My boss Riff was shouting at me on the phone yesterday, which is not at all unusual. He is a bad-tempered fellow on his best days. "The lady says you were supposed to be there to pick up her car an hour ago! Just where the hell are you?"
"I'm at the Amtrak station here in Benson, Arizona. We got in a little late, and the taxi I arranged to pick me up hasn't shown up yet."
"Aren't there any other cabs there at the train station?"
"Listen to me, you little putrid pudge-ball! I don't care what you have to do or how, you just get your retarded ass to the pick up address. And I mean now!" The line went dead.
I called the taxi service for the third time and stressed how important it was that I be picked up promptly. This is why I had called ahead and planned in advance, which I always do. The dispatcher I spoke to sounded lethargic and not at all interested in my situation. Then I received another text from the customer whose house I was trying to get to. The fifth such text. She was growing more impatient by the minute.
A fire engine red mustang pulled into the parking lot in front of the station. A giant goofy-looking man was behind the wheel. He looked me over. "Hey, are you Bob?"
"No, I'm Bill."
"Bill, yes, that's what I meant to say. I'm your taxi ride."
"This is a taxi?"
"Well, it's my own car, but I use it for my job as a taxi driver. Hop on in."
I climbed in and told him the address. "It's five miles from here."
"The address I just gave you. Where I need you to take me."
"Just turn left out of the parking lot."
"OK." And with that, he turned right as he said "My name is Horace."
"Hi, Horace. No, you needed to turn left."
"Left. A left turn."
"Oh. I turned right. Can I make a U-turn?"
"That would be a good idea."
Horace eyed me up and down. "You seem a little tense."
"Sorry man, but I was supposed to be at this customer's house an hour ago. She is really pissed at me."
"You and I have something in common then, Bob. My girlfriend is pissed at me, too. Guess we both just got our women mad at us, huh?"
"Not my girlfriend, just a customer."
"Who?" Horace made the U-turn.
"Now we'll turn right at the next light up there."
"That next light. Turn right."
"You're gonna have to give me real clear directions. I don't know my way around this town much yet."
I nodded. "How long have you lived here, Horace?"
"Born and raised here, never left this city one day in my life." He made the right turn at the light.
"Now it's real easy from here, we just go 4 1/2 miles then turn right."
Horace looked terribly confused. "But how will I know when we've gone 4 1/2 miles?"
"Just watch the odometer."
His brow furrowed. "What's an odometer, Bob?"
"It's Bill. Tell you what, I'll watch it for you and tell you when to turn right."
"Here?" he said suddenly, preparing to turn right.
"No, no, not yet. Just keep on going straight. We'll turn right on Manor."
"Yep, manners are important. My girl says if I had better manners we'd get along better."
"No, I mean we turn right on Manor."
"Now?" shouted Horace, preparing to turn right again.
"No, not now, keep going. I'll let you know when its time to turn. We have to get to Manor first."
"Exactly what I'm saying, manners is the key to everything. Good relationships, good work. Course I don't make too much money. I depend a lot on tips... hint, hint, hint."
I looked around the dash for some type of meter. "So how do you calculate how much I pay for the ride?"
"What? No, I don't carry a calculator."
"No, I... What I mean is that I don't see a meter, so how do I know what to pay you?"
"Oh, well its five dollars for picking you up, then two dollars per mile."
"OK, so the total will be fifteen dollars."
Horace slammed on the brakes and gasped. It's a miracle that the car behind us didn't slam into our rear end. "How did you do that?"
Horace stepped on the gas again and let out a long whistle, obviously impressed. "How in the world did you figure that out."
"Uh... well its five to pick me up, then two bucks times five miles is ten bucks, so fifteen. It's pretty obvious."
"To you maybe, not to normal folks. You must be one of them math geniuses. I think I could get to like you, pal."
"No thanks necessary. Now that fifteen won't include my tip, right?" Horace winked at me broadly.
He went on to tell me about his troubles with his girlfriend, and how he suspected her of sleeping with all his best buddies. And every few blocks, he started to turn right and ask me if this was the street. Finally, I could see the street sign "Manor Ave." just up ahead. "OK Horace, this is it."
"This is what?"
"You want me to turn?"
"Now?" And with that we passed Manor Ave.
"We just passed our turn."
"Want me to go back?"
"If you would." He made another U-turn and went back to Manor. When we pulled up to the ladies house, she was standing in the front yard with her arms crossed, looking very unhappy. I had the cash ready and handed Horace eighteen dollars.
"Hey, you gave me too much. You said it would be fifteen dollars."
"Don't forget about the tip," I told him, winking broadly.
His roaring laugh reminded me of Herman Munster. "Hey Bob, you know something. You and I are a lot alike. We're both very smart and clever and funny. We are two peas in the same pod."
I grabbed my bag and walked up to pick up a new car and try to assuage an angry customer.