to himself and others and needs psychiatric care. Do you wish to press charges?"
I declined. I figured that he hadn't threatened me directly, nor had he committed any violence. I just wanted to get out of this madness.
It was over.
On the way home, my head was aching and my fingers trembled. A colleague, Doug, drove up amidships with me and hailed me on the com.
"Are you all right, Crabby?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Jesus Christ."
I gave him the cliffs notes version.
"Holy shit," said Doug. "The alarm went out to all cars. Ram said: 'calling all cars, car 62 in dire need of assistance. I drove out here at 130 kph, flashing my lights and honking my horn... Good to see you're all right."
My boss told me to take the rest of the night off. The company would reimburse me for missed work. So I did. I went home and spent the next day in the tender care of friends.
I'm reconsidering my decision not to press charges. After all, this man might harm someone some day. And then, anything that weighs against his favour in the official record will be a good thing. Who knows?
I could end this with some rumination. Some moral of the story. But its basically this: When faced with a potentially lethal situation that you have no control over, your first instinct is to keep your head down. Again, if this guy hadn't been a lunatic, I would've happily thrown him out, cussing him out like a goddamn baboon. But he wasn't. He was crazy and (as it turned out) he was armed. I had no control over the situation - my first instinct was to keep shit from escalating. It turned out the be the right choice.
So far, people have been kind enough not to ask me why I didn't fight back, or why I didn't slam the brakes (aside from one friendly, but misguided, question about whether or not mace was legal and a suggestion that I should use that next time). The answer is simple: I had no control over the situation.
I've never felt fear for my life before. I hope to God I won't have to feel it again. But I'm okay now. The way I've been treated by my colleagues, and by my boss in the aftermath of all this makes me very proud and happy to work for Taxi M. But the real heroes in all this is Suze and Tiffy. I couldn't have made it, if the dispatch hadn't come through like the fucking saints they are.
Thanks to them, I won't have to spend the rest of my life as a cabbie.
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