Quick mate! Quick! He wants me to get to a pub in the middle of town quick it seems. We arrive and park up a little distance from the pub. He is nervous, excited. We wait. Ten minutes go by. “What are we waiting for? I whisper so the people in the pub 50yds away cannot hear me. “My children…” he gagged back a cry. “ I’m losing my children.” He was talking to himself and was getting more agitated as he stared at the pub door. Twenty minutes go by. A woman comes out and lights a cigarette, he tenses, and she is clearly the person we have been waiting for. A couple of minutes later a man joins her, cuddles then kisses her grabbing her arse as he does. Tony is breathing heavy “My wife…” he is whispering to himself… My children…I’m losing my children” he then explodes out of the cab and runs at the kissing couple. Screaming. Pushing. A scene. I leave. I leave because weeks earlier this same woman tore at my clothes demanding sex. I obliged. I didn’t ask if she was married, I didn’t ask if she had children. I feel sick. I never gave a thought. I was single. I saw this man’s life fall apart. I took part in his downfall and watched it finally fall apart. He was whispering prophetically his own future moments earlier, the future where he sees his children at the weekends, where he over compensates with them at every opportunity, a future where his home is probably a dingy flat. He saw that future sitting next to me in the cab. I stopped women calling upon me to scratch their itches; I refused from then on to shape someone's sombre future. I have seen Tony in the park with his lovely kids, he was laughing and happy, but I knew at 5pm, he takes them back to the woman that has sex with complete strangers.
Monday, 15 July 2013
A small diminutive man. Drunk, happy and full of things to say, I cannot understand a single word so I nod an awful lot. He wears a tartan cap with a bright red bobble on top. He is Scottish and sees the cultural irony in his choice of headwear. Worried that my constant nodding to his indecipherable drivel will turn into a twitch, I then decide to ‘hmm’ agreeingly. We arrive, he pays me in 2p and 20p pieces and I am now wondering should I reinforce the floor beneath my bed where my change bucket lives. He finally decides to leave the cab, his face bright red with joy matching his bobble on his cap. He stops, bellows something to me in drunk Glaswegian, opens his yellow polystyrene box of steaming hot fatty kebab meat, grabs a large handful of what scientists are still deciding whether it is meat at all and deposits it onto my instrument cowling right in front of me. The grease is hot and is already running down my leg and to my brogues that I dutifully polish every day. He is tearful at his bountiful generosity as he slaps the same greasy hand onto my shoulder and gives it a squeeze as he gets out, wobbles and falls into a bush. This was my tip. I drove home open mouthed, incredulous and in shock to wash and change. Took an hour to get the grease out of the carpet in the cab. AN HOUR.
Her speech impediment makes it hard for me to understand her. You have to listen hard. In her late sixties and having spent, many years locked in her own home, away from the frightening outside world. She is now going to shows and taking part in community excursions, making friends. She pointed to a balcony on the second floor of the flats, on it, she grows herbs and flowers and especially strawberries. She loves strawberries. As we pull up to the entrance, she stutters violently and shakes and I hold her hand and ask what is making her so upset. Her neighbours spit on her herbs and strawberries from the next-door balcony, they pour beer and stub cigarettes into her herb pots. Laughing. Shouting. Poking fun at her speech. She hears them from her living room cackling like hyenas. She struggles to tell me she is being bullied. She is looking to move to a chalet type bungalow, small but with a small garden and this lit up her face. I watch her wave the electronic key at the door and it buzzed open. I sit outside, furious, watching and willing the hyenas to come out, Eileen is already on her balcony scanning her little pots and quickly disappears back in again. There is nothing I can do but stare up at the dirty net curtains of the hyena’s lair. I reluctantly leave. I am a working man and have to go to my next fare who is now wondering where I am. I do go back, slow to a crawl, sometimes park and look up. Today everything looks fine. Maybe I’ll pop back tomorrow. Maybe.
