-- Riding a Cab in Boston --
Update 12 August 2005 by Amazing Ben
When I first moved to the greater Boston area, I discovered that one of my biggest problems was getting from place to place while depending solely on the paragon of inefficiency, corruption, and general ineptitude personified that is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The MBTA, as cool people and dumb assholes alike refer to it, is about as effective at getting you where you need to be on time in a comfortable and rapid fashion as a homemade soap box downhill racer made solely out of cardboard beer boxes, lightbulbs and rusty shovels is at propelling you across the Atlantic Ocean. Combine that with the absolutely rock-solid fact that the "T", as jerkwads and fishwrapper newspapers refer to it, only covers about 7.891% of the greater Boston area and that I'm incredibly lazy and generally late for everything and you end up with a guy who takes a lot of cab rides throughout Eastern Massachusetts. This is all well and good; I love entrusting my life and $20 in the hands of a guy who I probably wouldn't loan my skateboard to and then relying on him to get me where I need to go in a timely fashion without causing me any sort of death or dismemberment. However, it might surprise you to hear that there are actually some very colorful characters driving taxis out there. A shock, I know, but it gets worse. This week I'm going to share with you some of the awesome experiences I've had riding around in the back seat of the giant metal deathtraps of the Boston metro area.
Not Pictured: Me in the back seat clinging for dear life.
Hopelessly Lost in Charlestown
From: The Brighton Police Station
To: A Charlestown towing company
Once upon a time, my wife and I parked our car out in front of our apartment building. The next day we went to work. When we got home, we noticed that our car was gone and in its place were some recently-installed "No Parking - Construction Zone" signs and a smoldering crater containing yellow piping and a bunch of drunken sweaty pig-men standing around scratching their nuts and spitting chaw at baby squirrels. Blown away by this awesome life-altering development, we went to the police station. My wife yelled at a bunch of cops and tried to get them to fight her while I pretended to hold her back and said things like, "don't make her angry... you wouldn't like her when she's angry..." When this one stupid bitch-hole officer who looked like she stepped out of an early 1980's episode of COPS was like "don't yell at us and then ask us for favors... *I* didn't tow your car, Miss", my blushing bride completely lost it and started punching shit, flipping over vending machines and spitting blood at everyone. It was a disaster. After that, we decided that we needed to go to the tow truck station in Charlestown and get our car back before the police filed a complaint against us Rodney King-style. So we were forced to take a cab.
When we entered the pine tree fresh backseat, we noticed that the radio station he was listening to was not in English -- the international sign that you might be in for some communication issues. Well, we gave him the address of the tow company on our ticket and he shook his head disapprovingly. We showed him the ticket and the address, and he was like "oh, ok" and started driving towards Charlestown. Once reached the bridge to Charlestown, he pulled over onto what was either the shoulder or the median and leaned back towards us.
"Where you wanna go?"
"Uh... it's on the ticket here..."
(I point to the address)
(Man points to the part of the ticket that says "Silver 2001 Honda")
"No... this address here."
(I point to the address)
(Man points to the part of the ticket that has the license plate number)
(I point to the address)
The man starts driving and pretty soon we're in the back alleyways of downtown Rapeville, MA at dusk on a Friday night. He turns around again and is like, "where you wanna go?". We're like, "uh, just let us out here... we'll find it on our own."
Half an hour of walking later, we were there. The end.
The Sean "Puffy" Combs Death Ride
From: A grocery store in Allston
To: My apartment
Back before we got a car, we used to have to take cabs home from the store if we bought too many groceries on the T because assholes on the train would stomp on our bread, give us dirty looks and then kick our apples since people the ride the T on Saturday mornings are all Nazi-sympathizing fuckheads who need to just lie down on the tracks or jump in front of the Commuter Rail so that everyone can be put out of their misery.
Anyways, one such day we were picked up by a nondescript man with some shiny gold jewelry and one of those hats that is a favorite of high-class rappers, starving artists, old-time newsies and pretentious country-club golfers. We were enjoying a nice ride back home when a call came in to his radio saying "I need a pickup at Chestnut Hill Ave". He picks up and says he'll take the call. All of a sudden, he SLAMS on the gas and we go flying through the busy street NASCAR-style. He's swerving all over the place, darting between traffic and generally operating his cab like a guy who has hopped in the driver's seat of a Halo Warthog for the first time ever. We're fishtailing around, groceries and dead bodies are flying everywhere, my wife is turning green and "I'll Be Missin' You" by P-Diddy starts blaring on the radio. He turns it up while he's flying down the street so that we can all enjoy one last song before we become either bloody smears on the asphalt or ornamentation for a nearby telephone pole. When eventually we get to a section of the road that has both lanes blocked by cars, he starts sliding back and forth between the two lanes waiting for one car to pull just far enough ahead of the other so that he can fly up on the curb and blast around it while running a red light in a school zone and careening into an army of little old ladies crossing the street with baby carriages and Boy Scouts.
