8.08.2005

Taxi Driver

Every city has its own way of establishing the social order. In New York, from what I understand, it's all about The Right Address, The Right Pair Of Shoes, The Right Celebrity Chef who chooses to date and marry you.
In L.A. your worth is defined by one thing and one thing only. Your Ride.

You, my friend, are a Certified Nobody if even your maid rides the bus. In the unhappy event you yourself don't have a car for any significant period of time, you simply do not exist. Oh, 'tis a far better fate to be homeless than carless in this town--a girl can live in her car, no shame in that. Provided, that is, she's still young enough to look good when it's time to get out and grab that morning latte at the Sunset Plaza Coffee Bean.

With one's fate so inexorably tied to one's car, it's no surprise that I, a Failing Screenwriter, drive a twelve-year-old Toyota Paseo that keeps failing the smog check. Not something you'd expect of an economy car, unless you were familiar with my uncanny knack for misfortune. Naturally, I didn't have the cash to get it fixed, so I applied for some state-sponsored Smog Repair Program, and damn if I wasn't poor enough to qualify. Then I had to take it to a special place where they treat you like some kind of welfare mother as you hand over your Government Voucher, hanging your head in shame. They'll fix it when they're good and ready, they basically tell you. They point you to the bus stop with a good swift kick in the ass, muttering something accusatory about why you won't get a job, you Good-For-Nothing, Gross Polluting Hollywood Wannabe.

Today my social fortunes reach an all-time low, when even a Scary Russian Cabbie exercises his hierarchal right to get uppity with me. As someone who in fact has a car--metered though it may be, stinking of vinyl polish and cheap cologne--it is very clear who outranks whom here. But, with no way to get to the bank ATM inside Ralph's to deposit the check my mother sent to cover the rent, I am clearly at the mercy of my social superior. He swings around his head to better look down his nose at me the moment I get in his cab. Obviously a former Soviet boxing champ and KGB agent, judging from the size of the veins bulging from his temples, he is the spitting image of Vladimir Putin. Things only get worse when I inform him that my destination is a scant five blocks away. "Five blocks only? Why you don't walk?" he scoffs, pointing out the window, where several Have Nots are doing just that.

"You people still have no basic understanding of capitalism," is my weak attempt at a reply. "I'm paying you for this. I'm the cus-to-mer."

The traffic clusterered to a stop in front of a red light is obviously all my doing. Braking repeatedly, he alternately sneers at me in the rearview mirror and checks his watch. Then he hammers some covert message into a computer installed on his dashboard, clearly a hold-over from his KGB days.

Seriously, am I missing something? Isn't this his job to drive people around, wherever it is they want to go? Should I ask to be dropped off on Rodeo Drive so I can walk back with my head held high? I mean, you hear all kinds of stories about people doing santeria rituals on dead goats in the back seats of cabs. I'm only sitting here in my Gucci sunglasses perspiring a little around the nose.

"Hey, can you turn up the A/C?" I ask. "Five blocks," he mutters, declining to comply while instead re-directing an anemic vent my way.

I'm not entirely sure how it is the meter comes to a healthy five bucks--a buck a block, for chrissake--by the time we pull into the parking lot. When I ask him to wait while I ran in to use the ATM, he practically gets whiplash wheeling around to shoot me another death stare. "ATM? How long this will take?"

"May I ask what it is to you, driver?" I retort in the most Patrician tone I can muster these days. "If you're concerned about remuneration, I suggest you leave the meter running."

He shakes his head, typing another furious message into his computer. "Leave deposit," he barks. A deposit? What does he think I'm going to do, skip out on him through the warehouse door and go on the lam with a pair of armored guards from Wells Fargo? I slap him a five and tell him very graciously to keep the change. (I probably needn't add that the humor here is lost on this one.)

I run in, do my business and haul ass back outside like some kind of urban running back. The whole maneuver can't take more than a minute or two, including the time it takes to shove aside the Little Black Boy Selling See's Chocolate Bars to raise money for camp; and the Weird Hippie Lady With A Petition to save our schools.

I jump back in the taxi, where the Soviet Travis Bickle is drumming his fingers, steam coming out of his ears. "Nowhere to park!" he bellows. "I must drive three times around block!" Some block, I think, since the meter now reads nine something and change. He whips an illegal U to make his way back to my house, circumventing traffic by creating a lane where once there was none, the veritable birthright of every angry Putin lookalike driving a cab.

We're home in another minute or two, bringing the entire excursion to eight minutes--and thirteen dollars. "You can get a Super Shuttle to the airport for that," I tell him, reluctantly forking it over. But he's had enough of the idle chit chat and refuses to so much as give me a nod in exchange for my two-dollar tip. I'm pretty sure he's not going to get my door, so I step out on my own--barely able to avert being hurled to the pavement as he guns it down the street.

"Suit yourself, comrade!" I shout after him. "You leave me no choice but to go right inside and blog about you!"

"I already blogged about you, fat, lazy, American Film School Grad!" I can almost hear him reply, his head thrown back in diabolical laughter. "What do you think dashboard computer is there for, cruising J-Date?"

2 comments:

  1. A taxi in LA? What's the interest rate on that loan?

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  2. It was my last thirteen bucks, too. I had to charge the tip for the Domino's guy that night, very embarrassing. The Mexican delivery guy always look at you like, man, you don't even got three bucks? Keep it lady, you need it more than I do. Sad but true.

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