Sunday, September 30, 2007

A cab ride in Providence

It was my own fault for not having any cash on me (what else is new?), but when I asked the hotel doorman if he could get me a cab who took credit cards, he said yes, so how was I supposed to know I was going to end up riding with bipolar Robert DeNiro?
"There's too many things to do," the driver said and then muttered it again several times softly, Rainman-style, as he looked for the paperwork he needed to complete a credit card transaction. "There's too many things to do. We'll do this when we get there." This was fine with me, since we had been in the car for about two minutes and he was swerving all over the road, looking for some specific piece of paper. His eyes glanced at the traffic ahead less often than they focused on the front seat or the sun visor, where his receipts and notes from 1972 to now were clipped together in little bunches. Somewhere in those bunches was a pertinent piece of paper and we were close to running off the road in order to find it.
"Here, you fill this out," he said, passing the receipt book back to me. "Just put the credit card number and expiration date on the top there."
I am good at following instructions, so I did this and passed it back to him.
"Did you do this?" he asked, looking at the paper and then back at me (oh god, watch the road.)
"Uh, yes."
"You did that perfectly." he said, and I might have been flattered except remember that we are talking about me having written my credit card number on a piece of paper. Clearly, the bar for impressing this guy was low.
"Oh. Thanks."
Pleased that we had gotten this far, he then called cab driver headquarters and yelled the following conversation into the phone:

"I have a credit card transaction to do!"

"I haven't said anything yet. How can I not make sense?"

"I have the fare in the car now. Going to the airport."

"You're gonna do it for me right now. DO IT FOR ME."

[reads the number] "Well, it is all right because we have an under...He's a shithead! He's a shithead, that's what's wrong with him!"

[calmer] "Do you have an authorization number?"

"Oh, you want me to read the numbers again?" [At this point, we nearly run into the guardrail. I hate this man.]

[Looks back at me] "Can you believe this?" [It's possible I made a noise in response, but I might have been too busy clutching the door handle and wondering what it feels like to fly out of a cab.]

The conversation continued much like this, until we somehow ended up at the airport, where I gave him a tip, do not ask me why. He handed me my bag and said "Thank you, dear," as though we had just passed a pleasant 20 minutes chatting about his grandchildren and our hopes for the future instead of nearly getting killed on a highway in Rhode Island.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

I think of this article (http://www.theonion.com/content/node/38572) every time I use a credit card to pay a taxi fare. Only it's not getting Mom onto the interet that's the insufferable ordeal - it's executing a credit card transaction (in the 21st centuty, by the way) in a taxi cab.

Sarah said...

There was recently a huge strike in NYC because cab drivers didn't want to put credit card machines and GPS systems in their cars. Because that would make it too easy for them to accept more fares and make sure they're going the right way. I get that it costs money to set these things up, but yeah. It's 2007.