How does the use of a taxi have any connection with dementia? In my world, everything is connected… read on!
In Los Angeles, where we were in business for twenty-one years, with stores in three different locations, we needed three cars. We lived in the San Fernando Valley, and we were on the road constantly. When we left the United States, I was thrilled to leave the cars behind and vowed never to own one again.
When we moved to London, Hubby and I disagreed constantly about which car to buy, if any at all. He seemed to “need” an absurdly expensive car to express his success and masculinity. I thought this machismo was absurd. Hubby used to say “whilst we are not buying anything… I may as well hold out for the best of the best.” Window shopping the latest Bentley or Rolls Royce was a pleasant pastime, but I had no intention of entering their front doors! The cost of parking any vehicle in the center of London. where we lived, would have been exorbitant. Hence, we entered the world of taxis. I rationalized that I was saving money. No car insurance, inspections, fuel, registration fees, parking lots, tickets, or repairs. I actually still believe this choice was reasonable. Since retirement, we have never driven long distances and have no local family who need our regular assistance – so the short trips in a taxi are not terribly expensive. I quite enjoyed the London “tube”, and travelling on buses, observing interesting people from different walks of life.
Closer to the truth, however, may be that I am avoiding car-stress. I no longer have the ability to deal with additional, perceived, required, but avoidable, demands placed upon me. Hubby’s care now absorbs all of my reserves. I do not want to deal with inconsiderate drivers, driver anger, police, parking tickets, car misfunction, speeding tickets, annual inspections, traffic jams, accidents, insurance, and the test I would need to get my driving license reinstated. After thirty years of driving, surely couldn’t they just trust me? I would love to have a license again. I just don’t want to take the test or own a vehicle.
There was one attempt on my part to study the Israeli driving manual to take the test after my American license expired. I could not focus on the manual long enough to absorb the details. Hubby needed my attention non-stop, and I simply gave-in and gave-up.
When one uses the same Taxi company for thirty years, the drivers become like family members. Each one feels he knows us well and has seen Hubby change over the years. One always says “Welcome Jon Voight!” Many people have mentioned the similarity in their appearances. Another always comments on Hubby’s selection of hats, tweed jackets, and leather gloves. Others, ask after Hubby’s health, whenever I enter their taxi on my own. They are surprised and concerned, in recent months, to see me without my better-half. Hubby and I used to go absolutely everywhere together. Now, it is just too exhausting for him, to venture out unnecessarily.
When we must travel together, Hubby’s demeanor in a taxi has changed as of late. He gives the drivers instructions on how to get to our destination. This is actually hysterical as he never knew where anything was before the dementia! He is always sure that they are going the wrong way, even though he has no clue what our plan is for the day or where anything is located. He gets angry at the drivers sometimes. They are driving too fast or too slowly. They are definitely plumping up the fare through devious means! He gives instructions in his limited Hebrew, telling drivers to go “yamina” (right) when he meant to tell them to go left, and vice-versa. The drivers know the routes backwards and forwards (not to mention that they trust Wayz implicitly.) They pay little attention. Still, I am constantly on guard for fear Hubby will insult them or anger them with his accusations. The drivers who know us, are more than tolerant.
The problem comes when we need to hail a taxi or call one from a different company. The unsuspecting driver has no clue what is awaiting him! There have been times when a driver gets angry in return. After all, this elderly gentleman is shouting undeserved insults! The nastiness can spiral and at all costs, I must avoid having a furious driver demand that we exit his vehicle prior to arrival at our final destination.
Taxi drivers actually add a great deal of color to my days. One of our regular drivers asked me to call him first when I needed a ride. He then offered to drive me to Tel Aviv at no charge. When I asked why he would offer this, he said he wanted to walk “hand in hand” with me on the beach! I don’t think so! It was foolish of him. He made me feel “uncomfortable” and I never called him again. Flirtation can be costly!
Two days ago, a very handsome young taxi driver picked up my fare and began showing off his command of the English language. He was very nice and claimed he was studying engineering at night. (Israeli taxi drivers are a bit like Los Angeles waiters, each is only doing this job while waiting for their big break!) When he offered to take me out for a cup of coffee, I thanked him but declined. He insisted. “It’s only a cup of coffee!” As he insisted it would be innocent, I decided to share with him that my older husband would likely come after him with a knife, hence, I am not a very good choice. He laughed and proceeded to tell me that he had met a woman at a conference, dated her for a week before finding out that she was 30 years his senior. It didn’t faze him. I asked his age “Forty years old” he claimed. Our son is a year older. I basked in the momentary flattery and laughed with him until he delivered me safely to my destination. No details exchanged, but a sweet divertissement all same.
I wasn’t kidding about the knife. Last week, I released a chapter with that very title! If you missed the last chapter, you will find it in the diary section of my website.
When I flag down drivers I do not know, I am often treated to a city tour, so that they can increase the fare substantially. One driver actually took me to a one-way street (in the wrong direction) and waited, hoping to sneak onto it. He said it was a short cut. Of course, he had to turn around and go the normal route and then attempted to charge me a double fare because the trip had so much wasted travel time due to his devious games.
The double-charging driver/thief was livid when I only gave him the correct fare for the short journey which I take daily and for which – in my mind, the fare was non-negotiable. He threw the money at me in a temper. It landed on the floor of the back-seat. I left it there as I exited. The expletives he shouted as I walked away would have shocked a dock-worker. Not me. They rolled right off my back. Having told others of this occurrence, Friends informed me that I must have lost my mind to start with the driver! What might he have done to me!
A message to all taxi drivers in Jerusalem: Do not tangle with Barbara! She is already at the end of her tether (never mind that she does not know what a tether actually is….) and can she stand up for herself!
For me, this is my new normal. It is possible that my good judgement is a tad askew… you think?