Monday, June 16, 2008

The Iraqi and the new guy

We have one remaining Iraqi, and he's already made an enemy of our new Brazilian. That didn't take long. Ali is a ride thief and a fairly gruff guy. Despite that I really like him. He's Kurdish, from Irbil, and he's a really interesting person.

Good old Ali was up to his usual antics, swiping a ride from Vitao, who watched him do it. The new guy speaks very little English, is about 45, and is very businesslike. He is balding and professional, wearing a shirt and tie every night. He also has a big-screen portable GPS, another sign he's a serious guy. We all like him a lot. On his first day he came to me and said: "I am new here. Tell me if I do wrong. I need to learn." You can't not like a guy such as him.

So Vitao parks with a group of us on a cab stand, during a lull in business, and gets out to speak with us.

Him, in strained English: You know this Ali person?

Me: What'd he do?

Him: I want punch heem een face.

Me, smiling: Really?

Him: But I beeg person, he eez (searching for the English word) leetle person. I would keel him, so I (searching again) can not do that.

Me, smiling bigger: No, probably not.

Him: He stole! Een front of me!

Another country heard from, and another driver angry about Ali.

As a side note, not three nights ago I had to clean up one of Ali's messes. It wasn't entirely his fault, though. I got a bell from the company owner. He doesn't come on the radio unless we're really busy or there's a problem, and we weren't that busy -- so I knew somebody did something. My instructions were to go to a liquor store and pick up a guy in a black t-shirt.

Owner: Calm him down if he needs it, inform him he will get a $6 discount, and accept his credit card.

Me: 10-4.

I got there, and a black-shirted guy and a friend got in the back.

Him: Airport please, and I'm sorry you had to get involved in this.

Me: All they said was to pick up a guy in a black shirt and give him a discount. What happened?

Him: You know this Ali guy?

Me, choosing my words carefully: Yeah. He's a real character.

Him: First he refused to take my credit card, and brought me to the liquor store to use the ATM, which I agreed to. Then when I told him to stop the meter while I was inside, he refused.

Me: And he doesn't use deodorant. Did you notice that?

That's true, by the by. Both customers laughed. I knew I had "calmed him down." Every driver now has to take cards, and the owner doesn't like it when we try to tell people we don't take them. Since the owner doesn't know everything about what happens on the streets, we often lie about it, but poor old Ali got caught out on this one.

But we don't have to turn off the meter. We can, and nearly always do, charge waiting time. I never turn mine off; I would have done exactly as Ali had done. I probably would have taken the guy's card, though. It depends. If somebody asks in a begging tone, "Do you take cards, or do you need cash," I'll insist on cash. If they say, "I hope you take cards, because that's all I've got," then I'll take it.

They were happy, and I'll turn in a $6 receipt against my next lease payment. In cases like these, the owner absorbs the discount.

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