Saturday, May 6

Fare: $9, A random stranger making my night: Priceless

Tonight it was a little chilly, so I hopped in a cab to save myself the 10 block walk. The ride was quick and quiet (I'd had a little too much to drink, so the latter was much appreciated.) When we pulled up to my building, the conversation went something like this:
ME: Thanks very much. Have a nice night.
> I opened the door and was about to step out, when...
CABBIE: I hope you don't mind me saying so, but you are very nice.
> All of a sudden I got that nauseous, creepy feeling again. Why is it
that these guys always think a car is the best place to pick up a date?
C: I can tell because you have a very sympathique face. I just thought you
should know. It is very nice to see good people.
> So I was wrong. He wasn't preying, he was just being genuinely nice.

Wow, what a great ending to a good night. For all the times that these odd cab adventures are awkward or uncomfortable, there are an equal number of wonderfully redeeming visits.

Thursday, May 4

The hunt

This morning I arrived at work a little disappointed: absolutely nothing noteworthy occured on the ride in. So I got my morning coffee and settled down as usual - 9:37AM. Then the phone rang. It was the security guard from the front gate:

SECURITY: "You just arrived by taxi, yes? The driver is looking for you. Please come to the gate to meet him."

I hung up and started to dash for the exit. As I was walking, lazy me started thinking: "damn, the gate is so far away, and I'll have to walk down and up those 3 flights of stairs again." Before I knew it, my fingers were already redialing the guard's extension: "Do you mind asking the driver to come to the other entrance? It's closer."

9:42AM - Excellent, I've just saved myself 5 minutes of walking, and countless hours of complaining. I hopped downstairs to the other (much closer) entrance, and waiting. 1 minute. 2 minutes. 5 minutes. The guy is driving 200 feet, what could possibly be taking this long?

9:49AM - I went back upstairs and called the guard again. He told me that the cabbie was waiting for me in the cafeteria. Why? No time to ask. I head off to the caf.

9:50AM - I jogged into the cafeteria. I scanned the rows of lunch tables, but saw no one except one of the cleaners taking care of the breakfast mess. Confused, I stood there for a minute contemplating my next move. Just when I turned around to leave, a kind janitor waved me down: "Are you X? Someonw was waiting for you. He went down to administration."

Great. Not only can I not find this mysterious cabbie, but now he's sending me all over the building on a driver-hunt. 9:55AM - I left the cafeteria and started searching for signs to send me in the right direction. I'd only been down to the administration area once, and that was on my first day. It's a labrynth of cubicles and locked glass offices that I have no clue how to navigate. Not very welcoming.

I wandered the basement halls for a few minutes, not quite sure which door to enter. Just then, through a port-hole-sized glass window, I located the familiar face of my morning ride. I beeped into the room, satisfied that the journey was finally over. 9:59AM. Turns out that the cabbie had forgotten to take an imprint of my card, so the trip had been worthless to him. Now I understand why he was so determined.

He tore out a blank Visa slip, and reentered the amount with a pen. But something was different. The amount was the same, but the 'tip' area was blank. Was this cabbie trying to swindle me into tipping more than the 20% + I had already left for him this morning. Sneaky. Slightly repulsed, I resentfully obliged, and added another dollar to the voyage.

It was now well after 10AM, and I suppose those extra 20 minutes were as painful for him as they had been for me. For the first time in months, it occured to me that taking the metro might not be as large an inconvenience as I always imagine.

Wednesday, May 3

Credit slip(-ups) & the 7min hillside strut

Follow the journey >> Route map, part 1 // Route map, part 2

Had to return another set of books to the library this morning. Actually they were the same four books, but I try not to announce that out of embarassment. They weren't due until 9:30AM, but there was a big company meeting booked for 9AM sharp at the downtown (e.g. non-Costco) office. You know the kind: big, fancy boardroom with mahogany table that seats 30, excellent catered coffee & croissants. Not an occassion on which to be late.

Woke up totally bewildered at 8:28AM. Not a good way to start off. Finally got dressed and called for my ride around 8:40AM. Taxi arrived: 8:45AM. We made the usual circle of one-ways in my neighbourhood to begin the first part of the trip. Traffic was backed up all the way along Sherbrooke, and I found myself inadvertedly checking my watching every 30 seconds or so. The rush had begun.

Arrived at stop 1 (library): 8:50AM. Ran to the returns area, where I was greeted by a very bitter and likely self-loathing librarian who decided today was the day I needed a lecture on checking out too many books at one time. (Obviously a slew of other students have been waiting to read Sexual Dissidence or Postmodernity in Latin America a week after the end of term.)

Ran back into taxifor second departure: 8:53AM. Now I had just under 7 minutes to drive up a hillside (the "mountain" if you live in Montreal), and back down it to a location rougly 5 blocks away. Great. Not to mention the time needed to navigate some of Montreal's famed underground shopping routes to some hidden, undecorated company elevator. Cabbie was trying to rush, bless him - but with all the reds and pedestrians (with whom I sympathize while walking of course, but absolutely abhorr whilst on wheels...), it didn't look promising.

