January 17th, 2012

Baby and me

Woulda, coulda, shoulda (What was she thinking department)

Among my passengers there seems little in the way of consensus about my status. Professional, like a Greyhound driver, and so beyond tipping, or more like a long-haul cab driver and thus, deserving of a cash thank-you?

Thus far, things range from nothing at all, to a handful of change, to my very first passenger, a pilot by name of Mike, who has decided to slip me a folded tenner every time I drop him off somewhere. Usually, I don't even get a chance to man-handle his luggage (keep your minds out of the gutter, kids! I'm talking about his suitcases). Needless to say, I like Mike, though he is also friendly and respectful, to me and to his co-workers.

But most of my passengers don't tip at all. Some of these are very nice (except that they don't tip), while others leave messes behind as though part of my job obviously includes picking up their empty coffee cups and banana peels.

But today's fare, a flight attendant from Montreal, to which city I delivered her last night, took the confusion to a whole new level.

The first hour or so of the trip saw me listening to the radio while she made call after call on her mobile, some in French, some in English (Montreal is a genuinely bilingual city).

But she was done with phoning around the time we crossed over into Quebec. She then started up a conversation and soon invited herself into the shot-gun seat. We exchanged brief biographies, she told me about her work (she spent last summer traveling with the Blue Jays — very nice guys, apparently — and the state of English and French in Canada (an awful lot of Quebecers don't realize that there are significant numbers of French Canadians outside of Quebec as well).

And when I pulled up beside the employee parking lot at 23:00 hours last night, I hoped out of the vehicle and got her luggage out and onto the pavement.

"Wait a minute," she said, crouching over her purse. "Let me get some change." (Well, I wouldn't be dining at the Ritz, I thought, but looneys and doubloons add up.) But when she rose, she handed me a single bill and said, "American."

"Thank you very much," I said as I unwrinkled the unfamiliar currency. And immediately regretted my pro forma expression of gratitude. A buck!?! A dollar had been something I had had to force myself to pretend was exciting when my grandmother would hand my brother and I a fresh one dollar bill — and that was back around 1975, when one dollar would buy four comic books.

My first buck
(perhaps I should have it bronzed)

By the time I thought to hand it back to her, perhaps with the suggestion that I couldn't accept such magnificent generosity merely for doing my job; or that she obviously had fallen on hard times and so must need the funds more than I do.

For the sake of my continued employment, I suppose it's all for the best that I didn't think fast enough to spew the sarcasm in her general (let alone her specific) direction.

But really. A dollar for two hours of my time? Quite seriously, nothing at all would be preferable.

Meanwhile, back at the office circa 01:30, the night dispatcher had kindly made arrangements with another driver to give me a lift downtown, but I demurred, smiling. It was much warmer than it was the night before, I said, and I could use the exercise.

"Okay," she said, "if you are sure."

"I'm sure," I said, "thank you very much anyway, though.

"Okay. Thank you for your help."

And that (I thought) was that. I drove the van over to the parking lot and hopped on my bike, waving at a co-worker as I peddaled into the night.

It was maybe two kilometres into my trip (around Hunt Club and Uplands, for those of you familiar with Ottawa's geography) that I heard a sudden hiss from my rear time. And soon after, felt the unmistakable bump of rim on pavement. My tire had decided it didn't like a patch-job I'd done a few weeks ago. I suppose the temperature might have had something to do with it.

Ottawa's a small town. Transit is essentially non-existent after 1 in the morning, so I started to walk, thinking to hail a cab.

Ha ha! Ha ha ha.

I walked about eight kilometres, through ice-and-snow covered sidewalks, pushing my bike, before a cab finally deigned to have mercy upon Young Geoffrey. It was one of those mini-vans fitted to take a wheelchair in the rear, so getting the bike in was a piece of cake. Add I was tired enough that I didn't begrudge the extra fee (five bucks) for taking my wheels as well as myself.

Still, the driver was friendly and laughed as I recounted my tales of woe. And more, handed back the tip I gave him come the end of the ride.

No moral to this story series of anecdotes, but I ended the night feeling quite a lot better about my fellow humans than I did between dropping off my charge in Montreal and finding myself ignored by the umpteenth cab before my guardian angel pulled up to the rescue.

And ... exuent. I fear I babbled.

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