Last Sunday morning Maria, Justin, the two grandbabies and I arrived at the Los Angeles airport from Columbus - Tom arrived, too, but on a different flight - heavily laden with suitcases, car seats, a stroller, and all the other accoutrements necessary for transporting small children on a cross-country flight.
Despite a layover in Chicago our trip went smoothly enough. Until it came to our taxi ride from the airport to Maria and Justin's house in the South Bay area.
Our taxi driver was a well-dressed but surly dude who appeared to be in his mid-fifties and of Eastern European nationality. He exuded hostility as he loaded our many pieces of luggage and impatience as he waited while Maria and Justin buckled the car seats and kids into the back seat of his vehicle.
He was dressed in black dress pants and black shoes, black dress shirt sportily unbuttoned at the collar and a nice black suit jacket, attire that seemed to evoke a higher calling than delivering bedraggled families home from the airport.
Nor did he sweeten up as we began the trip home. Once we were all loaded in and on our way Justin perfunctorily asked him how he was doing.
"Terrible", he barked, "Terrible!"
And though none of us really desired to hear the details of his terrible day social etiquette required that we ask him "Why?"
"Because all I get today is short fares! In this traffic short trip takes me an hour and I'm making no money!" He furiously banged on the horn for no discernable reason.
Or maybe he hit the horn to express his ire that we, too, were a short fare.
He drove like a demon, maybe trying to escape some hell of his own. I imagined that we were in the presence of a fallen-out-of-favor member of the Russian mob who'd been sentenced by the boss to driving a mob-run taxi as punishment for some mob misbehavior.
Anyway, when we arrived at our destination and I proceeded to slide my credit card through his machine the taxi driver snapped, "I take only cash! Now I lose ten-percent! If I know you use credit card I don't take you!"
"Give him a good tip," Maria whispered to me.
But I was already intending to give him a good tip. In fact, I gave him $10 on an $20 fare.
Why did I give this gargolye on wheels such an undeservedly generous tip?
Well, I don't know. I guess I thought that if I repaid this person's meanness with undeserved generosity that it would give him a change of attitude and transform his bad day to a good day. And give me the feeling of satisfaction of having done a good deed.
And besides, nasty as he was, I guess we all kind of felt sorry for him.
I did, however, want to tell this taxi driver that maybe if he were nicer he'd make a lot more in tips, and that his nasty attitude was probably the reason he wasn't making much money.
Of course, I didn't tell him that. Just in case he did happen to be a well-dressed disenfranchised gangster.
But then it hit me - his rude miserable behavior didn't stop me from tipping him greatly!
After thinking it over I wondered if it could be that his surliness actually brought in more tips? That when people are angry it's human nature for others to want to conciliate them, make them feel better? that it makes us feel better to try and make people feel better?
Could this guy's crazy-angry high-fashion Russian mafioso act be that? - just an act to garner pity-tips? Or even intimidation-tips?
I kind of hope so. I'd hate to think that anybody was really as crazy-angry as he appeared to be.