I almost gave up waiting when a well-dressed, well-groomed young woman appeared with a small luggage case on wheels. She has been in the secure unit for six months. “We have to go and get my dog” so off we go to get her dog. She tells me she has been sectioned before and because of that, when the argument occurred with her boyfriend they locked her up again. She is worried, “What if my dog doesn’t recognise me? “What if he has been given a new home”? We arrived at the kennels that is some distance from the town. Karen has been in the office for some time and decides to stand outside. She needs to be outside. Way across the huge yard a dog is being walked and he is barking, Karen notices and is now moving from the door. The dog, a good 150 yards away is going nuts and is let go by its walker and runs across the vast yard. “Jimmy! Karen shouts, the dog is barking/crying as it missiles towards her. They meet in a dust cloud in the yard, both in the dirt, both shrieking with joy. Karen is on her back being washed by Jimmy, immaculate clothing not so anymore. A scene of happiness of such I rarely see in real life. It took an age to calm them both down enough to get them in the cab. Jimmies tail never missed a beat the whole journey. Karen only had the £4.20 she was sectioned with and my meter said £19.80 but that was ok. I took it and was happy with it. Karen saw me crying in the yard but that was ok as well.
The local theatre emptied and the mum and young daughter are now in my cab, it’s quickly evident however that the daughter is not feeling well and the mother opens the rear window to its fullest extent and shoves her daughters head outside. I offer to stop so she can empty her stomach contents onto the side of the road. I was too late, the daughter was already projectile vomiting all over the side of the cab as I was driving, and it even spread over the rear window. We arrived at their house, her mother immediately offered to clean the mess off the cab, and I accepted her help to clean up. My first task was to make sure that there wasn’t any vomit was inside the cab and opened a rear door and crawled inside to check. The mother came down the path with a large bucket of soapy water and threw it at the cab. The window was still down and I and the whole interior of the cab was now soapsuds and steam. I vocally let her know how displeased I was and she ran and locked herself in the house and called the police, whom after my explanation could not stop laughing. It took three hours and all my own clean towels from my home to dry it out. After changing clothes and explaining what happened to the controller, he did a bit of a wee in his pants. I fail to see the humour in this and you had better not be smiling.
Its 2am and I’m picking up an elderly lady from the hospital to take her home to a nearby town, she is quiet and thoughtful, you sense that some people should be alone with their thoughts. A few minutes go by; the night is especially dark as it is a new moon. I hear the start of a little choke that precedes a cry, something I hear a lot. The already low volume of the radio is silenced as I switch it off. I ask if she is ok as gently as I could. “My husband, he passed away tonight” I just listen. “We were married for sixty one years and I have never been alone, never slept alone and never been in our house alone in all that time.” We sit outside her house for quite a while, I hold her hand and she makes eye contact with me for the first time and sees me being a bit tearful and I apologise for my silliness, eventually she plucks up courage to go into her own house. I told her I will be with her till all the lights are on. I end up making ‘that’ call to her daughter and she is on her way. I leave. I do not belong there. The house is now full of activity; neighbours are knocking, even at this silly hour of the morning. Its 3.30am she isn’t alone and I drive away, I forgot to get paid again, but it doesn’t really matter. Not really. I finished my shift soon after, got to my own car and find it smashed up by vandals. I had a bit of a cry.
Twenty-five years in the navy, he is 73, smart and smells fresh and clean he has just visited his lady friend in the caravan that’s in the nice park just north of the town. It has just gone eleven and the meter trips over to the night rate at exactly that time; I notice he noticed that the meter is now on the enhanced night rate and ask him about himself. He tells me about the boatloads of alive and dead souls he has seen in all of the oceans of the world trying to flee from oppression. He has holed and sunk gunrunners and their cargo, he tells of lovely weather and death in the same sentence, always just an able seaman, never promoted and was happy with that. We arrive and I stop the meter total, he is sighing as he is counting his change. I laugh and joke and wish him a good evening, I even get out of the cab and open the door for him , stand to attention and salute, he laughs and walks off, I notice his shiny brogues, good ones. You can tell. He did not notice my sleight of hand because I didn’t take his money, it wasn’t that much. After twenty-five years protecting this country, it was just a little thank you from me.