I drive only on weekends now, so the opportunity for material is somewhat reduced. Thanks to all who repeatedly visit in search of more posts detailing my unremarkable life as Cabhack. I'll try to post at least one a week, unless I find nothing halfway amusing to write about.
Friday I headed into the nearby town of Almonte, where I picked up a 70-something gent and his 50-ish sidekick. The older fella climbed into the front, the other gent into the back, and we headed for the Legion. The old lad was quite a bit more soused than his buddy, and talked aimlessly during our short ride. I wasn't following anything he was saying, when he suddenly stopped talking, and started frantically blowing air through his lips. I looked over, concerned he was having a serious health crisis. Spittle arced in a fine spray towards the dash, and drool dribbled from his chin. Then he turned to look at me, smiling stupidly.
"Damn, I wish I could whistle like I used to."
We had just passed an elderly lady ambling slowly along the sidewalk, apparently presenting an attractive enough target for the old boy to pull out his whistling act, without the necessary embouchure to pull it off. He continued to practice until I dropped him off, filling the cab with his booze-laden breath and spittle. When he exited, he said he'd need a ride back soon, 'cuz he'd nearly had his fill already. As he stumbled crookedly towards the Legion entrance, I realized he would never know when he had his fill, because he wouldn't wake up if he ever did. He reminded of a gentleman I used to routinely drive around town, until the fateful night he had his fill ( Another Saturday Night and Footnote to Sunday's post).
Later on I picked up two guys behind an older apartment simplex in town. They were in the rear parking lot, sitting at a picnic table, burning mosquito candles that flickered enough light to illuminate a table loaded with empties. "Arrgghhh...here's our ride!" one of them bellowed in my direction. They boarded, one up front, one in back.
"How are ya tonight?" the front-loaded passenger queried way too loudly as he settled in.
"Good thanks. Where are you headed?"
I took them to a local nightspot on the edge of town where live music was promised. There were just two cars in the parking lot. The lads were speaking with the increased volume drinking seems to necessitate, but they were harmless and good-natured, intent on having fun and a few laughs. They spoke in the valley-drawl common to the outlying communities of Ottawa.
"Take us someplace else...where's the music tonight?"
As a cab-driver/tour guide, I'm not much of a bargain. Not that there's much to choose from.
"Well, The Thirsty Moose usually has something going on, and if there's no music, at least the waitresses are worth a gander..."
That seemed to sell the deal, so I headed back towards main street, and listened to the lads chatter and jibe.
"I got my cowboy hat on!" said the guy in back, apropos of nothing. "I don't want to go nowheres with my cowboy hat if there's no music!" His logic was lost on me, but self-evident to the guy up front.
"Hell lad, no worries. No one's gonna bother with yer hat."
"Are you wearing your cowboy boots?" Apparently the cowboy theme had some import to these boys.
"Hell no. Just my sneakers." A pause followed while he formulated his personal theory on dress code. "I only wear my boots to weddings, funerals, and first dates, 'long with a nice, clean shirt...and my big-buckle belt!"
I was picturing Hank Owens staring somberly into an open casket, tacky and sparkling despite the muted lighting of a funeral home.
The night was otherwise brutally slow. I received a call at 2am to head 15 minutes out of town to pick up some young lads, parked in the lot of a convenience store on the highway towards Toronto. The boys were sitting in a late model Volkswagen, and were in no hurry to acknowledge me. I sat a minute, then called out to see if they'd hailed a cab. One got out, opened the trunk, and carted a cooler to the cab. A second boy, all of 18, drifted over with a couple of bottles of open liquor. The third lad remained in the Volkswagen, either uninterested in leaving, or unaware the others already had. They were trying to climb into the cab with the booze, when I put a stop to it.
"Booze in the trunk boys."
"Hey man, how are ya...Ok, we'll put it in the trunk. But can we take some in the car?"
"No. Trunk please." I made no effort to sound like I'm getting tired of drunk people. But I suspect that's how I sounded...
They loaded the trunk with the cooler and the bottles, and dragged the third lad to the cab. He clearly needed better handlers, but I was content to let them fumble him into the back on their own.
"Where to lads?"
"Hey man...what's happenin'...!!!"
Drunk small talk is as fascinating as small talk in general.
"Where you guys going?"
"Head down the highway, first right maaannn..!"
I headed out. One of the lads in back had sized me up, and proffered an observation couched within a question.
"Hey man, I'll bet you got your groove on in the 70's?"
I didn't respond, given I wasn't sure what he was on about. He enlightened me soon enough.
"Hey man, can we smoke a doobie on the way?"
"No, not in the car lads...wait till you get out."
"Ahhh...c'mon man. You can have some too...You look like you might need it maaaannnn..."
Their generosity notwithstanding, I wasn't about to have them fire one up in the cab, and I let them know as much. I don't smoke pot, but admitted to having inhaled once upon a long time ago.
"No problem...nooo problem."
We were on a dirt road, headed to a community on the banks of the Mississippi River. Not THE Mississippi River, just our local namesake.
"What music do you like? Who's your favourite band?" The one lad decided he was going to figure me out, find some common ground.
I considered, not for long, and came up with something I figured would throw him completely off.
"Whaaaat? Who's Stevie Band? Do you like Ozzy? Black Sabbath? Ozzie rules!!!"
Four questions and an endorsement.
I confessed no admiration for Ozzie, but my inquisitor ignored me. He was arguing now with his buddies about the merits of Ozzie and Sabbath, and they slammed each other's opinions as we approached the drop off.
"We're getting out here...stop here..."
I pulled up in front of a black iron gate surrounding an impressive compound on the river. It belonged to the neighbour of one of the lads. They intended to walk the rest of the way, and indulge themselves in a smoke on the walk.
They unloaded, gathered their cooler and loose liquor bottles, and paid up the $30 fare, a hefty charge given the trip was a fairly short one. Cab rides from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere can be costly, especially when hailed from the middle of almost somewhere. Which is where I headed back to, once I completed the obligatory handshakes with all three lads, and left them to their fun.
"Classic Rock Rules Man!" was the last thing I heard before I turned up my radio, and headed for the bright lights of almost somewhere.