Sometimes you just don’t have any luck with a cab driver. Jeff and I were once refused a ride home because the driver didn’t feel like driving to Queens. He told us this after we were in his cab. he just refused to move until we got out. (This is against the rules, by the way. But what am I going to do? Take the wheel myself?)
Once a driver took offense when Jeff asked him to hang up his cell phone. He was rude and unresponsive to the point that he wouldn’t look up to take our money when we reached our destination. Jeff dropped the cash in the front seat and got out. Thinking he hadn’t been paid, the driver started shouting at us, calling Jeff a whore in Spanish.
Jeff is extremely friendly and respectful to cab drivers. He’s a little picky about cell phones, maybe, but unlike many people in this city, he does not treat taxi drivers like servants. If they’re amenable to conversation, he’ll lean forward and chat them up. “How are you doing tonight?” “Where are you from?” And that kind of thing. “Pakistan? Ah. You from Lahore? Oh, yeah? I’m told it’s a great city.”
We’re all people, and why shouldn’t we talk to strangers? They don’t always love it, but usually they’ll at least be friendly. Sometimes it charms the drivers. Sometimes it just sort of fizzles. A couple of nights ago, however, it inspired something close to rage.
At closing time early on the morning of October 6, we hailed a cab outside of Xth Ave. Lounge in Hell’s Kitchen. Jeff leaned forward to strike up a conversation with the driver as usual. He started out asking the guy about his name, Tomas Mendes, and tried to guess the origin. Mendes with an S indicates one thing, whereas Mendez with a Z indicates another, he was explaining to me.
“I don’t like guys,” the driver shouted.
Jeff paused. “I asked, ‘Where are you from?'” he said, at which point, the driver pulled over and started shouting. I was so confused by the reaction, I couldn’t even follow what he was saying. But it was soon clear that he was threatening to throw us out of the cab.
What? OK, I’m not going anywhere, I thought.
Jeff recoiled, wide-eyed, and sat back in the seat. The car came to a stop, and Tomas Mendes wildly gestured toward the door and continued ranting. I half expected him to reach back and hit one of us.
“Wait a minute. What are you talking about?” I said, raising my voice.
He turned in his seat and kept shouting and waving his hands. “You get back. I don’t want to talk! I don’t like mens!”
“OK, then. Just drive us home!” I shouted back.
“I don’t like mens! I don’t like mens!” he kept shouting.
You don’t like English, either, do you? I thought.
“You know … I was just trying to talk to you,” Jeff said.
The note of confusion and dejection in his voice made my heart swell and raised all the hate I had in me toward that driver. He seemed to be waiting for us to exit the cab, but I was not about to get out of that car. Not for some homophobic moron. And if our presence irritated him so much, the back seat of that car is exactly where I wanted to be.
After a moment of silence, we began to move and we rejoined the traffic of 45th Street — and I fantasized about all the things I would do upon exiting the cab.
By the time we hit the 59th Street Bridge, I decided I’d spit on the back seat and then slam the door.
He studiously avoided eye contact in the rear-view mirror with either of us, but I kept a steady, scowling stare at the reflection of his large forehead in case he were to glance up.
At 21st Street in Long Island City, I decided to slam the door hard enough to break a window.
At 36th Street, I realized I had to pee, so I considered pressing hard on my bladder as long as I could stand it, and slightly undoing my pants, so I could open the door, let Jeff out, and piss in his back seat in one swift movement before slamming the door and running.
65th street: I’m going to take a shit right on the floor of the cab and leave him with the aroma of disappointment all the way back to Hell’s Kitchen or the West Village or the East Villaqe or Midtown or Chelsea or Downtown — wherever else he might just pick up another drunk couple of fags.
Oh, I’m so glad he stopped my boyfriend from seducing him, because honestly, I too was irresistibly drawn to his receding hairline, his sallow eyes, his body odor… There was such a thin line between Jeff’s check-out line conversation and a sexual overture. There’s no telling what might have happened …
I felt like I had just been verbally gay bashed. And all we did was behave like any two inebriated but polite 30-something men getting into a cab at four in the morning. And, honestly, I thought about my ability to hide behind that. How did he know we were gay? Xth Ave. Lounge is only gayish. Everyone goes there. What gives him the right? How dare he?
But a bit of shame struck me. And then I wished I could show him just how gay I really am. I wished I could fellate some guy in the back seat of his cab. I wished I could spread the result across the Plexiglass barrier. I wished he had reached back and hit one of us. I wanted an excuse to hit him so bad.
Of course, I did none of these things. I just reached over and touched my husband’s leg and scratched him gently with my fingernail and looked up at him and winked. That was as gay as I needed to be. He seemed still a little shocked, and I was proud of my anger. So I went back to staring a hole through the driver’s head.
All through the long trip home, I thought what might happen if we refused to pay him. How fast would we run? Would he follow us, cursing and shouting? Should we be dropped off several blocks from our apartment to throw him off? But even that would have been a step too far. We were better than that. Jeff asked him in his native language: “Do you want a tip?” A nice touch, I thought. An olive branch.
He refused. “No, just the fare.”
So Jeff paid him. And Tomas Mendes was silent.
Not much of a charmer, our Tomas. Lic. No. 418186, expiring 03/08/09. Taxi No. 1P25. Worst cabbie I’ve ever met. And that is saying a lot in this city.
If I had a jar full of loose change, I would have counted out the shit in pennies and nickels and dropped it in his front seat.
I slammed the door anyway. The window did not break.