It was probably the most scared I've ever been inside of a car in my entire life, and I was pretty sure for a while that the last thing I would ever hear would be Sean "Puffy P. Diddy Bad Boy Puff Diddy" Combs, which was sort of a depressing realization.
The Chess Master
From: My apartment
To: My office in Southie
I used to take cabs to work about once a week because I would pretty consistently sleep in or not get up in time or not give a shit about going to work and I was pretty confident that my old boss hated me with the fire of a thousand suns because she would always do shit like throw pencils at me and write me notes on company stationary informing me that "I'm going to kick your ass tonight in the parking lot after work" or give me helpful memos like "watch your back tonight, bitch". So in order to not piss her off any more than I thought I could get away with I tried to be on time to work at least once a week. It didn't make up for the fact that I was about as good at my job as I am at creating decorative floral arrangements for a Wicca seance/marriage in rural Malaysia, but it was at least a start.
Anyways, this cabbie was a native Bostonian dude who started off on a bad foot with me when he's like, "I was going one way, and then I stopped to get coffee and went another way and I found you. It's all about that, you know, just luck... gotta change things up once in a while in order for everything to work the way you want it to. Gotta do that unexpected to get expected results". I'm like "yeah".
The guy starts out talking about the student population of Boston in Winter versus that actual population of Boston in the Summer. Whatever. I guess some people always have to be talking about something. But then he starts telling me about his online chess addiction, and shit gets weird. Now I didn't really know that people were that into chess anymore, but I've got nothing against it. However, this guy was INSANE about it. He was telling me all sorts of crazy shit about chess that I never knew (or wanted to know) and he was telling me about all of his online "friends" and what they do in their spare time, all the while referring to them only by their online chess handle.
"...but PawnRookGurl87, girl spelled with a 'u' and not an 'i', she likes to open with a second side bishop's gambit, which is far more aggressive than I open up with because I like to move knight to king's rook 4 on my third turn but she is aggressive which is good sometimes because she doesn't play like my other friends do and you have to react to her openings differently. They're more conservative but she's aggressive. She's seventeen and lives in Iowa with her mother but that's cool because she's a neat chick. And she plays aggressively, which I like. She's won 37 games, which is pretty good, but I've won 54. I was saying in the chat room before...."
I guess it's good to have a hobby, right? Right?
Michael Moore in the Ghetto
From: A Watertown middle school
To: My apartment
My wife was freelancing for a local newspaper for a while here before she decided that she was too fucking cool for it. One day they asked her to cover an amateur co-ed recreational dodgeball league that fittingly was meeting in the gymnasium of a local middle school in Ghettoland. Being the supportive dude and avid dodgeball fan that I am, I went along with her, all the while doing my impression of Cartman singing "In the Ghetto". Well, the thing ran late into the night and the busses were no longer running, so we used a company-issued cab voucher I had stolen from the job I had recently quit to get a quick ride home because as I said we were in the fucking ghetto and there was no way in hell I was walking home. By the time the taxi arrived we were like the last humans in the local area that weren't safely locked away in their magical iron vaults or packing some sort of homemade shiv constructed of steel tacks, packing peanuts and melted-down basketball rubber.
The cab picked us up, and I could have sworn the the driver was Michael Moore. He looked exactly like him down to the glasses and Detroit Tigers cap, and he was eating a clam fritter and cheese nachos combination platter out of a styrofoam container sitting on the passenger's side front seat. Only there was something I couldn't pinpoint about this guy that was a little less "eccentric artist" and a little more "teen slasher film villain". Anyways, we started to head back out to the main road when all of a sudden without saying anything he cuts down a couple of side streets and before we know it we can't even see the lights of the Prudential Center or anything... just rows of houses in whatever suburb of Crackton we were about to get mugged and murdered in by either vicious pigmy cannibal headshrinkers or intoxicated overweight Irish rugby hooligans. All of a sudden "In the Ghetto" comes on the radio. My wife about loses it at this point - she's trying so hard not to laugh that it's ridiculous, possibly from a combination of that song coming on and a fear of death at the hands of a bicycle chain or a super-sized nacho. She's squeaking. Michael Moore is looking into the rearview to see what is going on and possibly trying to calculate how many clam fritters he would need to stab the two of us with before we would die from it. It was absolutely Besonderes.
Eventually he pulled back onto a road that I recognized and then I realized I was just being a pussy. That "In the Ghetto" song is hilarious though.
