Tuesday, May 29, 2007

easy come, easy go

Picked him up at the back of the Cross, it was maybe five in the afternoon, he was talking with another guy on the other side of Ward Avenue, near Kellet Street, just lighting a cigarette, when he hailed me. I was half wondering if he'd want to keep smoking in the cab but it had gone by the time he climbed in the front seat. Big guy, wearing a black leather jacket, blue jeans, sneakers. Chains hung from his belt. He looked like a drug dealer from a German movie. Once in, having told me where to go - Kent and Napoleon, in the City - he took off one shoe and started pulling large denomination banknotes, fifties and hundreds, out of it. I used to keep my money in my sock, I offered. I'm just sick of being robbed, he said, taking off the other shoe and pulling out more money. Softly spoken, genuinely polite, feet not too smelly ... carrying about two grand, one in each shoe, although it was hard to tell exactly and I didn't like to appear too curious. Once he had the notes smoothed out and in his wallet he started fussing with plastic bags of coins; then did some stuff with his mobile phone, changing the SIM card I thought at first but perhaps not, perhaps just re-programming it now the day's hustling was over. As we neared his destination he started fiddling with the coin bags again, getting the fare ready, and dropped something down the side of the seat. Scrappled away down there for a while. I could turn the light on, I said. He stopped looking instantly. Easy come, easy go, he said. He paid in coins, the exact amount, then sloped off into the gathering dark. Much later in the shift, on the Park Street rank, I remembered he'd dropped something and went to look. I found it on the floor beneath the back seat. It was a five cent piece.