We were in Germany. I think this might have been about seven years ago. I also think it was in August. The practical details elude me.
We were in Berlin. By ‘we’ I mean my mum, dad and brother. It was a little family holiday (and by ‘holiday’ I mean excuse to go abroad and eat thousands of pretzels and bratwurst every day. We also visited many ice cream parlours. It was a fantastic trip, truth be told).
We wanted to go visit this gallery (again, I couldn’t remember the details of this gallery if you were waving a hundred quid note in my face) but had literally no idea how to go about finding it – and by the look of the map, it was epically far away. Too far for our pretzel-heavy bodies to walk, at any rate. Let’s just get a cab, my mum decided. Job done.
We hailed one. As it pulled over we could see that it was a fairly vintage vehicle – perfectly polished, a deep mustard colour with black lines running across the bottom. A little rusty. But shiny – a lot shinier than the other cabs whizzing about on the street. This dude really liked his cab. He came out – he was a tallish, an incredibly skinny chap with a thick black moustache and greying hair. Quite old, really. Maybe mid-sixties. We all approached his polished prize and began to clamber in.
The man followed suit and, for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, did something fairly shocking for a total stranger. He started hitting my legs. Hitting them. He was bare annoyed about something (what could be so offensive about my legs!?). As a snap reaction, I became bare annoyed back. I gave him my absolute WORST death-stare (which was fairly weak at that age – I was not the most confrontational person… it was probably like a hamster trying to stare down a snake [a metaphor only the more apt considering the permanent chubbiness of my cheeks, too, at the time. They were not my golden years]).
Rude cab guy didn’t notice my tepid affrontement. My dad was getting in the car at that point and he was utterly distracted by him, yelling and cursing in his direction. My dad, confused, kept slamming the door, thinking he hadn’t closed it properly. In a massive huff, the driver sped off, muttering in angry German to himself.
I remember a lot about the interior of the cab. It was a fairly musty-smelling piece – dark leather chairs, dark ceiling, dark back-of-the-waistcoat I could see from my vantage point in the backseat. But what I remember most was that the man had a small, framed picture of his cab on his dashboard, surrounded by Hawaiian flowers. A picture of his cab within his cab. This dude really, really liked his cab.
Throughout the journey, the cabbie kept glancing back at me, my brother and my mum, as though he was checking on us, backseat delinquents. Occasionally he’d have little angry outbursts if we were playing with the side door or chairs. Eventually we just kept our arms locked down beside us for fear of waking his wrath.
Finally, we got to the art gallery and started tumbling out. My dad slammed the door again. The cab driver started to get massively irate, so my dad slammed it again, having no idea what was going on, and only trying to adhere to the cryptic guy’s wishes. After all, what else could he mean!? My dad’s poor efforts were to no avail. The cabbie lost his nut and started screaming at him before whooshing off, adrenaline-fuelled, into the distance (kind of like a cartoon where a getaway vehicle is screeching away, leaving a violently lavender trail of exhaust smoke in its wake).
My mum was laughing. We asked her what had happened. (She speaks German but hadn’t explained what was going on the whole time, the coy fox. In her defence he was babbling a fair bit – I think even if I’d understood German I wouldn’t have caught head or tail of what he was saying.) She said the cabbie was telling my dad to close the door gently, and my dad has just been slamming it over and over.
You’re probably thinking, that cabbie – what a twat. Perhaps he was, a little – but the point of this memory is as follows – I remember him because of his dedication to and adoration of his cab. Yeah, he was rude as all hell – and slapping a stranger’s legs is fairly inexcusable, as is losing your shit at an innocent, paying customer who knows not what he’s doing – but he was proper passionate about something. Memorably passionate. He was just trying to defend the thing he loved. Yeah – he really, really loved was that cab.