The Cabbie

13 11 2010

He was actually yelling at us to get out! I was confused. Not only because he was grumbling in Korean, but because I didn’t know why he was asking us to get out of the cab.

It’s kind of like riding a roller coaster erected by carnival folk. Wrap your hand around the cold metal of silver handle and enter at your own risk. As you struggle to slide across the leather seat, trying to keep your knees together, you wonder: Will we make it home tonight? He looks at you. You look back. Don’t let him sense your fear; I think they can smell it.  The psychology of a Korean taxi cab driver is complex and nerve-wracking. But few other choices exist at four in the morning, when your friend can’t find her cell phone and you’re missing an earring. So we take a risk and enter the bipolar traveling universe of the cabbie. You think you know, but you have no idea. I could see it, MTV should do a True Life episode about these guys, because something is going on behind the wheel.

Incredibly affordable, he takes you from drunk to sober in a timely fashion; or he screams and yells if you want to use the vanity mirror. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!  But it’s this duality of split personality that makes the ride worth noting. The almond cab joy: sometimes you get a nut, sometimes you don’t. He doesn’t ask questions about your evening; why the guy sitting next to you can’t speak English. He doesn’t judge, nor does he fail to listen as you remember the tragedies of the evening from the backseat. He pretends to not speak english when you ask for change, but makes you smile when he asks if you’re an American using perfect pronunciation. He’ll kick you out prematurely if he doesn’t want to make the u-turn, and if he feels it necessary he will pull over to give you a rest, offer you a cigarette, hold your hair for you if you need to puke. I’m serious, that actually happened. Curious, but never nosey, they seem to delight in the friendly giggling of girls leaving the club, and angered by short commutes considered not worth the time. It’s intimidating how quickly they can go from angry, road-rage-fury, to gentle father figure; smiling in the rear-view mirror as you try to speak Korean. He listens to John Denver on the radio, tapping his index finger to the beat, scanning the road, ready to punch the horn if that old lady doesn’t get out of the cross walk by the time the light changes green.

I’m sure it’s an incredibly stressful job, having to cart around strangers who probably can’t remember where they are going or how to get there. And the stress seems to be getting to some of these guys, literally pulsing from the left temple of their forehead. So the best we can do is try our best to trust that the universe of the cabbie does not implode while in transit; try our best to trust in the rusty, loose screws that gives us motion. Even though they can be incredibly harsh, especially to a foreigner, it’s important to remember that it’s not personal, that to them it’s just another night in the city.

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4 responses

13 11 2010
Sebastian

Sounds like it was a good night. Keep the entries coming, I’m hooked. You have me contemplating starting my own blog, but all in due time (slow down). I’m taking 5 courses this semester, one of them is an independent study that I have yet to start…, and it’s getting to be that “crunch time” (I know that you know what I mean). Anyway, have a good day/night whatever time it is over there.

13 11 2010
The Mama

Hi Honey. I love the story, wonderful descriptions. I can see everything including the puke. (Thanks for that). How do they react to the tip given if they think it is not enough?

btw…riding has one ‘d’ in it, fury has one ‘r’ in it and it is John Denver. Great music, it really should calm their nerves!

15 11 2010
whitneybutler

Thank you so much for reading and commenting; it means a lot to me. And yes, I am no stranger to the ‘crunch’. Like you said, slow down, take a deep breath, take an Adderall, and get it done.

What are you doing for your independent study? I managed a Blog on political economy. Maybe you could kill two birds with one stone?

Thanks again!

15 11 2010
Joe

awesome story whitney, i love feeling like i’m able to watch you as you watch people… the things you notice, the things they remind you of, the way you identify and relate to them… you’re ability to observe and look past fronts and illusions is what makes your stories so fascinating. nicely done :]

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