The Angry Russian Man Freak Out Hell Ride
From: My downtown Boston office
To: Newton, I think
I caught a cab once while I was working as a courier of sorts at a Boston law office. This experience was pretty unique because a lot of cabbies don't have the guts to swear at you while you're in the car with them. This guy was different. Way different.
This guy looked like your typical Eurotrash Russian club scene guy. He was in his early thirties and wearing like a weird silk shirt and some other crap that you wouldn't really expect to see outside of a discotheque even though I actually have no idea what the fuck a discotheque actually is other than the French word for "disco" and disco as we all know has been fucking dead for some time now, yo. Anyways, we went to get on the Mass Pike and the traffic was bad. This guy was not having any of it. He just starts swearing like a drunken Irishman with Turret's Syndrome who just got a ten ton grand piano dropped on his toe, berating everyone and everything in every language ever created in the history of the world from Flemish to African Click Language. He's throwing down Russian, Arabic, English, and some language that might as well have been fucking Aramaic for all I know. He's like, "fuck you motherfuckers, I fucking keeell you! I KEEEELLL you motherfuckers! I fucking hate motherfuckers!" and then he'd go off in Russian or whatever while honking his horn and gunning his engine to about five jillion rpms even though traffic is deadlocked bumper-to-bumper and the car infront of him is about ten inches away and parked. All in all I couldn't decide whether to laugh of be frightened.
Then his cell phone rings. He answers it "yeah?" and then pauses for a second. It's not long before he busts out, "you fucking piece of shit you want to be fucking killed by me too you motherfucker? Huh? You want to be fucked? You want to be fucked by me? Because I'll fuck you! I fuck you! I fucking kill you! You want that? Huh? ANSWER ME!!!" and then slams his phone shut before anyone would have the chance to answer him even if they wanted to or at least had the correct answer to a question like "do you want to be fucked by me".
After the phone call, he is dead silent for about two minutes, which seems like an eternity after something like that. He just sat in the driver's seat, holding the wheel with his right wrist and hanging his left arm out the window and generally just looking like skanky club trash. Eventually, he violently threw his right arm over the divide between the front and back seats and turned around. I braced myself.
"You fucking Americans can't hold your liquor or what, huh?"
"Russians, we can drink. We fucking drink you under the table. Americans cannot hold their liquor."
"Well, nobody really holds their liquor like the Russians."
"Yeah, because there's fucking nothing else to do there. It fucking sucks."
"The Irish can really drink too though."
"Russia is fucking cold."
"That's what I hear."
"All the fucking time, it is cold. America is not cold all the time. Just sometimes. You still fucking suck at drinking though."
Then he turns back around and continues yelling at traffic. He doesn't speak to me again.
I once received an email that simply said,
"dude your site is funny, but you have some anger management issues."
I think this applies to my cab driver on this day as well.
The Crazy Ex-KGB Inventor
From: My apartment
To: My office in Southie
I was late for work again and decided to take a cab. This time, my driver was a very quiet Russian man who, assuming he wasn't bullshitting me (a big assumption), had seen about as much shit as a city sewer inspector.
According to his story, he got started by being conscripted into the Soviet army during the sixties and being forced to serve as a communications officer at a listening post in Siberia. After that, he was promoted to the Soviet Engineering Corps where he worked on nuclear missile delivery technology and other such crazy shit. Then he was transferred to the KGB, where he worked for a while before escaping the USSR to go teach nuclear physics in a South American university. He learned fluent Spanish and managed to teach there for fifteen years before coming the the United States. I asked him why he was driving a cab now, and he told me that he had no desire to work in nuclear physics anymore because he "wanted to keep a low profile" since "KGB don't know how to find me" and he liked it that way. He added that being a cabbie was a good job for the following reason:
"You think I do bad job driving cab in US. What you can do? You complain to cab company. They take this away from me. (He taps his medallion). So what? You cannot take anything from me. Maybe I go to another city and get medallion there. Maybe I get different job. You have not taken anything from me. You cannot. Pay is good; I have money from Russia and Argentina. I be OK. You take this; I go to Miami or Chicago. No problem."
He then went on to tell me about his "invention" which he said "is cooking technology" and would revolutionize the industry of... uh, cooking techology, I guess. He said he couldn't say any more than that until the patent was out. He was a weird guy, and he even tried to impart some Communism onto me, saying that "managers do no work, get all the credit and big money. But managers are many time stupid. They don't know how to do job. Employee knows how to do job, but gets no money and no credit. Employee is considered replaceable; manager is not. Why?"
I didn't really have an answer for him.
The Complete List
About the Author