While at one red light he used the opportunity to relay the story of how we first met (an event he remembered clearly, and which I have no recollection). Here's a quick rundown:
CABBIE: "Last time you were in my taxi I drove you to work and you paid with a credit card."
ME: "Really? I don't really remember, but that sounds like me."
C: "I remember because I forgot to copy your credit card number. So you signed the slip but I couldn't charge it."
> Silence
C: "It's OK. I called the dispatcher and they had you on file. It's alright. I knew you weren't going to run off... because you're a regular."
A regular? Oh no. Of course - by virtue of even writing these blog entries - I do realize that I'm a little taxi-dependant. But actually being called a "regular" was not nearly as glamourous as I'd imagined. (I confess that I expected it to be more like of an episode of Cheers or Seinfeld where I had a nice seat reserved just for me.)

8:58AM - We finally arrived at stop #2. I was slightly embittered and ready to make my escape, when I realized that the cabbie had conveniently stopped in front of a Pacific-sized puddle. Great. I paid for the ride, jumped over (actually, more like "timidly stepped into, and then jumped from") the puddle, and dashed for the door, to find two co-workers anxiously awaiting my fashionably-late arrival. Two minutes remained... what a relief!

So, in the end... The damage: $15+ before tax. I gave $19... I only had $5 bills and toonies in my pocket, and I was too rushed to do the math.

Tuesday, May 2

Today: Mme. Isabelle - Tomorrow: Mystery cabber #2697

My 'office' is a big, factory-like building (it looks like Costco) gated off to the public. Everyone has a security pass to enter the building on foot, or to enter the employees-only parking lot (although I very much appreciate my parking spot, it doesn't do me much good without a car.)

Arriving by taxi, it's become my daily practice to ask the driver to buzz the security guard (I'm not trying to be snooty, I just can't reach out the back window), give my name, and proceed through the gate. It usually takes a few minutes for everything to get coordinated (I have to repeat my name a few times because it somehow always gets lost in translation), but, after all, the meter is charging me for the extra time.

This morning, however, the driver seemed more rushed than I. He pressed the buzzer and - rather than asking my name and telling the guard - decided it would be easier to get creative:

I can only imagine what the guard thought (he's seen me go through the gate using my real name for the last 30+ days): has the drudgery of this 'day job' become so horrible that I need to start taking on new personas?

Monday, May 1

A new roomate?

Follow the adventure >> Route map, part 1 // Route map, part 2

This morning was hectic as usual. I should have known that a strict 9AM start time wouldn't work out well after years of rolling over at noon...

Alarm was set for 7:30AM. Of course it was only audible to a semi-deafened, ear-infected, sleep-deprived me at 8:58AM. Panic ensued. Called for the usual morning service (1 taxi avec credit) while trying to find the driest pair of dress-pants. (I settled on the black pinstripe - they were still soaking, but I figured the wet spots would be less visible than on a coloured pair.)

Taxi arrived: 9:17AM. Driver looked angry. Could it be the large garbage truck that was blocking the entire street and all foreseeable exits? (Luckily he managed to avoid situation that by reversing along the length of my entire street, inspiring the use of fingers and French blasphemy from other drivers.) Two stops today, I said.

I noticed the driver staring at me from the rear-view mirror. I couldn't figure out why. OK, my pants are soaking wet and I probably look as though I emerged from a wind tunnel (the hair was way out of control...) - but why is this guy staring at me?

Finally, an answer:

"Last time I drove you, you left a cigarette in the car," he said. "I smoked it. I'm sorry."

Mystery solved - he just remembered me, it wasn't creepy. I find it interesting that sometimes I need to be re-introduced to people I've supposedly met a few times before (I of course have no recollection... hmm...), but that a cabbie who spent 4 minutes driving me to a restaurant one night remembers me. It's not that I'm particularly memorable; I think they must be really, really bored.

Time: 9:27AM. The conversation had died off a bit. I ran out at stop #1 to return books to the library (I avoided that $20/day fee with only 3 minutes to spare). Then the discussion picked up again:

CABBIE: "You aren't married?"
ME: "Uhhh... no."
C: "You don't want a boyfriend?"
M: "I'm fine for now, thanks."
Long pause.
C: "Your apartment - how much do you pay?"
M: "What?"
C: "You live alone, no? You pay too much to live alone where you live."
M: "Well, you know... it's convenient."
> Pause
C: "You should move somewhere else. It would be cheaper. Or you should get a roomate... We can move in together. I have a nice place and it would be very cheap for you."
> Awkward silence. We arrive at the office - just in time!
I signed the carbon-copied slip as usual. Before tearing away my copy, the driver offered to write his number on the paper for me. ("You can call me. We can work something out. I can drive you everyday. Or help you move. Or whatever.") I was clearly skeptical: "That's alright, I'll be fine." Niceties followed. "See you again," he said. "My name is X" (he spelled it out in case I couldn't figure it out)...

wink. Ew. Final escape from taxi: 9:43AM.

Total trip time: 26 min
Fare: $27. Ouch.