Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Bored (Βαρεμάρα)

Here's how husband passed his day today. 

What time was it when I left the house this morning, Maria? Did you hear me? It was about 6.30, wasn't it? Kosta had phoned me to ask if he could keep the car until he got a ride. "Where are you?" I asked him. "Africana," he said, "and I'm alone." But Africana never gets much business these days, it's so close to Hania people walk, so I told him to bring the cab to me, because if I'd left him there, he might have brought it even later than the time you take the kids to school, so I told him to bring it home and I could begin my shift. As it was, I'd lost my regular customer from my usual first stop, because another cab had already rolled into the Kalithea rank, and I knew he'd get the fare, and all I'd end up wth is a ντουλάπα.

Now that the tablets have been taken away from us* and we had to go back to the old system of picking up fares, I had to hit the road and go to the next taxi rank, which happened to be Africana. I was surprised no one was there before me. I was all alone. Then No. 72 came along, glanced at me, and drove off. Then No. 133 appeared and he left as soon as he took one look at me. The same with No. 55. I was beginning to think  they were all avoiding me because of some decision that I had taken against them** or something, so I called No. 55 and asked him where he was. He said he was at the Koumbe rank. I also asked him if he'd seen 72 and 133; he told me they were there with him. I asked him if I should come along too, and he told me I was fine where I was - he was 7th in line.

So I here I was, all on my lonesome, watching the world waking up and passing me by, as I remained still.  I heard 72 get called, then 133 got a fare, and I began getting a little edgy as I still had nothing. No. 92 came along and parked behind me. We both got out of our cabs for a bit of fresh air and a little chat. The first fare - a very young-looking chap - came along at 8.30. Just before I got into the cab, I asked him where he was going.

"Plakias," he said, matter-of-factly. I couldn't believe my ears. If you go to Plakias, you don't need to work for the rest of the day. Well, you could work if you wanted to, but you'd have made as much money as you normally would over two days of working all day in Hania. 92 stared at me with a jaw dropped as low as his πι-πί.

"Plakias is far away," I warned him, "it's going to cost you a lot of money." It's only fair to warn him. You don't know the people who come into your cab. You may see them very day, like my regular fare at Kalithea, or you may see them once in your life, like this guy, but you never know if they have the money to pay you. I once took someone to Paleohora, and when he got out, he said "Just a minute," and he went into his house and bought back a canary in a cage and told me to take it. Luckily, I didn't take off immediately, because his mother came out of the house running to catch up with me, and she was holding her purse. She kept apologising for her son's behaviour, and she paid me in full. Then another time, I picked someone up from Souda and he told me to take him to a village in Iraklio near Moires. After I got to Rethimno, he struck up a conversation (I always let the customer start the conversation - some of them may not want to talk much in the cab). He told me how hard his life was, being stuck all day in the psychiatric unit in Souda. The cheeky bugger had come onto the main road to avoid being picked up from the τρελοκομείο where he lived. All I could think of was 'Fuck'. He probably didn't have any money on him but I couldn't very well turn back to Hania. I just carried on driving all the way to Moires. When we finally got to his house, I found his father out in the yard. The guy got out of the taxi without even turning to look at me. His father came up to me and said, "Why do you keep bringing him here?" I told him I was only doing my job, I had no idea who he was, I just picked up a fare and took him where he told me. His father told me to wait a minute. He came out of the house with his wallet and paid me in full. I felt sorry for these parents. They looked old, but their kids were young. Their children had aged them too early. I remembered these stories as I watched the young man get into the back seat of the cab.

"I've got €220 in my pocket," he said. I nodded a see-you-later to No. 92 and started up the car. Do you know how many years it's been since I've been to Plakias? I didn't remember how bad the road was. One minute you're climbing a hill, the next you're rolling down it, then you drive through a gorge, a bit more up and down before you are finally back on flat road. We got to Plakias forty minutes later, and I asked him where excatly he wanted to go. He told me to drive down to the beach, so I did. I expected him to tell me which spot on the beach he wanted to get out at, but he said nothing. I kept driving slowly along the coast, but he still said nothing. I thought maybe he was μαστουρομένος, but he didn't smell of pot or anything, and his eyes weren't jaded either. To try to work out what the hell he was up to, I asked him if he wanted to stop off and get a coffee at the kafeneio - nothing else was open. "No," he said, "it's too cold." I was fed up, and feeling a little jittery after the drive, but I couldn't do much about my situation. I asked him where he wanted me to take him.

"Let's go back to Hania," he said. I wasn't sure if he was having me on. The meter would continue ticking; he'd have to pay for the return fare too.

"You've come all the way down here, and you haven't even stepped out of the cab," I said to him.

"That's none of your business. I'm the paying customer." We arrived back in Africana at about 10.30. The round trip had cost him €140.

The man looked very young, but he was actually in his mid-30s, as I found out when I got back to Hania. No. 92 had made it known among the 200 or so cabs in Hania through the wireless that I had got lucky. Some other cabbies knew the young man I had picked up. Apparently he is from a comfortable but not very rich family. He has never worked in his life, which explains why he looks much younger than he is. He has no dreams, no aspirations, no plans to leave. In the summer, he gets up late and sits at MyCafe all afternoon drinking frappe. He is bored shitless, and he can't do anything to change his life.

I joined the Africana rank, behind two other cabs. I got out to stretch my legs and the other cabbies just stared at me like I was crazy. "What are you doing back here?" they asked me. You should go home now.| It was too early to go home. I made another €20 picking up three more fares, until it was time to pick up the kids from school. As I watched my son dragging his bag on the ground because he couldn't be bothered lifting it up onto his shoulder, my mind went back to that young man.

*For the last 18 months, the cabs of Hania were working via an online GPS-oriented system - the funding program fell through, and it's now back to old manual routine of picking up fares, at the taxi ranks and through the wireless system.

*My husband is on the Monitoring Board of the Hania cab association, which controls system cheats. 

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