30 Days of Indie Travel – Day 6…FEAR (aka- the day U2 almost got me killed)
It was approaching midnight and we were *somewhere* in New Jersey, USA. We had gone to one of the major outlet malls to do some shopping and when we got off the train, called a taxi to bring us back to Upstate New York, where we were staying with a family. It was a 15/20 minute drive away. We were looking forward to finally being back in a home. It had been a long day.
The driver seemed nice, if a little new to the whole “taxi driving” thing. He was fresh off the boat from living in the city and didn’t know the area very well. Neither did we. It was okay though because he had a pretty nifty GPS that would lead the way.
Upon learning we were Irish, he became very enthusiastic and started extolling the virtues of everything Irish. Guinness was amazing. Riverdance was amazing. The accents were amazing, especially on women. He had never had Irish women in his taxi before, just men. He was very happy about this.
Things were starting to get a little weird and we should have been back at the house by then so I steered the conversation towards where exactly we were, hoping to get a better feel for the area.
His smile faltered and he leaned a little further forwards to see out of the window. He was nervous.
“I…actually don’t know this area too well. But the GPS will do the work. We should be there any minute.” He seemed confident in this so I let it go. I looked out the window to occupy myself.
After another 20 minutes or so, our surroundings were starting to look familiar. But wait…
“Oh my GOD”, I groaned, hiding my face in my hands. My friends were instantly on the alert.
They thought we’d been abducted and were exchanging worried glances in the backseat. I just thought the driver was an idiot.
I was right.
“You’ve realised what I’ve done, haven’t you?” the driver said, sighing.
I had. When fiddling with the GPS about halfway to our destination, he had switched the destination and start points around accidentally, so we had now been driving for almost an hour on a big circuitous route…back to where we started.
Incredibly frustrated, we resigned ourselves to spending a lot more time in this taxi than we had planned. But it wasn’t a disaster. Yet.
It soon became clear that, even though we were going in the right direction this time, it was definitely taking too long to get back to New York. The taxi driver was getting more and more agitated, understandably embarrassed at his gaff. He kept telling us over and over that he wasn’t used to the area, that he was only driving as a favour to his friend and that he planned on learning the area as soon as he could.
He tried to get the conversation back to a more innocuous subject, rehashing his love for all things Irish. He told me how much he loved U2 and asked me if I liked them as much as he did.
Not feeling in the mood to humour him, I replied (honestly) that I don’t care for them and think they’re over-rated.
That’s when it happened. In the middle of a freeway, he stopped. Just like that. No preamble, he just stopped the taxi. Angrily, he took the GPS from its cradle and consulted it.
I stared at him, open-mouthed with fear. It was dark and we were stalling on a busy freeway. Sitting ducks. I was just waiting for someone to crash into the back of us. It was eerily quiet outside the car but we knew it would only be a matter of time before a car would come up behind us and it wouldn’t have time to stop.
I couldn’t quite get myself to yell at him, instead getting out “Uh…would you mind f**ing MOVING?!” in an extremely high-pitched and breathless voice that came out as barely more than a whisper.
I stared straight ahead and braced myself against the dashboard, confused statistics about car crashes running through my head. They say to brace yourself for an impact, right? Or is that just planes? I suddenly remembered the time one of my teachers was hit by a car and how she said that the only thing that saved her was that she wasn’t expecting it and that her body was limp. Cars were passing close enough to shake our stationary car. Some were beeping. Maybe I should go limp?
No-one was saying anything but I could feel the panic coming from my friends in waves.
After what seemed like an eternity, the taxi driver inched the car forward into movement again. I let out one big, shaky breath and stared down at my feet for a while.
I grabbed the GPS from its holster to study it myself and determined that we were on track. I put it back in its cradle, sullenly. I was angry at the driver for doing something so dangerous and angry at myself for getting myself into the position where if we asked him to stop and let us out because we felt unsafe in the car, we would have no idea where we were or how to get back to the family we were staying with.
As we turned onto our street the driver mumbled that he wouldn’t be charging us and something that sounded like “I can’t believe you don’t like u2”.
We watched him drive away and turned to each other, silently swapping “that was scary” looks.
Since then, I always have a map and local taxi number on me when travelling and try to skim the route beforehand so if I end up somewhere unintended, I won’t be so lost. It also really reinforced my hatred for u2. All Because of you, indeed.
This is part of a 30-day bloggin challenge by BootsnAll.