Just when you thought the Orlando rant was over… boy are you in for it now.
The morning I left Virginia for Orlando, I had skipped breakfast. I was too nervous to eat. I didn’t eat my peanuts on the airplane because I was so motion sick. I missed lunch at the convention. By dinner time I was starving. Even with my residual nausea from all the forms of transportation, I needed to get something hefty in my stomach or I was sure I would collapse. On the shuttle ride, my office manager (OM) and I noted a restaurant in the hotel village we were staying. The shuttle bus driver commented that it was good, but pricey for his taste. “Down the street a ways, there’s an Ale House. Miller’s Ale House. Real good food, not expensive.”
“Can we walk from the hotel?”
“Eh, I’d get a taxi.”
We dreamed of a big fattening meal for the remainder of the day. Dinner time rolled around and we headed to the front desk of the hotel. “Could you call a taxi for us? We’d like to eat at the Ale House.”
Moments later, a taxi wheeled up in front of the hotel lobby. We hopped in and told the driver, “We’d like to go to the Ale House, please.”
“Sure, sure. I love the Ale House. They have great food and good beer. It’s a nice place to run into people you haven’t seen in a long time. Where are you ladies from?”
We went into our spiel of being from Virginia, here for a veterinary conference. The driver provided pleasant conversation on our ten minute trip to the restaurant. We pulled up to the Ale House and the cab driver gives us our total. He then says, “I can pick you up when you are done. I’ll give you my phone number. Call me maybe ten minutes before you are ready and I’ll come back.” My OM politely stored his cell phone number in her phone. “Can you call me now? I’ll save your number so I’ll recognize it when you call.”
I could tell my OM was uncomfortable with that exchange, so I broke things up a bit. “How much do I owe you?”
The driver consulted the meter, “Eleven dollars.”
I gave him fifteen and said to keep the change. We scurried off to be seated and stuff our faces inside.
This place is a happening joint on Saturdays. We were lucky to get booth seating immediately and our server, Xavier, was awesome. He quickly set us up with our beer and appetizer. When my burger came out super red in the middle when I ordered well-done, he rushed it back to the kitchen (which turned out that I had been served someone else’s bloody burger). After stuffing ourselves silly, we slowly savored our beer and stared off at the giant televisions. It was just what we needed after a long day.
Xavier collected our plates and asked if we needed a cab called. We took him up on the offer. I excused myself and ventured off to the bathroom. When I headed back towards our booth, Xavier grabbed my arm to get my attention. “Hey, some guy is sitting at the table with your friend.”
“What?” I poked out my chest and got ready to throw down with some drunk slob who was hitting on my OM.
“Get’em Mel!” Xavier yelled as I marched off.
My face was likely priceless as I came around the corner and saw our taxi driver sitting at the table. Xavier came up behind me. “We kind of know that guy. He’s our taxi driver.”
“I haven’t called for your taxi yet.”
“No, I mean the guy that brought us here.”
I slid into the booth and said, “Hello.”
“Will you be here a bit longer. I’m going to order a beer. Then I’ll take you back to your hotel.”
Yes, you heard me right. I just said our taxi driver was about to order a beer.
“Our waiter has actually called us a cab. You can stay and have your beer.”
“No, no. I’ll take you back to the hotel. Are you ready?”
The OM and I nervously eyed each other. We collected our bags and jackets to follow our driver out the door.
It is here, I would like to say, damn good Southern manners. We are brought up to be polite, we are influenced not to be rude, and for God’s sake don’t do anything to hurt someone’s feelings.
“I’m parked around back.”
Are the hairs standing up on the back of your neck yet? Mine, too. I wanted to say, “Fuck this shit, I saw The Bone Collector.” However, good Southern manners voice said that I shouldn’t judge. I’m sure this man was just trying to ensure another payout. I had tipped well, of course he’d come back for us. The OM and I slid into the backseat.
In my mind, I was already beating the shit out of this man. I tugged on my scarf to check the sturdiness of it. In the event he started driving off somewhere that wasn’t the direction of my hotel, I was going to loop it around his neck and strangle him until he passed out. If I had to put my hands on him, I was going to bury my fingernails into his skin and collect as much as I could for DNA testing. Would stabbing him with my Epi-Pen have an adverse effect on him?
I looked to my OM calmly and said, “Maybe you should call Morgan and let her know we are on our way back to the hotel. I’d hate to startle her if she’s not expecting us.” I gave her a reassuring glance that I had not lost my mind, for her daughter was back home in Virginia.
She nodded and said, “You’re right.” She picked up her phone and fake dialed her daughter, who she informed we were on our way back and should be at the hotel room in ten minutes or so.
Our driver spoke up and said, “Traffic is bad, tell her fifteen minutes at least.”
“The driver says maybe fifteen. We’ll see you soon.”
“You are not alone at the hotel?”
“No, my daughter is here.”
“She didn’t come with you for dinner?”
“No, she wanted to order a pizza and stay at the hotel tonight.”
It seem to shake him up a bit, that it wasn’t just the OM and I. Five minutes later, we were being safely deposited back at our hotel. He insisted that when all three of us went for dinner the following night, he wanted to come pick us up.
I exited the cab and said, “How much?”
“Uh, let’s say eight dollars.” As I pulled out my money, I glanced at the dash. He had never turned on his meter for our return trip.
We reviewed the situation on the elevator ride back to our room. “That was quick thinking about calling Morgan, Mel.”
“I’ve seen enough Law and Order SVU to know when something’s fishy.” I’m thankful that my brain generated a WWOD? (What Would Olivia Do?)
For the remainder of our stay, we only took the shuttle buses and we only ate at the convention center. Every time we exited the hotel, we expected to see the taxi driver ready to take us to a restaurant or a dark alley or a locked basement. I kept reassuring myself that maybe he was a driver just trying to make a little cash off the meter, but my inner Olivia Benson argued otherwise.