Good to Go

Last night I got a call to pick up at one of the supposedly trendy, yet incredibly antiseptic, townhouses that have started to sprout up in inner Northeast between Fremont and 84 and Williams and 20th. Out of this one spilled five very drunk people: two white men in their late middle-ages, two white women of a similar age, and an Asian woman in her mid-30s. They were all dressed very well (actually half of them weren't dressed very well, they were just dressed expensively).

All five of them piled into the cab and immediately started screeching and shouting and laughing very loudly. After a minute or so of this, the din briefly subsided enough so that I could ask them where they were going, a question that seemed to surprise them Northrup Station, an architectural disaster of a boutique hotel in Northwest Portland. Very pricy and very tasteless, it really was obvious enough that I shouldn't have had to ask.

They contiuned carrying on very loudly and in high pitches, some conversation about the mini-social controvery surrounding one woman at the party turning down a piece of cake offered her at the party, and how that piece of cake was turned down, and did you see her face, etc. I was driving down Broadway to cross the bridge, very much looking forward to the trip's impending end.

A camera flash went off in the car.

"Please don't do that again," I said. This made no dent - the conversation continued, and I obviously hadn't been heard. Much giggling and screeching from the women in the back.

"I said, do NOT use the flash again in this cab. Is that clear?" More loudly this time, very much in my "stern parent" voice. This at least drew their attention to the fact that I'd said something, and that this something was not said in a proper tone for the help to use.

"Ex-cuse me?" asked the Asian woman, "I didn't quite get that."

"If you fire that flash off one more time, I'm kicking all of you out of the cab."


"Take another picture and you're walking."

Dead silence. The gruff, take-no-shit disciplinarian stance is almost always effective at getting drunks' attention and cowing them into sheepish good behavior. The only time it's ever really failed me was with the guy who wanted to fight me.

These folks, however, were obviously not accustomed to being treated like, well, the obnoxious drunks they were. After a twenty seconds or so, the Asian woman finally retorted with "Well, you could have been more polite." I'm horrible at coming up with snappy retorts on the spot (though, like most, excellent in hindsight), and didn't feel the need to explain myself to her, so I stayed silent. Eventually the conversation and screeching in the back started up again, though at a slightly lower volume.

When we arrived at the hotel, I quoted them the $13 dollar fare. One of the middle-aged white women handed me a ten and a five, and they all got out of the cab. Still annoyed with them, I asked if she wanted her change back. One of the men, a skinny little guy with a mustache who seemed to be with the Asian woman snapped "yes," so I gave him back two ones. As he was closing the door, he sneered "and you need to learn some manners."

"And you need to grow a brain," I mumbled, and put the car in reverse. Despite my lack of ability with on the spot comebacks, I'm also almost utterly incapable of allowing anyone else to have the last word.

"What did you say?" screeched the Asian woman, sticking her furious face in the window.

"I said that you need to grow a brain." (it's worth noting that throughout the following conversation I'm speaking in an even and measured tone, the "Dad's so mad that he isn't even acting outwardly mad" approach that my father used to great effect in my youth)

"I never!"

You know that we have your cab number and can call you in," snapped the man.

"That's great, it's cab number XXX. You guys just need to accept that you were being idiots and incredibly unsafe, you have no basis for getting so worked out."

"You need to be more polite!" the woman, again.

"Do you have any idea how insanely dumb that camera stunt was, or how insane you're acting right now?"

"Insane, you think I'm insane? Well I think you're a little boy."

This was feeble enough that I was able to pull out of the hotel without further comment. I told the dispatcher that she'd probably be getting a complaint about me, and what had happened. I will get in absolutely no trouble for this incident, no one will blame me for being displeased with drunk people firing off a flash in the car.

Still, it ate at me for a couple of hours. I kept thinking of all of the ways I could've tried to make myself clearer to them: "Look, you wouldn't be polite to me if I came in and started flashing lights in your eyes and screeching like a wounded raccoon at your job masturbating horses, right?" etc. The main thing that got under my skin about it is that I tend to be incredibly polite with people who aren't being complete dicks.

Last night, for example, I also had an extremely drunk woman who kept talking to herself, didn't give me an address, wanted me to cut her a deal, gave me three different sets of directions, and was basically in a state of alcohol-induced psychosis. I was extremely polite to her, and got her where she was going without running up the meter. She asked for my card at the end of the trip (I told her I didn't have one) Same with another guy who was so drunk his speech was just one continuous slur that lasted the whole trip as he constantly gave me directions on a very easy and obvious route that anyone living in Portland would know, then didn't have enough cash to pay so he had to go inside to get more. I was really nice to him, and got him home safe, and he gave me a hug at the end.
Now another guy's springing to mind who I couldn't stand, but was so polite to that he gave me a $10 tip on a $12 trip. And he lived in a dump. Three incredibly aggravating customers, and they got the whole "sir/ma'am", patient and understanding treatment.


Because they weren't being grossly obnoxious and inconsiderate. They were annoying, they were drunk, and they didn't have their shit together at all, but they were still as polite and reasonable as possible, and in both cases even apologetic for being so drunk.

And it's not that I've got something against rich people or don't know how to interact with them, either. It's not at all infrequent for me to take wealthier customers to the airport early in the morning - I often like them, and they often like me a great deal. I'm fully capable of being charming, polite, and full of pleasent conversation. Hell, with all of the opportunities I was given at various fancy colleges and prep schools before I drank myself out of them
(I initially ended up in Portland to attend Reed), I'm a lot more accustomed to dealing with the rich and "cultured" than I'd probably like to admit. The main thing I've learned is that rich people are just like everyone else: most of them are perfectly pleasent, and some of them are self-absorbed jerks.

I don't know why these assholes bothered me so much. Probably for the same reason I hated Reed and the fancy New England boarding school - the self-absorbed jerks that are rich bother me because they have their money to fall back on as evidence to themselves that they're superior to me. I'd always been able to put bullies "in their place" until I got exposed to the privileged jerks, who seem to possess a special and unshakable awareness of their own exceptionalism that I'm probably jealous of.

Well that's enough semi-public self-psychoanalysis for the morning. In other news, I'm going on vacation for two weeks starting today. I'm taking the laptop with me, and will try to keep this updated with selections from my arsenal of older stories.

Also, this morning while cashing out my charge slips, I had to pay $78 and change to cover my "accident." I guess the lady liked the idea of getting some free detail work done, and thus my righteous indignation over my interaction with the Safety Board is a lot less warranted, as I cost the company about $375 (minus my $78, so $297). It wasn't that big a deal, although now that I think about it, it's kind of bizarre to be taking in enough money now that I'm shrugging off unexpected losses that large.

Which reminds me: this guy did, in fact, promptly come in to claim his T.V. and pay his money the Monday after the incident, which makes him a fucking champ in my book.


Blogger Crabbie said...

Wow, that's a pretty epic post for a minor incident. Sorry, I need to work on my brevity when writing these things, it's become way too much of a stream-of-consciousness, "journal" type thing.

September 05, 2006 9:50 AM  
Blogger MJ06 said...

Hey man I was just ganna ask I am glad you said it what happened to the TV man.

I post my own comments to under posts that I make as well some times but I have not up dated in a long time.

September 05, 2006 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

Well I thought it was only us English that are sometimes too polite, but I guess not ehh Thanks, Good Evening, Best wishes,Sir

September 06, 2006 11:46 AM  

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