"Around 11 p.m., a woman who appeared to be in her late 30s got in with a younger guy, maybe in his late 20s. From the way they talked to each other, I got the impression the woman was the man's boss at work."
A Hiroshima cabbie identified only as N, age 42, continues relating his story to Shukan Taishu (July 5).
"She said to him, 'I'm thirsty. What do you say we go to your apartment for a drink?' It was pretty obvious she was coming on to him. But his reply caught me off guard: He said, 'No, my place is dirty,' and got out the next time I stopped.
"Afterwards she pouted to me, 'You know, young guys these days are really slobs. I'm a good- looking woman, but he's obviously one of those herbivore males.'"
These are hard times for taxi drivers. A spokesperson for the national federation of hire and taxi services said that compared to before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, earnings in some areas have fallen by more than a third. And in Kyoto, with its high dependence on tourism, revenues were down to only 14% of what they were previously. Taxi firms have been reducing staff and in worst cases, even cutting the size of their fleets. And needless to say, drivers have taken commensurate hits to their income.
Being able to relate wacky happenings while at work to a magazine reporter seems to be a good way for them to relieve their stress.
A driver in Tokyo recalls picking up a couple who appeared to be in their early 20s. "Speaking in a pronounced Tohoku accent, he said to me, 'Take us to a love hotel -- anyplace is okay!' It seems the couple was involved in a long-distance romance. The woman was a nurse who was temporarily assigned to work in Tokyo."
The two were hard pressed for time because the man had to head for home before the last shinkansen trains stopped running.
"It seems all the hotels in Shinjuku they had tried had no vacancies, so they flagged down my cab. I took them to a classy place near Yotsuya."
A middle-aged driver in Nagoya says he'll never forget carrying one passenger who told him he operated a restaurant. He was on his way back from a meal delivery to a customer's home.
"He told me he'd just collected the plates and bowls from the customer and was on the way back to the restaurant.
"The reason he was using taxis was that his business had been so bad due to the coronavirus pandemic he'd been forced to sell his car," the driver relates. "Then he started sobbing -- it was really pathetic."
The driver felt so sorry for the man he began patronizing his restaurant during breaks, and eventually became something of a regular customer.
One driver overheard his passenger, a rough-looking character wearing sunglasses, using strong-arm collection tactics on the phone.
"'That excuse won't work,' you've got to come up with the money, or else!'" I heard him growl.
"I felt a real sense of relief when he disembarked. 'Unchan (driver), you can keep the change,' he said to me. In a sense I guess I felt lucky he didn't give me a hard time, but the change was only 170 yen. All things considered, I couldn’t complain," he chuckled.
Another driver in Yokohama was carrying two nurses, who gave him an earful about their work travails during the pandemic.
"There was one in her 20s and one in her 40s," he relates. "They had recently been vaccinated for COVID. Rubbing her shoulder the younger one whined, 'It hurts,' and the older one said, 'It's a side effect from the jab, you'll get over it.' Soon, the younger one began blubbering, saying, 'How did I let myself get into this mess, where I'm never able to take any time off?'"
Another story concerns passengers who harbor a fear of becoming infected that borders on phobia.
"When I return the change, they'll say, 'Please put it on the tray,'" the driver tells Shukan Taishu. "I've also had customers who phoned the office to complain that my nose was protruding from the top of my mask.
"Some customers, as soon as they board, will pull out an atomizer and start disinfecting the interior of the car," he added. "Or, they'll warn me by saying, 'Don't even say a word.' They're not very sensitive to my feelings."© Japan Today