Tataki Taxi

Moving to a new city or even a new neighborhood allows one to re-create himself.  In Calgary, I had a group of good friends I had known for my entire life.  I went to High School with all of them and as the years passed, it became increasingly evident that we were growing into very different people.

            My best friend had taken up a life of Child and Youth Care Counseling.  Others were Accountants, City workers and even Police Officers.  The disparity in our professions led to lengthy conversations about times long past: mournful psalms of times now invisible.  Only a few of these friendships transcended nostalgic melancholy.  But we were, indeed, friends and good ones too.

            Moving to Victoria enabled me to become myself.  I was able to choose friends who spoke the same language as I did, and though it took some time, I found a group of like-minded individuals who aided me in my growth.  I became more and more myself.

            I became a writer in Victoria.  I was obnoxious about it, at first.  Two weeks after moving there, I hosted a welcome party for myself, inviting many of Margo’s friends who I had only recently met.  At the end of this party, and several parties to come, I gave a reading of the first few chapters of the book.  While some of the guests enjoyed the readings, many of them were somewhat put off by my assumption that they gave a shit.  And so it continued.

            I wrote.  And I made a point of writing in the most visible places.  I wrote at the workplaces of several newfound friends.  I wrote in the rain and watched my pen bleed blue onto the soaked note book.  I wrote at night and in the morning as well, trying to remember every detail from Marcel’s fast disappearing account of his son’s childhood.  I wanted to be noticed, undoubtedly I was chuckled at in the best of times and ignored for all the rest.  I was incredibly self absorbed at this time.  I was arrogant and desperate for attention.  Fortunately, Margo’s friends, many of whom I would later call my own, were forgiving enough to look past my immaturity.

            My inescapable poverty only further contributed to my increasing self-identification as a writer.  I was, quite literally starving and though I am tempted to through in the “artist” to complete the phrase, I’m not sure I was.  I stunk.  And I lost 50 lbs. in the first six months of my Victorian residency.

            I couldn’t find work on the Island: another premonition of things to come.  I walked around the town a lot, however, usually late at night (it was another thing I thought ‘writers’ did).  One night, I had a lengthy conversation with a pedi-cab driver named Chico, who assured me that should I take on his trade, I would be set for life.  I was skeptical, but desperate enough give it a try.

            The next day, I walked down to Tataki Taxi in hopes of procuring employment.  The place was reminiscent of an episode of the popular seventies sitcom, Taxi.  By the time I got there, the early morning cabbies were just returning from their shifts exhausted: a crew of late night cabbies took their bikes.  I asked one of the cabbies that I needed work and he pointed me in the direction of an office from which thick clouds of cigar smoke flowed like the blanket of Victorian fog. 

“The owner’s name is Bill” the cabbie said with a grin, “He’s quite the character, but he’s a good man: remember that.”  I walked toward office with a spring in my step, eager to see the man responsible for all that smoke. 

            Bill was on the phone, but gestured for me to grab a chair in front of his desk.  I sat down and pretended not to listen to the intense conversation he was having with his girlfriend. 

            I studied Bill as he talked.  Bill was well into his fifties when I first met him, though he did everything possible to hide it.  His first line of defense was the ever-present cap on his bald skull.  For the first three weeks I worked at Tataki Taxi, I was under the mistaken impression that my boss had a full head of hair.  His male-pattern baldness only revealed when a disgruntled employee stole the cap from his head and ran out the door. Bill dove desperately under his large, cedar desk.  He didn’t come back to work for days.

When Bill finally returned, he wore a newly purchased poor boy cap upon his gleaming skull and fired all who were bold enough to delve into topics of the follicular nature. 

            In my four months of employment at Tataki Taxi, I earned about $200: I was an awful salesman.  I was forced to take a one-on-one introductory course from Bill himself; he personally instructed me on how to make money as a Tataki Taxi driver, speaking at length about how lucrative a job Kabbing is, if sees things in the right perspective.  On the wall of his office, Bill had amassed a collection of previous Tataki drivers’ notes documenting days they made $500 or more.  I was convinced that I too would be rich.

