So about a month ago I was the only cab at the airport. There had been several flights that landed all at once, wiping out the cab population. This happens regularly. There’s either 20 cabs for an hour, or none. In an effort to stop pissing off as many people as possible (passengers AND cab drivers), the city has agreed that if there’s a ton of people waiting for taxis and only one or two taxis, the taxis can load multiple parties with multiple destinations into their cab. This is called “split loading”. The passengers always have the authority to say “no” to this, but they kinda look like a jerk to the other people waiting for cabs when they do. Cab drivers try to make sure people are going in the same direction and “fit” in a good route with each other. Another thing about split loading is that it’s priced so everyone is paying less than what they would pay if they were going directly.
I loaded a woman going to the West side and asked if she wouldn’t mind splitting with a single man going along the way. He would be dropped off first and wasn’t too far off the route. She said she didn’t mind and they both got in (I, of course, hefted the luggage).
As soon as we were rolling, she starts talking in an anxiety-filled tone and speed. First off, she apologizes for being as anxious and “Discombooberated” as she was (she repeated this word several times during the ride). She had been traveling for 10 days in Florida and only yesterday did her dog get sick at the doggie boarding house, enough so that the staff at the boarding house decided it would be best if he went to the veterinary ER.
She talked, literally, for ten minutes straight with no gaps about how worried she was for her puppy. She explained the symptoms and previous cancer he had, explained her worry that it was coming back, explained how rare that form of cancer was and how difficult it was to diagnose in the first place. Her voice was clipped, high, full of tension, and held a very thick, Northern Wisconsin accent. She was probably retired, judging her age. I figured she was mature enough that I didn’t have to comfort her or offer advice that I wasn’t qualified to give, just listen, and she would appreciate it just fine.
Eventually she came up for air and asked the other passenger in the cab about himself. All three of us chuckled a little bit about the discombooberated woman’s chattiness. The man in the cab was a French transplant to Madison working for the college. He was reserved, quiet, but humored the woman’s questions. She declared that it was a wonderful coincidence that they were sharing a cab because she had majored in French in college. She spoke a few phrases as we dropped off our gentleman passenger, and he smiled saying, “It’s coming back to you!” All I could think of was how thick her Wisconsin accent was and I wondered if that accent also translated with her French.
Five minutes longer to her house, and she was back to her puppy. Normally, someone who was so anxiety consumed would have rubbed off on me and I would have gotten agitated, but I think that the conscious decision I made at the beginning of the ride to just listen and let her get it all out saved me from the unconscious absorption of the anxiety. Pets aren’t the same as kids, but sometimes they’re just as important in different ways and I didn’t want her to feel like she was being silly for feeling so much love and worry.
Her mom was outside gardening when we pulled up and I dropped her off.
This past weekend I was at the airport again. Discombooberated woman AND her mom got into my taxi at the airport and I took them both home. We recognized each other instantly. Puppy was doing much better and didn’t have any problems with the boarding house this time around. The Recombooberated woman had picked up some treats for the staff for being so kind the last trip.
I’d like to mention here that you would think the odds of having the same woman in my cab for both of her trips are crazy, and I would agree with you, but in Madison things just kinda happen that way. Madison somehow always beats the mathematical odds for these things, I guess. In no way am I superstitious, but things are weird here.