I decided to get back on the cardboard horse. An effort to continue my recuperation. Make one delivery, then build off that. Part of me wasn’t on board with this idea. I convinced that side of myself by foregoing public transportation. I would only use taxis. I started out optimistic that this plan could make for a productive day. That other side of me then suggesting a drink would be in order.
I watch the assigned vehicle on my phone. It moves slowly towards me in a roundabout way. Going in several wrong directions. This driver may intend for me to cancel. It’s more interesting for me to wait. And I’ve been able to motivate this plan into action. I’m not canceling because of a lazy or scamming driver. In any event, it’s not a good sign.
I go out to meet the car once it finally gets closer. It’s a mildly sporty ride, tricked out to appear faster than it actually is. Opening the door and ducking in the back seat, the rumble coming from underneath the car is louder than average. I can assume this is a single glasspack. Not an actual performance exhaust system. One look at the driver all but confirms it.
He wears a tracksuit and what I consider to be an unnecessary amount of jewelry. We all make personal choices though. I say hello to try and get things off on the right foot. But his music is too loud because of the faux exhaust system. We begin traveling northwest in the direction of my first pickup. Then we start going a little too far west. I tap him on the shoulder as politely as I can. He turns down the music.
“What?” the driver asks.
“I think you might be going the wrong way,” I say.
“Nah, I’ve got to make a stop.”
I’m not sure what to say to that. It is his car I guess. But I don’t think he knows how this is suppose to work. It’s not like he even asked. Telling me right out is going to damage his current rating. Say what you want about licensed taxis: they’re dangerous drivers, they’re rude, they smell peculiar. They also understand you got in their car because they provide a service. They drive the car where you want to go. You pay them money for doing so. It seems like a much better option now that I’m in this hostage situation.
We pull over to the curb. Tracksuit says nothing and jumps out, quickly disappearing into a duplex. With the car shut off and the windows rolled up, I’m feeling like a neglected dog. Good thing it’s not a hot day. I’m irritated with this turn of events. I must refuse to let it derail my motivation and possible productivity. For now.
Tracksuit emerges seven minutes later. He stuffs what appears to be a thick brick of cash in his waistband. Covering it with the jacket top. He is back behind the wheel, starting the car with a giddiness. I’m wondering why he’s taking fares with so much cash at his disposal? Not to mention, what is all that cash for?
“Am I supposed to pay for this?” I ask.
“That’s how the app works.”
“Yeah, there’s also a rating system.”
“Are you threatening me bro? What, you’re going to give me a bad rating because we had to stop for a few minutes? We could have been stuck in traffic, what’s the difference?”
“I’m working here, I’m on the clock,” I say.
“Ok look, I’ll end the ride and take you the rest of the way, all right?”
“At this point…I guess.”
“Well don’t start on that rating shit again. I’ve got connections bro. You don’t wanna play.” Continuing on our way, we make it all of three blocks before he pulls over again. This time into a gas station. I’m about to lose my shit.
“I’m gonna make it up to you,” Tracksuit says. “This is the only gas station in the city that sells the primo jerky. I’ll be right back.” And he’s gone again. Before I can even respond. I could just get out. Walk to the bus. Or call another taxi. But I don’t. I’m trying to go with the flow. And stay dry.
When Tracksuit returns, he knocks on my window. Rather than getting in the car. I don’t roll it down. Because it confuses me further. He knocks again. I can see him cursing now. It pleases me that he’s becoming irritated. That’s why I look the other way. I’ll wait for him to knock once more. Tracksuit almost breaks his own window.
“Yes?” I ask. Finally rolling down the window.
“You gotta try this shit,” Tracksuit says. Then he throws a bag of ordinary-looking beef jerky in my lap.
That’s decent service I suppose. Except that I didn’t ask for any fucking beef jerky! I asked to reach my destination as soon as possible! It was implied at least. Confoundedly, he doesn’t get back in the car. Tracksuit lights up a cigarette and approaches a police cruiser. This guy is thoroughly nuts. Smoking next to a gas pump, he starts chatting up the officers. I can tell from watching this interaction that he’s really enjoying getting away with something. Something to do with that cash. And knowing these officers of the law are in such close proximity of it.
After a few minutes, Tracksuit leaves them to talk to some girls at another pump. He seems to be talking to them about cars. Tracksuit points at his own ride several times. Eventually, one of the girls departs and approaches me.
“Your friend is an arrogant asshole,” she says.
“He’s not my friend. He’s my driver.”
“You should fire him then.”
“I couldn’t agree more. In fact, today is the day I plan on cutting him loose.”
The girl is amused by this. She turns to laugh at the damned driver. Tracksuit has been watching, and approaches us quickly. He seems very concerned. Either with her interest in talking to me, or simply the existence of our discussion. Tracksuit shoos her away, and she flicks him off. He eventually gets back in the car.
“How you like that jerky?” Tracksuit asks.
“I haven’t tried it.”
“What the fuck man? I go to all that trouble and you didn’t even try it?” He snatches the bag from the backseat. Tracksuit pulls opens the bag and re-offers it to me in the back seat.
“Really, I’m all right,” I say.
“Try it. We’re not going anywhere until you try it.” I take a piece of beef jerky. It tastes like beef jerky.
“Is that good or what?” Tracksuit says.
“Have some more. Go on, have some more.”
I don’t even bother arguing. It’s increasingly difficult to chew dried meat products. It reminds of my salami sandwich excuse. I used to always pack salami sandwiches for lunch. And I made a point to let people know about it. See this way, when I smelled of booze, it was a similar smell to cured meats. Air tight.
“How about that huh?” Tracksuit bites off a chunk himself. At long last the car is put back in gear. When we reach my destination I don’t even consider asking him to wait. He is offering me a job as a mule or something when I slam the door. Tracksuit also insisted I take the jerky with me. I take the bag and throw it in the nearest garbage can. I go a step further than I usually do, selecting a one star rating on the app. Then enter the optional comments: Ride was delayed by driver for illegal activities. It’s the only delivery I make that day.