A Fare Debate

Once, I had an argument with a cab driver. Okay, several times with different cab drivers throughout my life and for various reasons. There are a few that stand out in my mind, but this one happened more recently and it’s special for a couple reasons. In living memory, it’s the first time I have ever stood my ground with a complete stranger, refusing to let someone believe they had changed my mind over something. It is also the first time I have had this kind of argument with someone I only slightly believed had the power to make my life difficult. Just like the pervasive fear of pissing off the staff in a restaurant, many people probably have a number of fears associated angering the guy who is behind the wheel of the vehicle they have hired.

Since this event did not occur super recently, I can only throw out the disclaimer that this is as accurate as I can remember.

It was a late night working at Generimart and I had an opening shift the next day. Since I had a little wiggle room after my paycheck and this was the only closepin shift I had been scheduled for that week, I decided to take a cab home to insure that I got the most rest.

Just like Sophia Patrillo could only take a running guess at a memory of an Italian restaurant from her adolescence, I can say with enough certainty that I was probably tired from trying to clear the parking lot and busting my balls with absolutely no help from my coworkers. The cab driver was in no better shape.

Up front, cab drivers have a difficult job. They keep a small percentage of what they make in a day, not counting the tips they might get. In a really busy night like the Super Bowl parade, I’m sure the cab drivers of the North Shore raked it in. But on the slow weeks it can be extremely depressing sitting in that car all day, hoping that someone hasn’t caught on to this walking thing that these millennial kids are into. Knowing what it’s like to work in a service oriented position for very little emotional compensation gives me a fair amount of sympathy and perhaps it makes me want to be a better passenger. I try to tip when I can, or at least apologize profusely when I am unable to.

In the past I had a small disagreement with a cab driver who seemed to think he had the right to guilt me into tipping when I was making barely anything in a dish washing job. But most cab drivers at least understand that none of us in the service positions are swimming in cash and that some times we call for a cab because we need to make it safely home and have no other options.

Like a cart jockey, or a janitor, cab drivers are human beings that we sometimes take for granted. Maybe you were having a bad day and didn’t feel like being super chatty, which is understandable. But then you could just politely inform your driver of this and you’ll be in the right if he or she gets pushy. I often use the opportunity to vent, since there’s no harm in telling some random driver about my lousy day and maybe in finding common ground, the ride can become more pleasant and really turn the day around.

On this particular night, I will allow that perhaps I should have dropped the subject sooner. The cab driver took us past the cemetery that runs across the Peabody/Salem border. It was late at night and I think it was a particularly nice evening. Somehow the conversation turned to funerals and I casually mentioned how I want my funeral to be at night.

“You can’t do that,” the driver said.

“Sure I can.”

“You can’t have a funeral at night.”

“Well why not? They have weddings at night.”

“Because it’s against the law!” At this point the driver raised his voice. This was completely unnecessary and if he had just made his point in an even tone, I might not have felt the need to come back at him with a counter argument. I was not making a provocative statement. It was a casual thought, the way some people say they want to own an island. This guy made it an argument and I wasn’t going to back down.

“Fifty years ago it was illegal for two men to have consensual sex. Now we’re just a few years away from gay marriage being legal in all fifty states. So if I have to make a mega ton of money just to make this happen than I am having my funeral at night.”

The driver must have had the sense that he was out of his league on this. Or he was slightly worried that he had a big bowl of crazy in his back seat, but who cares. If it’s any consolation to you, faithful reader, he got me home safely and I did give him a tip.

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