Xeno Hemlock


The Schooling from a Cab Driver

I wished all cab drivers were like him, customer service-oriented. After his successful Grab-a-Taxi bid, I called him to give the details of my whereabouts. He called a few minutes later, to say he was on his way to pick me up. He didn't have to, I already knew. He wasn't within sight yet but he was already going the extra mile.

I wished all cab drivers were like him, courteous. I headed for the back seat but he opened the door to the passenger seat, so I sat there instead.

I wished all cab drivers were like him, friendly. He greeted me with a smile. His voice was like a dog's, strong but friendly. If there was coffee in front of me, I'd be drinking it. We'd be like hanging out at a coffee shop chatting. I warmed up to him instantly.

I wished all cab drivers were like him, responsible. I told him why I rejected another cab driver before him. The greedy driver was asking for a high fixed fare, instead of using the meter, citing the 70% off sale at a nearby mall that was causing a traffic heavier than usual. I refused. “He should work behind a desk then,” laughed my cab driver. “Traffic is part of our job. It doesn't make sense to complain about it.” 

I wished all cab drivers were like him, happy. Personally, I always strive to be happy. When the person next to you has a dour and sour face, it can be a challenge. It's like Boolean logic, where True AND True results to True, False AND False results to False, and True AND False results to False. Substitute True with Happy and False with Dour. We get: Happy AND Happy results to Happy, Dour and Dour results to Dour, and Happy and Dour results to Dour.

It was Friday night. I was going to watch The Amazing Spiderman 2 with a few friends in another city. Although there were several taxi queues near the area I was from, I didn't want to take the chance. I knew well that Friday + taxi queue = lots of wasted time. I launched the Grab-a-Taxi app on my smartphone, keyed my current location and my destination, and waited for nearby cabs to make their bids. It was unsuccessful after the first few attempts but I kept trying. Two drivers made bids and the one nearest to me won. A few minutes later, Ferdinand, the cab driver, arrived.

There was no dull moment in the cab despite the traffic. Vehicles outside faded, lights merging into a shapeless blur of red and orange. While we were in the middle of the road, Ferdinand pulled out a strip of leather underneath his seat and whipped me. I didn't have time to prepare for the first hit. Trapped between the seat belt and the seat, I couldn't protect myself from the incoming sting. The door of the cab was locked. No one could see and hear me outside the cab. They were a blur to me, and I to them. Ferdinand kept striking. I was helpless. I wished all cab drivers were like him, capable of whipping their passengers with good storytelling. I liked it.

“You're my 16th Grab-a-Taxi customer,” he jovially said. “That means I will be able to claim a monetary bonus of one thousand and five hundred bucks.”

“Really?” I smiled, staring straight through the windshield.

“Grab-a-Taxi has an incentive program for us cab drivers. If we get 16 customers from Grab-a-Taxi in a day, we will receive a money bonus. It's a great program,” he explained. “When the app blinked and I saw your location, I couldn't pass it up. You completed my 16.”

I didn't do the Math. All I cared about Grab-a-Taxi was its capability of finding a cab for me. I didn't mind the additional 50 bucks fee on top of the fare. Besides, his money bonus was only for him, not for us.

“One of my buddies refuses to use the app, saying Grab-a-Taxi was just pulling one over us. But I tried it, to see what it was really about. It's true. I earn extra income with it. And there's no harm in getting more passengers, right?”

“Definitely,” I laughed.

What benefit was Ferdinand going to obtain from polishing Grab-a-Taxi's name in front of me? I couldn't think of any. He continued talking. As he went on detailing the benefits Grab-a-Taxi provides for drivers like him, I became interested. My attention was hooked, not because of Grab-a-Taxi, but because of how he was telling his story. 

He had style. He spoke in a direct and self-assured manner, each word coming out of his mouth clearly, making a dance inside the cab, and bowing after receiving a silent applause. His statements were gift-wrapped in sing-song, rocking me like the waves of the ocean. Did I mention he was happy? He sounded happy.

He was relatable. Most cab drivers blended into one another. Often, they listened to a popular radio station where the DJs maniacally laughed after every sentence, with jokes or without. Another voice, of what seemed to be the DJ's sidekick, laughed along. It was taped, playing over and over. In the first few times you hear it, it was cute. But it got old and annoying fast. I restrained myself from having a tantrum inside any cab that was listening to that station. Another pet peeve of mine was discussion about politics. I was apathetic towards it. I forced every “uh”, “yeah”, “right”, “true!”, “really?”, and “hahaha!” just so the cab drivers wouldn't take offense. Ferdinand wasn't like that. He picked a topic that he knew well and figured would be relatable to me, Grab-a-Taxi.

In a three-act structure, he told me a story on how the app could benefit my friends and family who didn't have it.

The first act: Ferdinand was the driver. Xeno was the Grab-a-Taxi user. My friend, let's name him Sammy, was somewhere away from me. He needed to go somewhere and he was stuck in the Friday + taxi queue = lots of wasted time formula. He called me for help.

The second act: “How in the world can I help you?” I asked Sammy on the phone. “You're cities away from me.” Then a light bulb appeared on top of my head. Grab-a-Taxi! I launched the app, selected Sammy's From and To locations, and waited for a cab driver to bid. But wait, what if something went wrong with the arrangement? Sammy would be stuck waiting for the cab.

The third act: Eureka! The solution was simple. I forwarded the cab driver's mobile number to Sammy so he could call him and coordinate with him. He did as instructed and the cab finally picked him up. We all win. The cab driver and Grab-a-Taxi got a customer. Sammy got to his destination and was saved from waiting hell. I won relationship points with Sammy, and added a tally to my Grab-a-Taxi record (which might be helpful in case of an upcoming promo or bonus for users).

It was a workaround but it made sense. Besides, it was thinking out of the box and I approved of that.

I wished all cab drivers were like him, good in storytelling.

We finally arrived at the movie theater. Impressed with how Ferdinand reminded me of some story-telling things, I hardly noticed the Friday traffic at all. With both sadness and glee, I opened the door and got off the cab. Sadness because reading the last page of a book meant the end of the story. Ferdinand's story(ies) had come to their end. Glee because I met a good storyteller like him. He sold it effortlessly. Like any good storyteller, he deserved every penny: the fare, the Grab-a-Taxi fee, and a big tip from me.

Cover image: Das letzte Taxi by Emanuele