The other day I had a call to pick up a guy (let’s just call him “John”), in Gilbert, and take him to the airport. I was supposed to be there at 1:00pm, but as the call was sent to me just a few minutes before 1:00, and because I was unfamiliar with his neighborhood, which was a brand new subdivision, and because traffic was rather heavy, I was about fifteen minutes late picking John up.
When I got to his address, he got into my cab and began to berate me for being late, as it was very important that he make his flight. We had to be to the airport by two-fifteen. Since we were about thirty or forty minutes from the airport, I knew that it was going to be a really close call.
I thought to myself,
“You know, only a moron would allow so little time for such an important trip. Even if he was absolutely certain he’d be picked up on time, you’d think that he might have enough imagination to allow for time killers like flat tires and heavy traffic.”
But, rather than saying this him, I said,
“No problem sir, we’ll be to the airport by about two o’clock.”
He visibly relaxed, and off we go.
After a few minutes, John said to me,
“You know, I don’t have my ticket yet, so we need to stop and pick it up.”
Did he just say, ‘I don’t have my ticket yet?’
“Well, where do we have to go to get it?”, I said.
He replies, “Well, he lives at about Fifty Second Street and Van Buren, and because he’s leaving his house soon, we need to be there by a quarter to two.”
Talk about pressure! I was pretty sure I’d get him to the airport by two, but with this side trip, I now had my doubts, because it’s already one twenty-five, and we were still almost twenty miles from Ticket Guy’s house. We were going to have to hit every traffic light green, and go balls to the walls on the freeway to even have a chance. Needless to say, I’m a little worried. You would be, too! But I’m a professional, so I tell the guy that I’d do my best, but I wouldn’t risk a ticket or wreck.
I put the hammer down, and offered to lend him my cell phone to call Ticket Guy to buy a few minutes, but he had his own phone, and sensibly, made the call. Ticket Guy didn’t answer. It figures! Anyway, by driving an average of about ten miles per hour over the speed limit, I got Mr. Leave-It-To-The-Last-Minute to Ticket Guy’s house with about five minutes to spare. Whew, what a relief! Not only was Ticket Guy at home, but John came back to the car with a smile on his face!
So, it’s now about one-forty, and we’re only about ten minutes from the airport. As long as nothing goes wrong, I’m going to get him there with plenty of time to spare.
Now, under normal circumstances, this would pretty much be the end of the story. But, if you’ve read my column for any length of time, you know this isn’t the end of the story. (Can anyone out there guess what is coming next? Yes? No? Maybe? Well, read on.) By the way, I forgot to mention that I had been sucking on a Super-Duper Extra Large size soda for about an hour, and a few minutes after picking John up, I began to feel a slight urge to find a tree. As we left Ticket Guy’s place, that slight urge began to move a little higher up on my list of things to do. Just what I needed at this particular moment in time: more pressure! Anyway, back to our story; where were we? Oh yeah…
So, it’s now about one-forty, and we’re about ten minutes from the airport, plenty of time for John to make his flight. As we pull out on to the road, John says to me,
“You know, airplane food is terrible, and I’m really hungry. Take me to the Jack-In-The-Box drive through.”
Well, why the hell not? It’s only about a mile away, in the opposite direction, is likely to have a seven car wait, but, hell, we’ve got plenty of time to spare, lets go for it! As I turn the car around towards The Jack, I began thinking,
"What’s up with this jag-off? He was practically screaming at me half an hour earlier for being late, but now he’s telling me that there’s nothing more important in his life at this very minute than a freakin’ Jumbo Jack with cheese, which he just has to have before he gets on the plane, which at this point is looking like it’s going to get in the air before the first French fry gets down his cake-hole. What the hell is up with this guy!”
But, ever the Helpy Helperton, I say,
“Jack-In-The-Box it is, sir!”
Luckily, there wasn’t a line at all, but the service was really slow, with a net result of only about ten of his precious minutes being chewed up, much like what he did to two Jumbo Jack’s, and a large fries. It’s now about one-fifty, but we’re still not much more than ten minutes from the airport, so I’m going to have John to the airport at about exactly two o’clock, which is what he said he wanted in the first place. With any luck at all, I’ll be able to put an “X” in the box marked, “Another satisfied customer.”
But wait! There’s more! Mr. “Leave it all to the last minute, fuck-it, I like living on the edge, because it gives me such a rush!” has additional plans that must come to fruition before I can finally drop him at the check-in counter, so he can haul his sorry ass up the jetway and get on that big silver bird. Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it, too:
“What the hell else can he possibly need to do, seeing that time, precious time, is so short?”
Well, friends, let me tell you, although it blows my mind to remember it, just as we’re pulling into the airport, John pulls out his cell phone, and calls what sounds like his wife. He talks to her for about a minute, and when we’re about three seconds from turning off onto the ramp leading to the terminal, he tells me there’s going to be another short side trip, because he wants to go give his wife a kiss goodbye! He says to me,
“She works over near Twenty-Fourth Street and University. We can be there and back by two-fifteen, right?”
Can you believe it? I still cringe when I recall the moment…Anyway, I’m thinking,
“Why in the hell should you stop at a kiss! Why not grab the wife AND the kids, get a picnic basket from the nearest deli, head on out to the park and make a fuckin’ day of it. We’ve got plenty of time! The plane, and whatever you we’re going to do when you finally get where you were going, can wait! Let’s live for the moment! How about we go to a strip club, shove some dollars into the G-strings of a few strippers, and really get down! Then, when the excitement of seeing all those naked titties begins to pale, let’s stop and get the cab washed, waxed, and detailed!! And what the hell, while we’re at it, let’s stop and get a hooker, and have her suck some of the tension out of what is by now an extremely tense situation, at least from my point of view.”
And why shouldn’t I be tense? If this guy misses his flight, you and I both know it’s going to be his fault, but I know who he’s going to blame. That’s right, your Cab Guy! He’s not going to consider all the side trips he added on to the trip, he’s just going to think about how I picked him up twenty minutes late. There’s just now way I can win. But what I say is…
“Sure, why not, I’m kind of a romantic at heart, let’s go for it!”
What the hell, the meter’s running, isn’t it? Just as long as he doesn’t ask at the end of the trip if I take credit cards, because it takes a couple of minutes to process the transaction, and I want this guy gone.
So, anyway, we go over to where John’s wife works. When we get there, he calls her out, and they stand there hugging and kissing for a few minutes. I’m starting to get diabetes, the scene was so sweet. They kiss one last time, and as she turns to walk away, John gets back into the car, shuts the door, leans back with a contented look on his face, and sighs. I’m touched. He says,
“Okay, we can go back to the airport now, I’ll still make the plane on time.”
Well, it’s about freakin’ time, because I’ve got to piss like a racehorse. Relief is just a few minutes away. Away we go…
As we pull into the terminal, I say,"Thank you for your business sir. That will be sixty-five dollars.”
And he says, (All together now, with feeling and harmony…)
“Do you take credit cards?”
I almost wet my pants!
Until next we meet…
(A version of this column first appeared in the December 11-24, 2003 edition of "Fast Lane Magazine," a Phoenix, Arizona biweekly entertainment magazine, under the byline of 'Matt "The Cab Guy" Kelly.'