            “What you are selling here, Nick… is it Nick?” 

            “Um, yeah.  My name is Nick”

            “Alright, Nick, the question was rhetorical.  I’ll give you a freebee: what you are selling here is not, let me emphasize, it is most definately not, a Kab ride.”

            “Um, ok.  Well, Bill, what am I selling… is this a front?  You guys sellin’ pot like everyone else here?”

            Bill did not pause to chuckle. 

“You are selling an experience.  Every summer, over 100, 000 tourists come to Victoria.  They come for one reason, and one reason only.  Guess what reason that is, Nick.”

            “Um, to see the sights?”  I grinned, ironic.

            “No.  Nick, they come here to spend money!  Think about it.  North Americans have, on average, three weeks of holiday time per year.  Those three weeks are what keep them going when they are going out of their fucking skulls punching the clock at some bullshit 9-5 job. (note: Tataki Taxi recruited potential Kabbies by offering an alternative to comparatively dull 9-5 work)  They save every penny, Nick, for these three weeks.  They want to give it to you!  Let me give you a little scenario here.  You’re a dude.  You will understand.”

            “So, you take your lovely lady away on a magical vacation to Canada’s most beautiful city (note: in 2011, Victoria was named Canada’s most romantic city).  You get off the plane, take a cab to the hotel and drop off your shit.  You wanna show her a good time, right?  Hope you do!  So you leave the hotel and you are totally lost.  You get one of those free, yellow maps they give out in the lobby: it doesn’t help at all.  You want to eat, but where should you go?  You want to have a drink, but have no idea where the hotspots are!  And suddenly, God himself sends you an angel!  And who is the angel, Nick?  Tell me who this angel is!”

            “…”

            “The angel is YOU, Nick!  God has sent you to deliver these poor bastards from what has the makings of a boring vacation!  YOU can tell them where they should go!  You even have coupons… you know about the coupons, right?”  I pull the pile of coupons he had given me three days prior from my pocket to show him.  “You can save them, 10% on a succulent feast of crab from some of this towns best restaurants!” 

By this time, Bill stood on his chair.  “NICK!  You are their angel!  Not only can you tell them where they should go, but you can take them there in the back of your wonderfully unique and completely absurd ‘vehicle’!  NICK, do you know how much these men wanna get laid?  Allow me to reiterate: they have been busting their fucking asses for the better part of a year in order to pay for this vacation and trust me, if you are working nine to five, five days a week, you are not getting laid regular!  I mean, you sink into a routine, man!  You wake up at the same time every day!  Maybe you give your wife a kiss on the cheek before heading out to a day that resembles, no, doesn’t resemble, but is EXACTLY THE SAME as the one before!” 

He is now standing on his desk.

 I am scared, at this point, though I try not to let on. 

            “NICK! Vacations are the only time in the shattered and pathetic lives of such men when they have a hope in hell of getting some pussy!  SHAVED PUSSY, you understand?  Do you?”

            “Yeah, Bill.  I like shaved pussy.”

            “OF COURSE YOU DO!  You have a set of balls, don’t you Nick?”

            “Yes.”

            “Well, then, use them!  Follow their lead!”

            “Um?”

            “Follow their lead, Nick!  You’ve got a girlfriend, right?”

            “Uh, yeah, I think so…”

            “Ok.  Well, you’ve got yourself a special lady then, right?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Ok.  So NICK, you’ve gotta let your fuckin’ balls lead you!  Because you are the other side of the fuckin’ gold coin I’m gonna throw at you right fucking now.  Follow me, follow me, follow me (Note: Bill loved Snoop Dogg), so, on one side of the coin is the middle aged motherfucker you are trying to persuade to get into your Kab.  This guy has blue fuckin’ balls man, partially ‘cuz his wife’s not interested anymore and partially because, on the odd occasions she is turned on the fucker can’t even get it up!  You understand?  Ha!  Probably not!”  He gives me a fatherly slap to the shoulder. 

