Sorry, did I just get that Shins song stuck in your head?
Hey, remember that time my cab driver asked me the difference between rape and sodomy? Good times. (No, really -- it turned out to be a pretty tender moment.) Considering how infrequently I've been taking taxis in 2014 and how there were only a couple months left in the year, I felt confident that this would go down as my most bizarre cab ride of the year.
I was wrong.
Last Saturday night, I had just finished performing guest vocals on a few songs with a friend's band at Bowery Electric, a music venue and bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I'd had a couple of days of non-stop working and socializing, and I was just too tired to stick around after the show -- too tired to even think about walking to the subway, sitting on the train, and walking from the subway -- so I decided to treat myself to a cab ride home.
A taxi pulled over almost as soon as I put my arm up at the nearest corner. I got in, slid the minivan door closed, and, while looking down to make sure my skirt wasn't hiked up from my ungraceful entrance, said hello and told the driver where I was going.
At that point, I looked up and saw this:
My cab driver had his right hand in a Father Guido Sarducci-esque pirate puppet.
Upon confirming my destination, the cabbie turned up the radio quite loud and, while driving south toward the Manhattan Bridge, had his pirate puppet flawlessly lip sync the words to Latin club music. That is definitely a sentence I never predicted I'd write.
While keeping his left hand on the wheel, he'd face the puppet toward his window and have it perform for the cars passing by. When we were at red lights, he'd pick up the little rod attached to the puppet's hooked hand and make it dance through the passenger-side window for people in other vehicles, most of whom ignored him or didn't notice.
"You having fun back there?" he asked right before we turned onto the bridge.
"Oh yeah," I said, wondering if he'd seen my expression change back and forth between surprised amusement and wide-eyed terror. "How long have you been doing this?"
"I just bought it yesterday," he said. "I figured, why not?"
Oh, I can think of plenty of reasons -- ten and two reasons -- why not.
I got home safely, albeit somewhat traumatized, my mild puppet phobia given new legs to stand on. Floppy, terrifyingly lifeless little legs.
In addition to this puppet show on wheels and the cabbie who now knows how to spell sodomy thanks to yours truly, a few other experiences earlier in the year had me wondering how such a high percentage of my few-and-far-between rides could be so WTF-worthy; like the driver who angrily ranted about godless, materialistic, promiscuous men for the entire length of my trip, and the driver who realized mid-ride that he was late for an appointment, flagged down another cab driver while we were at a red light, and had me switch to the other guy's taxi. But while my stories get some laughs and raised eyebrows, a lot of people don't seem very surprised, chalking it up to New York's overall wackiness.
My friend Ehi thinks the actual act of driving a cab lends itself to questionable behavior.
"You know when you've been around someone for an extended period of time, you get overly comfortable and the weird starts to come out? I'm convinced that's what happens to most cabbies," he said. "But with everyone."
To help me feel like St. Fiacre, patron saint of cab drivers, hasn't been punking me, I asked other xoJane regulars if they've had strange cab experiences. Here's what they told me.
I had a taxi driver confess to me that he wants oral sex from men and wanted to know if that makes him gay, and then he said he would turn off the meter and not charge me for the ride if I kept giving him advice about it. I told him I didn't have much more to say about it and to take me home.
I would say the weirdest is me being bored and interrogating my taxi driver (who I always run into at the bodega and has taught me how to say "I love you" in Arabic): "So, have you ever had someone try to have sex with you?" "Yes I did. And then I had sex with them. It was very good." And then he showed me his book that he has written and peddles to interested customers.
I once had the most animated conversation with an Uber driver in San Francisco about jazz. He kept playing different tracks and we were both enjoying it so much that he drove me around on an aimless tour of SF so we could keep talking about music.
A cab driver in New Orleans taught me how to make my own wine and then drove me past the elementary school yard where he breaks in to steal mulberries. Also: this.
All of my cab experiences have been pretty decent except for the time when a black car tried to charge me $40 to go, like, five blocks in in the pouring rain in NYC, and after I called him out on it he asked for my number. Like, screw off, dude. And in LA, a driver told me I had to go shopping on Melrose because "Courteney Cox shops there."
I can confirm Hannah's cabbie was lying. Melrose is a wasteland of cheap stores. I've never had a weird taxicab encounter, but I have left something in literally every single cab I've been in.
I am wildly attractive to cab drivers -- I think it's my ample, childbearing frame. I have been proposed to multiple times. I have also been involved in many annoying conversations over my 20s and now early 30s about whether I have a boyfriend and if so why I'm not married, because really, a woman my age should be married. Once, in Mexico, the driver who took me to the airport spent the whole time hinting that sometimes women he drives just show him their boobs in payment. "Hasn't happened in a while, though..."
A wacko cab driver in NYC had the interior walls of his car collaged in fishing paraphernalia, and of course I was drunk and asked him about it. He proceeded to hand me a photo album of him and a bunch of fish he caught in the East River (ew) and rambling about god knows what (different species of fish? the government?). He also kept offering me unwrapped candy and getting pissy when I refused it. STILL shuddering at the memory of it all.
I think Caitlin and I might be stuck in the same cab purgatory/prank show.
Have you had any super-weird taxi experiences? Do tell!