These days, I travel just about as well as a shipment of exotic fruit – I bruise easily and I’m not very sweet by the time I reach my destination. Gone are the heady days of traveling aboard private jets to Paris (yes, that really was my job. But I was in my 20s and didn’t fully appreciate the awesomeness of my life). Now I fly in steerage with the rest of the pilgrims.
I tend to get stiff when I’ve been sitting for a while, especially when where I’m sitting is more the size of my toddler nephew’s car seat than it is a normal chair. But before I launch into another “Oh-my-gosh-how-shitty-is-flying-these-days-am-I-right” stories, I want to talk to you about cab drivers in the greater metro District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia area. They are, without exception, HORRIBLE.
Normally, I would Uber to the airport (yes, it is a verb now, and for those of you who don’t know what that is [attn: Mom], read this article so you know what I’m talking about), but I figured that at 5:30 am on a Monday morning, I was going to end up waiting too long. So I made a reservation with a local cab company. To protect its identity, I’ll call it Washingtown Flawyer.
At 5:36 am, I walked outside to look for him. Sure enough, there’s a cab, parked in the middle of the road about 50 yards away, bright lights on full blast. I wave at him. Nothing. I walk closer. Nada. I run toward the car yelling, “Hey! Cab!” Nope.
He startled when I knocked on his window. “Oh! I thought you lived here,” gesturing vaguely at a garbage can and a mailbox. I threw my stuff in the back and we headed off to…to…”Excuse me, where do we go?” he asked. I tried to make out his features to see if he was joking, but I was blinded by the blazing light of his 36-inch screen GPS. “The airport,” I said. “Yep,” he replied. I looked at the GPS, but it was showing a cul-de-sac in Skunk Stop Springs, North Dakota.
From the silence that ensued, I deduced that he needed directions. Which he took more as suggestions than a directive. “NO LEFT TURN! LEFT TURN IN TWO MORE STOPLIGHTS!” I screamed politely as he veered uncertainly from lane to lane. When I saw his forehead pressed up against the windshield I realized he probably doesn’t have very good night vision, or good vision over all.
“Do you have HOV?” he asked as we merged terribly onto the highway. Perhaps he was actually from Skunk Stop Springs, North Dakota, and was driving the cab for his friend, who’d been fatally wounded in a 25 mph hit-and-run. By a cab. Driven by this guy.
“Yes we do!” I said brightly, using my “teacher-teaching-the-criminally-insane-to-tap-dance” voice. But the wide-open HOV lane, red taillights, and probably even the lines on the pavement threw him into a bid of a fuddle. A 6-ton pick-up truck with six rows of lights and a gun rack tailed us closely in what I can only assume was a desperate effort to drive over us. We hurtled along at a breakneck 40 to 45 mph.
“You’re doing great! You can probably speed up a little – we’re wide open! Nooooobody in front of us. At all. Anywhere!” I offered helpfully. Just to be safe, he pulled over a little to the left so that the left tires of the car could ride the ridged asphalt designed to jerk distracted (read: drunk/high) drivers out of their high speed catnap.
He made one phone call during our drive. To his boss. Here is the conversation:
“Yes boss. No, I cannot do that pick up. I have been driving all night. I am very tired and it is risky for me to be driving. I do not want to fall asleep at the wheel. I am not feeling well.”
All righty then.
“So tell me about your family,” I shouted merrily at him in a desperate attempt to keep him awake. “What are your hobbies? Did you know it is going to rain in two days? I have a dog. Actually, I have three dogs.”
I would have asked him to open the window for some fresh air, but I thought that might result in a rollover accident.
We pulled up to the airport in one piece and he turned around and handed me his card. “If you need a ride back from the airport, give me a call,” he said.