What I Learned About Money From A Vancouver Cabbie

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“Hey, I need to get to No. 3 and Williams.”

“There’s a flat fee of $24,” he said.

I closed the door. “Um, okay.” We drove off. It was 1am.

Jesus, that was high. Any other cab would’ve brought me there for $15. Then again, I was hopping a ride from YVR, so there must’ve been a premium I wasn’t aware of. I’d just spent my evening having drinks in an airport bar with my friend during her layover, and it was now past SkyTrain hours. I didn’t really have a choice. I’d just take the hit, I thought. Nights like this didn’t happen often.

We drove in silence for a while. I rolled the window down, and watched the streetlights roll past. My Booker’s bourbon was kicking in. If I weren’t a little buzzed, I never would’ve agreed to $24. I mean, fuck… $24 for a $15 ride? That’s infuriating! Who did this guy think he was? I spoke up.

“Why is this ride $24?” I asked.

“Here’s the map. Flat fee.” He handed it to me. Right on the border of a $20 zone and a $24 zone was No. 3 and Williams. Naturally, he decided to charge me for the more expensive option. I tried to be the nice guy.

“Oh, can you drop me off at No. 3 and Francis instead then?” I said. “I can walk.”

His entire demeanour changed immediately. I could tell he regretted showing me the map. He took it from me and squirrelled it away. I didn’t think it was that big a deal, but for him, it was. Like I’d somehow cheated him out of extra money.

“Sorry,” I said. “Um… how’s your night going?”

“I need longer fares,” he said angrily. “Now, I’m only giving a $20 ride.”

If I recall correctly, this was around the time I stopped giving a fuck. I mean, WHAT?!? You’re already overcharging me for a ride, and you’re getting pissed off that I’m following YOUR rules and you’re not even PRETENDING to give good service anymore? Fuck right off. This was a difference of FOUR DOLLARS, the price of a single bougie coffee. Like, I understand this taxi company isn’t your brand so you don’t have to see the consequences of your shitty service, but how bad is your money situation that $4 is the difference between you being a nard and being a happy human being? I was right pissed. This guy could get bent.

He dropped me off at No. 3 and Francis, and I put it on my card. He drove off. 10 minutes from home, I started to walk.

The anger dissipated quickly. It was a cool night, and I realized I needed the air. I remembered that my dad used to be a cabbie too, and in a 12-hour shift, all those $4 increments would add up. Maybe if 20 people did that, he’d be out $80. I gave my head a shake. I was one guy, not 20. I’d “cost him” $4. That was it. Four blocks away now.

He’d reacted so angrily to me following his rules though. Maybe it was the expectation? Like, he expected $24, but he’d only gotten $20? That must be frustrating. But then I thought, “When is $4, one time, so crucial to a person’s happiness that their entire demeanour changes? How poorly off do you need to be?”

Suddenly, I had nothing but sympathy. Three blocks away, I felt sorry for him. I didn’t know his situation. He could have kids that counted on him. It doesn’t excuse his behaviour, but it at least made it understandable.

Two blocks away, I suddenly realized that I was getting bent out of shape over $4. Not even $4, but $4 I didn’t even have to pay. For a piercing moment, I understood how fortunate I was, and put aside my anger. I’m choosing not to name the cab driver. I’m choosing not to name the cab company. I’m just letting it be.

In fact, after all this, I should be thanking him. He reminded me how privileged I was, and he deepened my resolve for financial independence. I want to have $4 not matter. I want to have $400 not matter. I want to have $4,000 not matter.

One block from home, I forgave him, and realized wealth wasn’t so much a number but a state of mind. Wealth is what happens when your life is so good, other people can’t even affect it by being intentionally shitty.

I unlocked the door to my condo and turned the lights on. Fuck $4.

Looking back on it now, I should’ve given him a tip.

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