October 2014, from work to home, about 35 minutes
Driver: Greek guy in his 70s
This guy could not find the address for my workplace for a while. He drove past it a few times until he noticed me waving my hands and jumping. He opened the window and yelled loud, like I were his long lost relative “Goodness me! Here you are, dear! Get in quick”. I gladly obeyed his command, because honestly, I was thinking about calling the next cab by then.
Anyway, after such a hearty start, our conversation immediately became quite personal. He asked my name and told me his –Costa (that was expected). Originally from Greece, he has lived here for about 50 years. I quickly added up some numbers in my head and decided that he was about 70. As if he could hear my cog wheels turning, he confirmed it as 71 years old. I asked him why he is still working. His reply was that he is in good physical form, bored at home and needed some money for upcoming holidays. After that, he turned his voice down to whisper. Costa shared with me that he got a girlfriend not long ago and she is quite a demanding lady, but he is very keen to please her. I honestly hoped that he is talking about taking her for holidays. Afraid, that he could spare me any more shocking details, I tried to change the subject.
So I asked him if he is worried about driving at night and picking passengers from pubs and restaurants. Costa said not really, because he is old and they can’t really get anything from him. “Cash?” I asked, but apparently not many people pay cash nowadays, and he stops at home to drop off some cash if it gets over $300. Ok, that sounds reasonable. Costa’s opinion about credit cards is conflicting: on one hands, he likes when people pay with cards, but on the other he has personally never had one. “Every time people use a credit card, they pay about $2 in fees (I am not sure if that’s correct). But $2 nowadays is a loaf of bread. So why would someone throw bread out of the window a few times a day?” I did not have an answer to this question.
After that, Costa shared his saving tip. Every night he empties his pockets of spare change into a large glass jar. After a couple of months the jar is full.
– Guess how much money is in there?
– No idea.
– OK, I will tell you – more than a grand.
– Yes, my dear. Just think about it – I could pay this money to the bank for the privilege of using their piece of plastic.
I agreed that it would be really silly.
His girlfriend is “typical Aussie” (he said with a smirk). She’s never been out of the country. So he wanted to show her the world before it’s too late. She does not have any preference, so he decided to take her to Italy, France and Greece (of course). She does not have any money, so he is going to pay for both (I made an appropriate approving sound. He liked that).
More details followed about their life together. She likes cooking and cleaning, and walks around the house and backyard in her underwear. He does not mind (I wonder what their neighbours think). But the block next door was recently bought by developers and the new 4-story building will be there soon. Costa was concerned that they will lose their privacy, and that – quite reasonably – upsets him. I know how he feels, because very soon I will have the same problem, because the construction of a new apartment complex is going to start two houses from mine. And guess what – I like to walk in my backyard in underwear too. Luckily, my neighbours could not see me before…
Anyway, after giving a few more curious facts about his girlfriend and showing her picture on the Iphone at the red light, he asked me about me and my life. We were close to home, so I hoped we would not go too deep into it. But after a few standard lines, he asked me about my husband. I told him that I don’t have one. Costa was totally shocked. He stopped a car, looked at me, and asked again, as if he misunderstood me first time.
– No husband? How come? Such a beautiful lady.. So smart… And no husband? Is he dead?
-No, not quite.
-Then he is an idiot?
He started driving again, but was suspiciously quiet. Suddenly, he pulled out in a small street and made a phone call in Greek. Looking very satisfied, he turned to me and said “I have a friend. He is a bit younger than me, just a few years. His wife died not long time ago. He will take you out. Now, get a pen and write his number. “
To say that I was shocked is an understatement. But I obediently took a pen out and jotted down the number.
Costa was very happy with himself, his friend and the whole situation. This man made things happen, he could sort out anything in a minute. I admired his genuine concern about my personal “misfortune”.
Still unable to talk, I gave him my credit card. At that moment, I noticed a cheeky bread loaf squeezing out through the window and winking at me.