A white Mercedes is parked at a taxi stand near Porte de La Chapelle, Paris. The engine is off. Through the driver’s window, I can see a bearded, refined middle-aged man biting vigorously into a sandwich. It is a quarter past noon, time for lunch.
The main problem is that you sometimes have to deal with odd customers. Ahmed has many an anecdote, so much so that he has to reflect upon which to choose: “For example, there are people who come and sit in my taxi and say they do not know where they want to go. They look desperate. One time I brought one of them to Châtelet and left him there.” Ahmed even looks ill at ease as he tells me about this particular story: “Once, a customer refused to pay. He took a syringe out of his bag and said it was aids infected. If ever I had tried anything, he would have stabbed me...” Thanksfully, this does not happen every so often. Ahmed reassures me. He resumes with his confidentially tone: “In general, customers are nice. Some of them are chatterboxes; they cannot help but talk about their private lives. I’m discrete, I don’t want to listen to their problems, so I just nod or answer politely. They need to talk to someone, and this someone is us taxi-drivers.”
Ahmed turns the ignition. His lunch break is over. It is half past noon, time to work, isn’t it? Sometimes freedom has a price.
© Brice 2007