I should really start a new series of posts with the title “What Could Possibly Go Wrong…?” This story from yesterday would be a fitting entry…
Did you see Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” last year? It was excellent, and of course totally overlooked in the recent discussions about good films of last year. It was released and seen by most people way too early in the year. Hollywood’s memory is not very good at recalling anything that came out earlier than the Fall if it did not come with a huge bang of publicity and so forth (like the excellent Bourne Ultimatum). Well, just for a moment there, I was in an American version of the film. (Setting-wise I mean. The film is set in a gritty, realistic not-Four-Weddings-or-Bridget-Jones London.) I was in New Jersey yesterday just for the day. (I’ll tell you more about it later.) Here’s what happened.
Due to a ridiculous mix-up at the car rental company involving being locked into prepaying for fuel because I was worried about returning it very early in the next morning for my flight and not being able to find gas, being assured -wrongly- that Trenton, (where the wedding I was to attend was going to be held) was comfortably close enough for me to be well within the 100 mile maximum that would trigger me having to pay for the whole tank, being blurry eyed from 3 hours sleep on the Red Eye flight over, and with it being 7:00am and not fully in command of my senses, due to all of those things it transpired that I would drive from the airport to the hotel, but I would not drive from the hotel to the event. (I wanted to not have to drive at all, but the shuttle from the airport does not run early for some bizarre reason.)
I thought it would be fine, since the hotel has a shuttle and the event was close to it. However, once there (having gone about 45 miles – curses!), I learned that the hotel’s shuttle only took guests to places within a five mile radius, scuppering my beautiful back-up plan, I decided that I would take a taxi the eight miles from the hotel to the wedding. Figured I could get a ride back with someone else who would be staying in the hotel, and anyway, how expensive could it be? Better than paying about $45 for the full tank of gas that I’d hardly use, right?
What could possibly go wrong…?
Well, the chirpy young lady at the reception desk at the hotel kindly offered to call a taxi for me for 15 minutes before the wedding was due to start. (The church was 8 miles straight down Route 1… a small child could find it.) She seemed so pleased to do it, especially since I mentioned that I was going to a wedding. I had lunch, changed, and came down in my finery, went outside and there was no taxi. I was about to walk back into the hotel when some called out my destination as he walked up to me. He was a Ukrainian limo driver. The woman had gone and called me a limousine. Big black Lincoln jobbie, all shiny and so forth. Did she think that I was the one getting married? I’d clearly said I wanted a taxi!
He was basically a real life version of Viggo Mortensen’s character, the limo driver in the movie, and despite me being mightily pissed off at the fact that he wasted 5 minutes scrutinizing the printed google map that I gave him of the a-baby-could find-it route, and then entering the address into the GPS system of his car, and then calling his boss, I engaged him in conversation about why he hates his boss, his love of the Mercedes cars of the company he was going to move to, why Ukrainian weddings were better, and his recommendations for Ukrainian vodka (the latter at my request – I’ve since forgotten the name in my annoyance). We got to the church barely on time (you know, I do try) and then he announced his price (from the lack of a meter to monitor and the fanciness of the car I had my suspicions, but there was no time to change – I was trapped and so had undertaken the journey anyway). I asked him to repeat it, to be sure, and then asked why it was that much for an eight mile eight minute journey, and why it was not explained to me at the start of the journey (I probably should have asked, but I had righteous indignation going on and decided to throw that in for good measure.)
And then he said it, a number of times during this talk. Straight from the movie: – “I’m just driver” – in a thick Ukrainian accent, exactly as in the film. Dressed exactly like Viggo Mortensen’s character from the movie (yes, I know he was Russian – I think), with Trenton doing a good stand in for North London, and with the him resembling the character enough for me to be fully taken by the sweetness of being in that movie for a moment…. well, it slightly took the edge off my annoyance at paying $55 for this 8 minute hijacking. Well, ok, just for a moment. (They’d even added in a tax, and I even went ahead and tipped the guy well).
The rest of the story is that I did not know anyone at the wedding really (that I recognized at the church anyway – that changed later at the reception), my charm powers were feeling at 15 Watts and I really did not feel like striking up a conversation for the sheer sake of trying to get a ride back, and so I had to take a taxi back. I threw away the limo driver’s card in annoyance -I’d rather have walked back than take them again- and went into one of the several Polish bakeries that were conveniently huddling together nearby and asked for recommendations of a local stand or a number. I got one, and ended up paying about $40 (including a generous tip for no good reason) to get back.
So much for a good plan. Spending $95 to save part of $45. Sigh. The plan did not splinter and shatter in my face 100% completely – I was about 9 miles under when I returned the car to the rental company the next morning, so insult was not added to injury by my having to buy the full tank, as I was pretty much expecting: I figured that with my luck and the early morning start, a wrong turn at Rahway or something like that to take me over 100 miles would occur, but it did not…
Counting my blessings.