Thursday, April 17, 2008

Still fighting the Cold War?

Monday night I drove an idiot from Russia. Each time I was certain I'd seen the depths of the man's idiocy, he sank to new levels. It was a flag at a bus stop, which is always a bad sign. There's nothing wrong with bus riders, but somebody who intended to take a cab from the outset is always better. People who ride buses are pinching pennies, and that usually extends to the tip.

He was waving me down on a busy street, with heavy traffic, and red curbs all around. I waved back in acknowledgement, then took the next turn and waited just around the corner. I was about to give up when he appeared and jumped in the back.

"Why didn't you stop right away!?" he said. He was a small, skinny guy with a heavy Russian accent. I didn't answer the question. I don't answer toddlers when they ask why the sky is blue, either.

He wanted a ride about two miles away. Within a quarter mile he was complaining abuot my choice of routes. He normally takes the main street, he told me. I guess he didn't realize that during rush hour the main thoroughfare in that part of town is bumpber to bumper traffic, with a light on every single block.

Since it was so busy, I needed to take him by the fastest route so I could pick up my next fare, so I chose a side street that paralled the main one, but with no lights and no traffic. I explained all this to him, but he didn't quite grasp it. His English was perfect, so it was an IQ issue, not a language barrier. I finally said: "I'm too busy to take a long, slow route, so we're going this way."

The next complaint was about the bus system. He asked if I knew the schedule for bus 20 or 28, and whether they ran to his destination, which was a small park. I said I didn't know anything about buses. He went on and on, and I had to repeat two more times I don't know anything about bus schedules or routing.

When we arrived at the park the fare was $6.40. He asked for a receipt because he was "going to take it to the MTS and demand they pay" since the bus had never shown up. I made the mistake of saying I doubt they'll reimburse. After a bit of back and forth, I finally said, "I wish you luck on that," with a tone of finality.

He gave me $7 and said to keep the change -- the $.60 tip being true to form for a bus rider. I handed him a blank receipt, which is how 99.99999999999% of people want them. "You need to fill it out," he said. "Why?" I asked, having lost all patience. I could hear one great ride after another being called in on the 2-way radio. I had to get the idiot out of the car. "I could write anything on it," he said. There was no response to that. I adjusted the mirror and stared at him.

When he made another demand for me to hand write the ticket, I simply said: "Not for $.60." He got out of the car and I sped away. In the mirror I could see the characteristic bewildered look on his face.

Okay, maybe Vlad wasn't an idiot. He was probably so far out of his comfort zone he didn't know how to handle it -- a bus system that failed him, and riding in a cab. Still, if you're paralyzed with doubt and mistrust, you sort of have to go with the flow, and not fight every step of the way.

1 comment:

Shazam! said...

Hey, I LOVE the last line of this post. So true, so true. I take that advice myself often. It makes life more fun.