1. Unbalanced Inauguration
The jig was nearly up that Tuesday afternoon. For a few minutes I was stricken with a panicked fear, thinking my employers may have finally found me out. If so, I might be seeking a new job by the end of the day. When I saw one of my supervisors get on the bus I’d been riding, I froze. It was Mark, or Matt, or something else with an M. I can’t recall, but I thought he spotted me. Then he just looked away and took a seat. Either he didn’t see me, or I must be as forgettable as he is.
For the last seven months I have been working as a courier, delivering a wide variety of items all over the city for one of your typical messenger services. I’ve done this despite the fact that for the last five months I’ve been legally unable to drive a car. Which I must admit is due to the influence of alcohol, in a way that was not in accordance with the law.
Additionally, I’m unable to bicycle, as most would in my profession, because of my intense hatred of the amatuer riders who infest these streets. Just the mention of it conjures images of layered leg warmers, and hobo-dressed pedalers wearing stickered bike helmets. Then there’s the hipsters overdoing it. Like the guy on the old-timey bicycle, with the big front wheel, and a goPro on his helmet every damn day. How much footage of his commute does he need? Once I was tempted to loop his wallet chain to the side mirror of a pickup while he waited at a stoplight. But then the light changed.
My personal favorite are what I call reluctant business people, who refuse the change of clothes. Wearing their business attire, they always look to me like they’re riding stolen bicycles. Sometimes I even put my fist in the air, shouting to them to “Fight the power!” Oh, and there’s tourists on rental bikes. All of them loud-mouthed, yelling their constant notifications of “On your left!”
So how do I do it? Well I’ve been taking public transportation when I can, and taxi cabs when I can’t. The former being more cost effective, when a time crunch isn’t at issue. However, you never can tell who or what you’ll be exposed to out in public. Fortunately on this day, we arrived without much incident, but this isn’t always the case. All too often it gets weird. It doesn’t matter if you pretend to be reading, or have headphones in with nothing playing. I sometimes see people doing both and wonder how they read if they are in fact listening to music? Perhaps it’s part of the antisocial uniform? And while these may be a deterrent, it won’t stop the true crazies from tapping you on the shoulder repeatedly. They’re part of the community, and they’ll let you know it.
Thanksgiving Day last year was a doozy. Yeah, I was working. You’d never believe what some people are willing to pay to have some of the oddest things delivered at the most inconvenient times. This Thursday it was raining, and I picked up a package on the West side, that had to go up north. I can’t tell you what it is, there’s confidentiality, and I do have some integrity. Regardless of the impression you’re getting. Anyways, with holiday transit schedules being fucked, and no quick way to get it there, I called a taxi.
It was of the unlicensed variety that are so popular now. One of the ridesharing apps that compete fiercely with each other. All the while fending off legislation, and airport bans, to try and provide consumers with a cheaper fare. No matter that their drivers aren’t interviewed, or even meet with the company that’s hiring them most times. But when was the last time you took a licensed taxi and thought “what a great guy this driver is” afterward? Incidents have occurred with both.
I’m considering all of this as I proceed to watch a Cadillac on the GPS crisscross north up the streets towards me. The fact that this driver wasn’t taking a direct route, for no apparent reason, gives me pause. I think about bailing, but I have little time to lose. Every extra minute costs me money. I figure canceling, and calling another car would just waste more time. I finally spot him at a nearby intersection, and he eventually pulls to the curb. I get in the back seat to find a very distressed man, about ten years older than me behind the wheel.
“Sit in the front seat. You’re a big dude, you need more room,” he says.
“Nah, I’m fine. It is a Cadillac after all,” I tell him. This brings him some prideful amusement, which I’ll soon find out is much needed at this point.
It’s still morning, and his holiday is not going well so far. Apparently, his wife went to Thanksgiving at his best friend’s house a night early, and neither one of them have been answering their phones. I know this because it’s all he talks about. I can only offer politeness in return. This is very personal. I can’t be sure he even hears my responses with the state he’s in.
“I’d really like to go over there and fight the dude,” he says. “Even if he is much bigger, like you. I’ll just pull him down by those long dreads and stomp him.”
“It’s not worth the charge,” I say, growing uneasy. Well, even more so. Then he suggests doing something similar to his soon to be ex, and I have no reply. Nothing like the threat of domestic violence to turn a customer service situation even more uncomfortable.
I keep reminding him it’s not worth it, trying to make him feel like he’s not alone. For all I know he’s aiming for the light pole on the next block. These thoughts race through my head every so often, and I watch him closely for any sign that things may take a turn for the worse while I’m in the back seat. I’m determined not to let that happen, but also realize I should’ve just taken the bus. Which could be worse I suppose. There could be a whole group of crazies. But at least they wouldn’t get to take turns driving me around.
This unstable driver now tells me “It’s all good, I already got another piece last night.” Now I can assume the writing was on the wall in this relationship. Then he starts to get into the details, which is just a list of sex acts they performed together. Once the list finishes, it starts over from the beginning. Four or five times in a row, and I’ve had enough. Regardless if what he’s saying is true or not. He’s probably just saving face, even though I’m essentially a stranger. Pride can be so weird sometimes.
I have him drop me in an alley, a few blocks from my destination. He’s confused by this, and I can tell he doesn’t want me to leave. After I make the delivery, I watch on the GPS that he has pulled up to the front of the address I originally provided, and sits there for ten minutes before ending the ride. I don’t mind, I’ll gladly pay not to have to talk to his crazy ass a minute longer. I wait inside the lobby reading a magazine, while I silently wish him the best. Him, his soon to be ex, her new boyfriend, and his next passenger.