September 30th, 2008
I don’t know how to tell this story. It was so bizarre, and so creepy, and in hindsight so hilarious, that I just know I won’t be able to do it justice in print. Okay. Anyway.
This is a story about the cab ride I had between Halifax and the Halifax International Airport, which is about a half hour drive. I booked a cab the night before and it showed up right on time – which was the end of the good part of this story. It’s pretty much all downhill from here.
You know how you chat with the cab driver? I don’t either but in Halifax, you do. I think it’s an east coast thing, this friendliness, and since I am trying to overcome my social phobia I went with it. The cabbie’s opener was about the weather: a hurricane was supposed to hit the city that day but it never materialized, which we agreed was a good thing. And then he asked me if I remembered the big snow storm that hit Halifax five years back – they called it White Juan.
I certainly did remember White Juan – it happened while Husband and I were engaged in cross country courtship, and I have digital photos he sent me of his glass apartment patio door totally blocked out with snow. There was so much snow that you could walk down the sidewalks and your feel were at the same level as the tops of the parking meters. So I said something like, “Yeah, I heard that was pretty terrible.” And the cabbie says, “The snow was so deep you couldn’t see the hookers!”
Which is sort of weird, right? Would you bring up hookers as your measuring stick for the severity of a storm with a customer who is a young woman and a total stranger to you? But okay, not a big deal, the guy’s a little crude, but then again so am I. I got so comfortable with the friend who put me up while in Halifax that at one point this week I actually found myself absent mindedly stratching my behind under my pajama pants while we chatted in the kitchen – it is a testimony to our friendship that he pretended not to notice me sticking my arm down the back of my pants to stratch my ass right in front of him.
So the next conversational move was the standard question about where I was flying to. Vancouver, I say, and the cabbie gets really excited and says, “That’s where all those hookers were!”
Which struck me as pretty creepy. Yes, we have a lot of prostitutes here. There’s a lot of poverty and a lot of drugs and it all kind of goes together. But you shouldn’t get so pleased by it, ya know? But then I thought, oh, I know why he’s thinking of the hookers in Vancouver – it’s the Pickton case. For those who don’t know, there was recently a trial in Vancouver of a man called Robert Pickton who, over a series of many years, abducted and murdered something like twenty prostitutes from the downtown east side of Vancouver. He dismembered them and buried them on his pig farm. It was a major scandal because, in addition to there being a serial killer in our area, these women had been disappearing for years and no one investigated it, because they were sex workers and apparently beneath notice.
Anyway, so I say something about that – “You must mean the Pickton case,” and then it starts to get seriously weird as the cabbie goes into a monologue which I will attempt to paraphrase here. It is important that, as you read this, you keep in mind that the cabbie had absolutely no distress in his voice or on his face, and was actually nearly smiling the entire time: “Those poor hookers! I found a website about them, the hookers, and it has all their pictures and their biographies, and I just read it and read it and I sobbed and sobbed because it is so sad that all those hookers got killed, what a shame. Just because they’re hookers doesn’t mean they should be kidnapped and murdered. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with hookers. Hookers are just women. And I can’t tell you how much I cried about those hookers on that website. I keep going back there to look at those hookers because you should remember dead hookers, what a shame that was.”
I can’t replicate his words exactly but he probably said “hookers” over twenty times. And as I say, despite the talk of how tragic and horrible it all was, he sounded a little excited and happy to me. And this, my friends, is very fucking creepy. I tried to change the subject but he cut me off to tell me about the time he drove to Vancouver for a visit. He was at great pains to tell me about how shocking and “sad” it was to find himself in the DTES, “where all the hookers are.” (He ended up there by accident, he reported.) So once he found a hotel outside the DTES, he figured he was sufficiently recharged from a day of driving and took a walk back downtown to watch “the hookers.”
At about this time I started watching the highway signs with some nervousness, planning what I’d do if he took the wrong exit or otherwise revealed himself as the sort of person who, in addition to obsessing about murdered prostitutes, likes to murder fares.
Somehow or other the conversation did get moved along, and we ended up talking about his grow operations in Nova Scotia (he’s done indoor and outdoor), and also his drug convictions related to growing and selling marijuana. Apparently he’s managed to avoid most of his jail time due to having a good lawyer, and the prosecuting RCMP officer being corrupt and having a lot of his cases overturned. He told me these things in such a way that they were supposed to be stories about the incompetence of cops and the hilariousness of an officer getting busted stealing dope from the evidence locker, but all I was hearing was “jail time” and “drug convictions.”
Half an hour of hooker murders and criminal botany. I have probably never been so creeped out by anyone in my life. I mean, what do you do in this situation? Challenge the obviously unhinged creepy dude who’s driving the car you’re stuck in? Tell him what you really think? Or try to stay neutral, which seemed to have the effect of encouraging him to talk about it more? I’m telling you, this guy made the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up. There is something wrong with him.