December 30th, 2006, 11pm.
I loaded a middle aged gentleman and his three boys at the Venetian and they gave a destination of the MGM. The oldest boy, probably in his early teens, sat beside me up front and the two younger sons shared the backseat with their Dad. We hadn't even traveled 20 feet, just to the little turn around past the valet tunnel and the Dad seemed to be innocent enough in posing the question:
"Sooo are you looking forward to working tomorrow?"
"Actually sir I'm not. New Years Eve is the only day of the year that I don't really like this job."
Which is true. NYE is more of a grind than anything. It's more about surviving and keeping all four fenders on it than it is about cashing in. The road closures make traffic unnavigable and it's fucking amateur hour out there as far as the tourists and locals alike. At least, that's what it is these days. My first ride of the year this year was a puker. The first five minutes of the year for me were spent watching a boyfriend clean up her girlfriends puke of my backseat while I tried to bum a cigarette from someone to cover the smell. I received no tip.
But his reply to my answer is one that I'll never forget. It's the reason I remember the event in such detail. It's the reason for the story. He'd seemed to have forgotten that I was actually still in the cab when he preached to his sons
"You see guys....that's why education is so important."
Did this guy really just say that? I mean, good lord what a dense motherfucker. There are a lot of things that I can handle as it pertains to my job. Obviously, the lesbians and I are all good. I can have fun with the idiots and make fun of the posers. I can handle the same stupid asshole questions a dozen times nightly. "Excuse me sir, what is that big project they are building there next to the Bellagio?" "Oh that? That's a strip club." I can kick it in traffic. And yes I'll even get over an occasional puke session. What I can't handle, and what any reader of this blog will know, is not being paid and not being respected. I'm a very big proponent, if you will, of respect, and will always treat most everyone as such. That is until you no longer deserve it. If you can't respect me or what it is that I'm trying to do, than you and I are going to have problems. And these days I'll most likely have no qualms about hashing the matter out with you. Or better yet, just simply kicking your ass out. If you think about it, this is something that seems to be missing in our worlds these days. Respect. As much as I hate it, even I will take the opportunity to engage in a little self righteousness every now and again. But this situation was different. There were kids in the car and although Dad was apparently clueless as to the proper way to raise them, that's no good reason for me not to take the high road.
I was contemplating my reply so deeply over those following moments, I couldn't even tell you how the kids reacted to their fathers lack of tact. Perhaps they had grown immune to it already. I don't know. Finally I interrupted:
"That's a little presumptuous don't you think sir?"
"What do you mean?"
His question to my question is peculiar because it really can mean only one of two things. Either he is so thick headed he can't understand that he just might've offended somebody, or he simply doesn't understand what presumptuous means. Either way, you're not the brightest bulb if you don't know what the definition of presumptuous is and at the same time chastise people for not attending college. I'll even turn the whole thing upside down and say that this sort of person is actually an argument against college. If going to college means I'm going to end up like you I think I'll pass dude thanks.
"You assume quite a bit about someone you don't know. You think that since I drive a taxi I must not be educated. Isn't that what you mean?"
"Oh. You went to college?"
He said as we made a right turn to head south on Koval.
"As a matter of fact I did."
There's no reason not to play the charade at this point.
"Did you graduate?"
"I did not."
"You flunked out?"
My Lord what an asshole...
"I was three semesters from finishing when I left on my own accord."
"Didn't see the point any more. Some meaningless plaque that qualifies me for a task that was destined to never be pursued in the first place and for your cooperation you'll only receive a 5 figure debt sum if you're lucky."
"What did you study?"
"I was pursuing a B.M. in Music Education."
"What kind of grades did you get? ...If you don't mind my asking?"
"Now you're concerned about offending me?"
"Since it pertains to the conversation, I was the recipient of two different scholarships. I made the deans list on three occasions and I was on pace to graduate with honors when I left."
"School was easy for you?"
"High school wasn't, but in College I studied subjects I was interested in."
"And now you drive a cab?"
"You got it."
"So you got good grades, you obviously see value in education, why didn't you finish?"
"I answered that question. And it's foolish to conclude that there is no education devoid of a university or any other educational institution for that matter. The most important lessons in life will most assuredly be learned far from the constraints of the classroom anyway. I used to think it was cliche like everybody else but I think differently about it now. I guess you could say I'm more educated. A friend of mine told me once that school wasn't there to teach you anything except how to learn. Presumably so when you do graduate and find a job, you'll be able to learn it very quickly. School doesn't teach you history, it teaches you how to teach history. Think about how detached teachers are these day. Now they have the online classes and the closest you ever get to your so called teacher is an email address. Is that really that much different than going to the library and reading a book? It just seems like a useless drone of institutions that were never proven by anyone to be the best method in the first place and yet we will repeat their failures religiously. The chalkboard and the lecture and the reading assignment and the homework assignment and then a quiz and then a test and then a final. It just seems so antiquated. It's 2010 and our education system from kindergarten through grad and post grad are in shambles financially and even worse actually. The results don't lie. We are an incredibly dumb populous as a whole and you can't point to any specific reason for that more than the education system. We need to tear down the walls. Substitute the antiquated with the innovative. And I'll tell ya, grades are nothing but a detriment to the educational system. You don't prepare to educate yourself, you prepare for a test and there is a world of difference in that. And we penalize creativity within that process. Pirsig said, "the best students are always flunking, every good teacher knows this."
The young boy sitting next to me interrupted
"Do you feel like it was a waste of time, going to college and not finishing?"
A fair question from anyone, but especially from a thirteen year old.
Absolutely not. I enjoyed my classes, I learned a lot. I played sports and was in a few bands. Met some great people and had a great time. I could never regret something like that. Besides, to say an unfinished college education is a waste of time is to put to much stock in the degree itself. It means something because society tells us it does, and not because it does necessarily."
I got out and opened the door for the dad who was sitting behind me. He paid me an amount I can't recall for a fare I don't remember and almost seemed apologetic when he said,
"Hey, I'm just trying to teach my boys about the value of education."
I handed the man his change, looked him in the eye and replied "that's nice, but perhaps first teach them about manners and about being gentlemen."
Which in my opinion, is something far more important than anything learned from a history book or a calculus worksheet, a political science lecture or a foreign language crash course. Or some fucking cab driver. He walked his boys into the MGM, holding the littlest ones hand and most assuredly never heeded my advice. At least he wasn't a puker.
Back to work.