I don’t want to presume anything, but I expect you may have heard of taxicabs before. What you may not know is that they are engines of fear, designed to zoom around in unfamiliar cities extracting money and tears from unsuspecting passengers before ejecting their shuddering husks into the darkest, most poverty-stricken corners of said unfamiliar city.
Any impression you had that taxicabs are friendly spirits – ready and willing to ferry you quickly to your intended destination – is unequivocally false. I now know this from my own harrowing personal experience…
You see, my employer deemed it necessary to send me to a training conference. That by itself is uninteresting; employers have a tendency to send employees for training. It happens.
It’s not every day, however, that said training is held over a thousand miles away. That, for me, was new.
That’s not to say that I’ve never traveled before. I’ve seen many places in this great land of ours – even some less-great lands too! But when I go, I’m usually either driving myself there, or I have a comprehensive plan (such as renting a car or taking public transit) for my transportation needs once I’ve arrived.
This was the first time that I planned to simply take a taxi from the airport. In this case I had absolutely no intention of familiarizing myself with the layout of the city before leaving.
So I boarded an aircraft which rapidly hurtled itself upward and away from my beloved Ohio, toward a strange land called Orlando, Florida.
On arriving at the airport, I patiently waited for my baggage to be regurgitated out of the deep maw of the claim carousel. I amused myself, as I often do, by watching people engage in various public displays of dysfunction.
Such displays always end up being surprisingly easy to spot.
Finally, having retrieved my suitcase, I made a beeline for the exit where a line of taxicabs was waiting.
At this point, I could still have fled. I could have found some other way – any other way – to be transported to my destination. Alas, like the ignorant sap that I am, I stepped into the first waiting taxicab and shut the door behind myself.
And then it was too late.
The taxicab started moving forward. I opened my itinerary folder and read off my destination addresses to the driver. He turned to me and, in an apparent attempt at responding, emitted a long series of primarily vowels. This was not, to my reckoning, English.
I smiled, trying to be polite. Only when the driver slowed to a stop did I begin to suspect that something was wrong.
“I say,” I tried again, “I’d like to go to this address first, pick something up, then go to that address.” I handed him my notes with both addresses clearly printed.
I received more loud sounds in reply. I began to recognize some English words, but it was all I could do to piece together even a shadow of the driver’s meaning.
For several minutes I tried desperately to explain that I did in fact need to go from point A to point B and on to point C, and that it would defeat the purpose entirely to travel from point A straight to point C before heading to point B.
The taxicab began to lurch forward again, and I thought for a moment that everything was alright. This was before the driver glanced back at me and spoke again.
“You friend call? Know direction?”
“Pardon me?” I asked in bewilderment.
“Tell directions place? You know city?”
With horror, I realized that he did not know where we were going. The address meant nothing to him, and he expected me to give him directions!
And so we continued to drive, faster and faster, with him urgently demanding to know if we should turn left or right – if we should take this freeway or that.
There was one slight problem with this plan…
I made it very, very clear that I had no idea where to go. This was supposed to be his city! He was supposed to know where to go!
“Call get direction? Call friend?!”
As despair took hold, I began to cower at the back of my seat. I had no friends here. Here, I was very much alone.
Eventually he must have realized that he was doing something wrong, because he got out his cell phone and began calling taxicab companies seemingly at random.
He left his cell on speakerphone mode. Perhaps this was so he could hear better, but it ultimately had the practical effect of disconcerting me even more. As he screamed at an assortment of confused people over the phone, their inability to help or even understand him only deepened my sorrow.
Several times he would stop, parking quite unsafely at the side of the road, to wrestle with his phone, his dispatcher, and (apparently) his own life choices. During these intervals, I could only peer at the meter on his dashboard, watching the cost of my error tick up and up.
Then, having had some revelation, he would suddenly peel out in exactly the opposite direction we had come, assuring me the whole way that the previous direction wasn’t wrong, but that the new direction was better. The meter seemed particularly happy at these turns of events. It practically purred to itself as it extracted money from my account.
After some time, I began to notice that evidence of civilization was thinning. As we traveled down winding road after winding road, the landscape became less and less urban and took on an ever more “sodden, lifeless wasteland” feel.
Eventually, we arrived at a small housing development surrounded by a mile of patchy grass and dirt, interrupted by a handful of stagnant lakes.
The driver of the taxicab claimed that the address was here, that it had to be here. But we could not find the address, only the street. Apparently undeterred by this, he declared that I should be able to walk from here, let me out, unloaded my bags, and drove away.
Squinting at the sun and pondering my predicament, I turned around several times before setting out in a direction. This turned out to be the wrong direction, so I chose another direction and walked that way instead. That also turned out to be the wrong direction, which led me to select yet another direction.
This went on for a while.
While wandering around in that ghost town, I fell into a hazy stupor. It would have almost been peaceful, but I encountered these birds and had to quickly snap out of it.
I must apologize for the shakiness of the camera in the video. My hands usually tremble when I’m terrified for my life!
Shortly after the video ended, both birds began to stalk toward me, their piercing red eyes locked with mine, their talons clicking menacingly against the concrete. The land had not yielded enough meat for them. They hungered for more.
I turned and ran like a girl. And as I ran, an image came to mind of the taxicab driver himself being overtaken and consumed by this pack of ferocious raptors.
At that, even though I was running for my very life, a smile flickered across my face.
Although all seemed lost, I did in fact escape from the birds and eventually found myself at my proper destination. And really, when it was all said and done, I wasn’t even that much the worse for the wear.
As for the awful experience in that horrible taxicab, I did write down the relevant information about the taxicab and the company that ran it. I called them, complained, and received a full refund.
I suffer from no delusions that my refund alone put the taxicab out of business. It surely still roams the streets, preying on innocent visitors. But if we all band together, if we all do something about these atrocities, maybe we can choke the life out of these menaces and put them out of business for good!
So… next time I’m in Orlando, can somebody give me a ride?