“This is his big fuckin’ chance, Nick!  His old ass certainly would not be able to do what you are offering to do.  Fucker would have a heartattack half way up that little fuckin’ hill on Government Street even if he was on top of a regular bicycle, let alone one of these big bastards… you riding a four seater or a two seater right now?”

            “I’m mostly riding twos.”

            “Well, anyways…. you need to own the twos!  Fours are a totally different universe!  But you my friend are lucky: you are riding romance incarnate!  Follow me, follow me, follow me…” 

I think I rolled my eyes, but luckily he didn’t see.

            “You, Nick!  You are fully responsible for getting this fucker laid!  His wife has a front row seat!  She is looking at your ass, Nick, don’t kid yourself!  Here you are sweating, trying to get this fat fuck and his wife to a four coarse meal of prawn, potato and salmon: you bust your ass, to get them there as fast as you possibly can.  And they notice.  He, is conflicted of course: he has to look like he’s enjoying the ride; he’s paying for it after all.  But he knows full well that his fucking wife is looking at your ass—she’s having a bit too much fun doing it, but maybe her pussy’s getting a little wet.  But, here’s the interesting part: he is sure that all of her adulation and excitement regarding your bum will be transferred onto to his miserable, old, limp dick… if he waits it out!” 

“Nick!  That is why he is willing to pay you!  That is why he is willing to give you a one hundred dollar tip!  He knows that, in time, all the energy you have created with those fucking legs of yours will be thrown upon him!  I know these pricks.  I used to work nine to five.  I built this industry with them in mind.”

            “And you!  Let’s not forget about ‘number one’ here!  You are getting paid to get in shape!  I’ve been watching you, my friend, and I’ve noticed that since you’ve started working here, you’ve toned down quite a bit.  When you came in here that first day, I looked at you long and hard.  I knew that instant that you had potential.  Maybe a buck or two overweight, but I could tell you were strong even then.  And now, you’ve shaved a bit of weight off: you’re lookin’ good, my man!  (He gave me a high five)  Every girl in this town wants to fuck a Tataki Taxi driver: that’s just the way it goes.  We’re in good shape, we make good money and we’re social: a good catch, it you ask me!  Tell me, Nick, is your special lady happy you’ve started riding with us, or what?” 

Again, he gave me no time to reply.

“Of course she is!  I betcha part of the reason you’ve dropped all that weight is that you are getting laid, what, four, five times a day?”

            “Ummm…”

            “No need to get into the nitty gritty here, I know.  So, there you have it Nick.  You’ve got motivation coming out of your fuckin’ ass!  You know they’re out there, you know they want to give you some money!  You just have to get out there and put yourself in a place where you can get it!  So do it!  What the fuck are you doing here, listening to me fuckin’ yabber when there are rich motherfuckers out there right now, looking around waiting for someone to give there unending supply of American, yes, American, greenbacks to!  Betcha Chico made $1000 today!  Did he tell you he spends his off season surfing in Hawaii?  That could… no, it will, be you!  You are a prodigy, believe it!  Now, get the fuck out of my office!  Go forth!  Make some money for that special lady of yours!  Leave!  Now!”

            Bill got off his desk, nonchalantly and resumed his perch on orthopedic chair: he adjusted his cap and looked at me to see if I had any questions.  I did not.

            I set off that day, after paying the obligatory $60 lease for the squeaky cab between my legs.  I was emboldened by Randy’s excited rant.  I made $30 for a ride to Big Bad John’s with two middle aged women who complained, for the duration of the ride, about my ‘lack of initiative’.  They tipped me $1 on a $29 fare.

On that day, as well as many that came before and after, I paid to work in our Province’s capital city.

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