The cab slowed down before the driver had a chance to look properly at the man hailing it. The man got in before the cab had time to speed up again. It hadn’t completely stopped.
‘You’ve probably noticed my clothes are made of newspapers,’ said the man, with the confidence of someone wearing clothes made of fabric. His name was Rob.
‘I’ve just finished my shift, I was slowing down to eat lunch,’ said the cab driver.
‘I know that’s a lie for two reasons. Because you had your light on, and because I am an excellent liar, and just as an excellent artist can tell when people are bad artists, I can tell when people are bad liars.’
‘Please get out of my cab.’
Rob did not consider this. ‘It’s going to seem as though you don’t like the following sentence, but that’s only because you don’t know all the facts yet. I need you to take me to the airport and I don’t have any money.’
‘That’s disappointingly predictable of you…’ Rob checked the cab driver’s ID, ‘Mike. Really? Mike?’
‘You think only white people can be called Mike?’
‘I think you look more like a Steve. Now, as I was saying, the facts. Fact number one: I need to go to the airport for a very good reason. Fact number two: I don’t have any money, but you can have this phone.’
‘That’s my phone.’
‘Then you like it already.’
Mike took his phone back.
‘Alright then,’ said Rob, unperturbed,’ a favour. I’ll do anything you want.’
‘Get out of my cab.’
‘Deal. You take me to the airport, I’ll get out of your cab.’
Mike was a warm, gentle man. He didn’t like to say things like ‘I have a small cricket bat under my seat.’
‘You know I’m a little bit offended you haven’t asked me about my clothes.’
‘For hitting people.’
‘There was an incident with a game of cards. I assumed I was the only one cheating.’
‘People like you.’
‘You can imagine how angry her husband was when he walked into the greenhouse. Didn’t have time to grab my clothes. Or my wallet.’
‘I’m going to hit you if you don’t get out.’
‘Remember, I can tell when you’re lying.’
Rob was right. There was no bat. Mike’s anger fizzled, expended. Buddhism hadn’t prepared him for cab driving. ‘I have a family. I can’t afford to drive you to the airport for free.’
Rob looked offended. ‘Who said anything about free?’
To Mike’s genuine surprise, Rob walked back out of the airport as promised. He was wearing real clothes now. The sort of clothes a man twice his size wears on holiday in Hawaii. He carried two suitcases.
‘I got you a suitcase,’ said Rob.
‘You stole someone’s suitcase!’ said Mike.
‘Well, yes, but then I bought you a suitcase with the money I found inside.’