When I got in a cab late last night after a long shift at work, I planned on doing what I always do in cabs after work: zone out and tap zombie-like at my iPhone at stupid apps like gourmetcooktogosuperfast! My cab driver, however, was a talker. And though sometimes I feel perfectly fine not joining in the conversation, this guy was simply too nice to ignore—even if he did speed through two red lights within a minute of picking me up. (When I questioned him on one he responded, ‘everyone knows that that red light here is a green’—uh WHAT? He then proudly told me he was going to get me home in record time. (I was like, “Great, but…I’d rather pay more than die so…SLOW DOWN.”)) We chatted; he was born in Pakistan, lived in Allston now. I told him I was from near the Cape. We talked about the lack of parking in Boston, and then settled into our first silence of the trip.
Turning the radio up a bit, the cabbie began to talk softly into his ear-piece headphone thing. (Side note: How the hell do these cab drivers always have someone on the other line who is willing to wait around while they chat at you for a bit, and then jump right back in? Also, what the hell do they always have to talk to each other about?) I stared out the window at the empty streets, wondering why my boyfriend didn’t have the same phone habits. I was tired and out of it, and I closed my eyes to rest. All of a sudden, the slight headache that I’d had since getting into the cab morphed into a much larger one; the smell in this cab—a smell that I had been painfully trying my hardest to ignore—was simply too much for me. It smelled CRAZY in there. The dude had so much cologne on—it was like an Axe Factory of death in the backseat. Soon, my eyes were watering and beads of sweat were dripping down my face. I opened the backseat window and gasped for clean air. Perhaps, I thought, I should let my new friend know that he was torturing me. (And probably others. Seriously, I’m not one of those annoying super-sensitive-to-all-smells people that can’t handle any scents or anything, and I fully admit I tend to reek of a dirty kitchen rag covered in hamburger grease when I leave work, but this was not any old smell: this was the-ghost-of-teenage-boy-is-trying-to-smother-you-with-date-night-prep-and-kill-you smell. As we drove down Charles Street, I actually contemplated opening the door and rolling out of the cab.) I decided I would speak up. (This is because a) I’m kind of rude, and b) I wanted the guy to understand his moves might be not the greatest thing for business.)
So, half-holding in my breath, I said something awkward like, ‘Wow, you certainly love cologne! That’s some strong stuff!’
Him: (Giggling) “Oh no, no, no. That’s not my cologne. That’s my Black Ice Air freshener.’ See? You like it? (Holds up that evil Christmas tree thing proudly for me to see.)
Me: “Oh, okay. Wow, it’s really REALLY strong. That’s crazy it can smell so much.”
Him: (Giggling) “I know! But you know, I have two of them open! One here and one here!”
Me: (gasping for air) “You have TWO OF THEM OPEN AT THE SAME TIME? Um. Okay. Look, dude, that’s maybe a bit much. It’s very, um, intense in here. Maybe you should throw one out, you know, just to tone it down a little. It’ll still smell good, I promise. You then cut the remaining one in half or something, and by that I mean just actually throw both out because they smell horrible and I’m about to die.”
Him: “Oh, no, no, the drunk kids love the black ice.”
Me: (State of intense confusion) “Huh? Drunk kids love the smell of your air freshener?” (I somehow don’t recall taking cabs in my youth and being really into the fake-cologne smell of them, but, who knows, maybe times for the ‘drunk kids’ are changing.)
Him: “Oh, yes! Yes! One time, girl makes out in my cab all night and she looooved the smell. She talk about it all night.”
Me: “Oh, look, my stop!”
He then told me he didn’t think he got me home fast enough, and that I shouldn’t pay him what the meter said. (I was like, you’re crazy (but very happy!) and I’ve never met a cab driver who has ever said anything like that to me before.) I paid him the fare, gave him his tip, and asked him to take my advice about the black ice seriously. He giggled in my face and drove off.
I think if you’re ever in his cab, you’ll know.