Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Angry Passengers

“Do you believe in God?” My passenger rhetorically asked.

I learned that my passenger’s questions were rhetorical, the hard way. That is, I responded, once. He’s a regular that I drive every 6 months or so, and every time that I drive him, it’s from a bar or lounge, usually after midnight, when he was drunk. How drunk was hard to say, except that he was pissed off. Not the threatening obnoxious kind of anger that forced you into a confrontation, but just a constant flow of speech that always began in a calm reasonable tone of voice, and gradually escalated until he was excitedly talking about whatever the subject of the day was. One time he was talking about marriage and companionship, another time he talked about the economy and the threat of losing his job, today it was religion. He is of Oriental heritage, and looks like an average person with no unusual characteristics. He’s about 5’10”, weighs about 160, is clean shaven and keeps his hair short and neat, and wears average clothing. Everything about him is average, except his angry drunken tirades. Tonight I picked him up at Big Shots, one of the biggest dive bars in Salem, where I direct anyone looking for trouble.

“Jesus was God,” he explained and continued, “so if you believe in Jesus you believe in God. None of us is worthy of untying the shoes of Jesus, but he wore sandals, didn’t he? Yeah, back then they dressed differently, but they probably still dress the same, where the Arabs live in Palestine. Do you think that there will ever be peace in the Holy Land?” Then after a minute of silence he angrily said, “there can be no peace until the prince of peace comes. At least that’s what my pastor says, and he knows what the fuck he’s talking about, because he graduated from seminary. He can read Hebrew and Greek, and explained how the world will end from studying the books of Revelation, Daniel and Ezekiel.”

I found it interesting that he was so well versed in the Bible, and was almost tempted to engage him in conversation, but I thought the better of it and let him continue.

“None of us is worthy of standing before the Father,” he explained and asked, “do you think that you are worthy? Well you’re not. None of us are. Me included. This whole world could be destroyed by a meteor or comet and we would deserve it. Look what we’ve done to the planet and each other. Jesus Christ is our only hope, he is the answer to all of mankind’s problems. At least that’s what my pastor believes, or says he believes. Gee, I hope that he believes what he’s saying. What if he didn’t really believe any of it? What if he’s just acting like he believed, because he had to, too keep his job? What if he thought it was all bullshit, invented by some fiction writer trying to make a fast buck with a new religion a couple of thousand years ago? What do you think?” He asked me.

The air got heavy with expectation, as I realized that he wanted me to respond this time, so I said, “those are interesting points.”

“What do you know?” He asked, “have you graduated from Bible college or seminary? You’re agreeing with me because you want a tip. You cab drivers are all the same

I was tempted to tell him that I did graduate from Bible college, but thought better of it, so I listened to his harangue until we finally arrived at his place, where he paid me and gave me a $1.00 tip.

Last Monday night I picked up a guy at the Super 8, who was going to the Travel Lodge on State Street, that was seething with anger as soon as he entered my cab. He looked to be about 60 years old with a short closely cropped beard, and a regular haircut with salt and pepper hair, weighing about 150 lbs., at 5’5”, with a plaid shirt, blue jean jacket and black levi’s.

“Oregon has more fat people living in it than any place I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Doesn’t anybody here care about the way that they look and the health problems that obesity causes. I hate this place, and Salem is the worst city in the entire state. Of course I can understand that with half a dozen prisons, jails and then the mental institution it’s got a fountainhead of new debris.”

We were driving by the State mental hospital, which was currently undergoing renovation, as his tirade coincided with it, so I decided to try and mellow him out with a change of subject. “They filmed “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” right here at the State mental hospital. In fact I drive a lot of the workers, that were extra’s in the movie, and are now either retired or doing different things. I almost always pick them up at Noble’s on Center and 17, just down the street. One guy who is around 80 now, tells me the same story every time that I pick him up, about the footage that contained him ending up on the cutting room floor, and Jack Nicholson being an asshole.”

That was the wrong thing to say, because it only changed the direction of his anger. “He was absolutely right,” he said, “Jack Nicholson is an asshole. One time when my sister was at a party in Aspen that he was at, he locked her in a trunk for 3 hours. I found out that my passenger was a native Cajun, from New Orleans, Louisiana, who moved to Colorado, in the late 1970’s, and moved back to Mardi Gras city, just before Katrina hit.

Then he ranted and raged about Jack Nicholson, until we arrived at the motel. At that point he apologized for complaining so much, and gave me a $5.00 tip. Then there’s the time that I drove an enraged passenger who punched me in the face and exploded the glassed off my face, but then that’s another story.

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