I have been many things in my life from an ice hockey player, a US Marine, an artist, a father, and a friend. There might be a song in that, might there? I don't know.
I look back at my many years, and some of the most challenging times have been as a Marine Drill Instructor (DI). As a DI, I was good at being mildly aggressive. Okay, I was at least extremely proficient at raising my voice. We all have a talent. I think I got this one from my mother; she was a great voice raiser. You'd know if you ever went to an ice hockey game where Neale or I were playing. Mom wasn't shy.
Honestly, one does not want to hear me raise my voice.
I was thinking about that this week.
End of vacation (holiday), a nice man came to pick us up at our little hideaway. He got out of the car to hoist the suitcases into the car. The poor guy had great intentions, but he was moving with all the grace and deftness of a man who was awaiting his next injection of embalming fluid.
I kindly intervened and said, "No, please don't put the suitcases in the car. I wouldn't want a lawsuit to develop from a cab ride. Please, let me put the cases in the car."
I felt pretty good about myself. I assume the cab driver felt pretty good he tried to help with the suitcases. As he shuffled back to the driver's seat; one painful step at a time, I quickly lifted the fabric-covered anvils with wheels into the trunk.
In the end, he was friendly, and I gave him a tip for giving it the old college try.
Six hours later, we arrive at Paddington Station, and with our suitcases in hand, we made our way to the taxi stand outside. Not an easy task because barriers blocked us from taking our bags up the escalator, and as there were only two lifts (elevators - but we'll call them lifts cause I'm here) and one of them didn't work.
No worries, we got to the taxi rank, and we were like the second group in line. Smooth sailing, right? Au contraire mon ami.
The cabbie pulled up, and he opened the door automatically from his hermetically-sealed cocoon in the driver's seat. This guy was not exiting his royal box for all the jewels in the Tower of London.
Andrea got in the cab, I maneuvered the suitcases into the car and followed in after her. Still not a word from mime in the front seat.
I leaned over and said, "Kings Cross Station, please." No response. The car just moved out and I fell back into the seat. I had to assume we were going in the direction I wanted to go. At least I know my way around London a little bit. I did know he was going in the right direction.
Andrea said (not under her breath but loud enough for him to hear), "No tip for him, then." Andrea's got that subtle way of making her displeasure easily known.
Now, Andrea and I have entirely different philosophies regarding tipping.
I believe in tipping; she doesn't believe in tipping. Well, it's not that she doesn't believe in tipping. She believes tipping should be for service over and above the standard service expected. I do agree but I grew up in the United States where tipping says more about the character of the tipper than the service of the provider.
In the United States, as a rule, we tip in restaurants, cabs, the guy that opens the door at the hotel, the babysitter, and other various professions or service providers. Here's a good article that reflects a more American approach. Normally, fifteen percent of the total bill. It ain't like that here. Tipping is becoming a bit more common here, but the philosophy is totally different.
If you want to read about tipping London Cabbies, it might be helpful. It's a bit of propaganda for Black Cabs (Uber and Lyft are mentioned nowhere in the article) but useful nonetheless.
I've found cab drivers, in general, to be a bit prickly. They're often offended when the coin doesn't come gushing out of your pocket. I expected this guy to find his voice on the other end of the ride when he saw he only got what was on the meter and no more. I don't exactly relish that kind of confrontation.
My mind went into overdrive. I ran through all kinds of scenarios between Paddington and Kings Cross if he made a fuss. I was a Boy Scout. I do like to be prepared.
I thought of saying something cute like, "Service paid for service rendered." He probably wouldn't have got the subtlety.
I thought of ranting about how he could have lifted a finger to help and giving him a finger of my own.
I thought of just looking at him in the cab and rendering unto him a primal scream of epic proportions; a cry that would be worthy of being locked up for mental instability. See the vague reference to my screaming ability above.
I concluded I would simply ignore anything he had to say about the situation. The gratuity was at my discretion (in this instance - Andrea's discretion - she had the credit card).
So, that's what I did. I was silent — no Edvard Munch (The Scream) moment at Kings Cross. We paid, and not another word was said. The mime kept his counsel.
I was very proud of myself for not making a scene. Then again, I'm not a big scene maker.
We caught the train to St. Evenage. On the other end, a lovely young man waited for us in the taxi rank.
The guy practically did a Usain Bolt to get the bags. He was helpful, friendly, and enthusiastic - a strong and strapping young man. He got a tip and might have even got a little extra.
What happened with the guy at Paddington? Well, he might have just been having a bad day. Everybody has struggles you know nothing about, and it's not worth piling on. I'm glad I didn't.
I'm no Zen Master, but today, I, externally at least, displayed some equanimity (inside - turmoil and tribulation). I didn't make things worse.
That's about all we can do in life; not make things worse. And by doing so make things a little bit better.
As for you, until I see you next week, I wish you peace.
T - 228 DAYS