Wednesday, December 23, 2009

cloud of evil

This post is re-blogged from Carey Mercer, of the band Frog Eyes.

In Helsinki I once tried to hail a cab. It was snowing and I was exposed and in Canada we have a free-for-all approach to the procurement of taxi-cabs.

It's a lunatic's system:

You call the cab company and you order a cab. The second you are off the phone, you immediately stand on the street and start hailing all cabs driving past you. The reason for doing this, though it sounds mildly Iago-like, is that during the course of the cab's journey to you, there will be countless hooligans and businessmen and whoever else needs transport, all hailing your cab.

The cab driver knows that you are an asshole; i.e., busy hailing any and all cabs that pass you, in spite of the fact that you have requested him or her to pick you up. He or she knows that you will likely not be there, and decides "Well, I should just pick this other person up. A customer in the car is better than ten on the phone."

Of course, the reason you are hailing other cabs is that you know that the taxi driver cannot trust in your fealty, for you, the passenger, are fickle. So often when you call a taxi cab it does not arrive. You curse this cur of a driver, this boot-licking dog that has abandoned you, whilst you continue to try and steal another person's cab. It's all a bit Leviathan like: draw your weapon first, so that your opponent does not draw his first. I have decided here to use the masculine pronoun.

In Helsinki, when you hail a cab, the cab driver will zip past you. Eventually a cab is idling in slushing distance, and you slush over, and lean over the cab driver, as if to say "I am cold, sir, please let me in, sir." The cab driver looks into your eyes and senses the foreignness, that is to say North-American-ness, of your lost expression. He rolls down his window, and he will ask if my name is Melissa Auerbach. I explain that it is not, but what does that have to do with anything? I have money, let me in. Let me in! Whahhh! North America! Whaahhh!

He takes a deep breath of utter disgust and he patiently, as to a child, explains that in Helsinki, when you order a cab, you are not ordering every cab in the universe, you are not ordering every cab since the invention of time. You are ordering one specific cab, and it is very important, given the coldness in the air, that the cab arrives unheeded. He says that the relationship between the cab driver and the passenger is one of trust and respect, and asks why, oh why, should it be any other way?

I could feel Melissa Auerbach's annoyed shadow on my shoulder. Why was I talking to her cab? It was hers: she ordered it.

I cannot help but think that there is a model of conduct buried somewhere in this dull and drinkless story that might have larger ramifications. Existentialism: I think this is an aspect of existentialism: my actions are representative of all actions, and there is no getting away with anything. For as soon as one becomes a selfish agent, this selfishness becomes the norm. And selfishness, though it is rampant, is an ugly social ideal.

So now I must endeavour to wait patiently for my cab, even if it does not come. In time it will come.

Thus, we must endeavour, let us all endeavour, we children of Thatcher and Mulroney and Reagan, to throw off the ugly ideals of our adolescence and consider our place within a greater weave, or else be consigned, like the Euphonium player on a sinking vessel, to the vulgarities and the lunatic "freedoms" of sharp-toothed Capitalism.

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