Most travelers can recount airplane “flights from Hell.” But of course, there are also Satanic cab and bus rides. Sometimes, even a pleasant-looking ferry will stray across the River Styx.
Taxi terror, for me, will always be associated with the Bahamas. I’d been sent to Nassau’s Paradise Island for a convention. Name notwithstanding, it was less than plush. They booked me in a resort Trump had unloaded on Griffin. Moldy, frayed around the edges.
Conference concluded, garment bags stuffed, my boss and I headed for the airport (turbo-prop to Miami, connection for JFK). Our driver was disturbed.
You saw immediately he had plenty on his mind. Rotating shoulders, patting hair, muttering, trying to tame twitches by squeezing hard on the steering wheel. It didn’t take him long to bring us up-to-date on the reasons behind his distress.
He spoke in that lilting, Caribbean, Rasta/reggae accent, but the last thing you’d accuse him of being was laid-back.
“Dey say you can pick out frien’s, mon, but no way to choose relations,” he began.
We assented politely, pretending this was breaking news.
“Might be dot’s a good t’ing, mon. Cos othahwise, who select deir bumba-clot in-laws?”
I conceded he could have a legitimate point, which was all the encouragement he needed.
“Got dem in-law problems yourself, mon?” he asked, fixing me with a wild-man stare in the rear-view mirror.
“Well, I’m not married anymore,” I told him. “But I was, so I know what you mean. It’s tough to accept.”
His views ratified, our hack’s chin sagged even more despondently, as if this in-law crisis were detrimental to society as a whole. At the very least, it was affecting his driving.
“My faddah-in-law is a constant impediment, a road-block, in my life,” he informed us, swerving back from the wrong side of the highway. “This mon retain an attochment to his dah-tah. Any mon can appreciate that. But he mus’ come to realize that I am in chodge of dee-see-pleening dot woman now.”
My colleague tossed in his own lame contribution at that point, along the lines of, “Never easy. No doubt about that. Balancing different family roles.”
You could tell he hoped the taxi driver, while tense and talkative, was essentially sane.
That theory didn’t hold up long.
“In town, I’m told my wife, she leave her employment early,” the driver growled. “Only for goin’ out shopping wit’ her frien’s, so she claim. But in foct, mon, dere’s no one can confirm where she go, who she hongin’ wit’. After I find this, I’m arriving at our home, same cab we in even now. I lift up de hood. I undo de fonbelt. An’ I demonstrate wit’ de unloosed fon-belt who in chodge.”
Hungover mainlanders in the back seat began to trade glances. Fon-Belter clearly psychotic. What now?
We had no interest in diverting attention to anyone besides his presumably bruised wife. He was on a roll.
“Soon de ol’ mon receive word of dis incident, an’ become heated up an’ angry. Raddah den deal wit’ me in a proper way, confidential, mon-to-mon, he set out for disgrace in de public eye, create a reputation. Sad ting, but in de teachings, de thoughtless mon one day recognize his ignorance. De ol’ one close his mout’ when I show him dis.”
The driver hunkered down, rooted beneath the front seat, and came up gripping a monstrous machete. He twirled it around, barely keeping control of the cab with his other hand.
We were barrel-assing through an undeveloped, desolate area. Mostly reeds and marshes alongside the blacktop; no other traffic to speak of.
Both of us were estimating how long it would take for local cops to collect pieces of our dismembered corpses, should this maniac pull off onto a side road and perform a Benihana number on us.
Machete rehidden, the mood remained questionable. It seemed important to keep him talking. “Father-in-law show a little more respect after that?” I prompted.
“Cannot say so, mon,” he answered, genuinely indignant. “Some never will listen to reason.”
At the airport, Son-in-Law required fewer than 90 seconds before initiating a shouting match with a cabbie from another company. Thankfully, we’d already paid, generously, and no weapons had yet emerged.
We hauled our own bags into the terminal.