By Sigge S. Amdal © 2010
For whatever reason, whatever grounds that night, I was irrevocably mugged by four umpteens taking turns like the worst scenes of a Clockwork Orange. Time is put on hold and your money is gone, everyone around you pose immediate threats; long, cold shadows reaching into the supporting structure surrounding your heart, and squeezing it for fear, every drop of it, until you go insane.
I stumbled up from the ground, brushed off my jacket and felt the throbbing in my crown. 'Dang, there goes fine dental work,' I thought to myself, but it hurt too much to laugh.
It was late at night, and I was on my way home from yet another fruitless adventure downtown when the robbery took place. I was bruised and battered, but still light at heart, as the friendly memories of two hours prior took precedence and left me unscathed. Thank God.
They were amateurs, hobbyists; no honest man of the criminal profession would approve; I was still standing, still breathing, still with a wit and walking ability! As I said, no honest thief would leave a heart beating. "Kids these days!" In hindsight I think that the alcohol helped.
It was closer to four than five am, and the distance to home only grew by every step I made forward. I needed a cabbie, and I needed it fast 'fore anyone wrong around me would pay any notice. This is a dog-eat-dog kind of town as soon as the bar closes and all the police of central Oslo has left somewhere else entirely, never there when you need them and especially there when you don't.
Short of putting my life on the line I stepped over the life-saving threshold that saves thousand pedestrian lives every night from the crazed, pill popping taxi drivers going a hundred and twenty, and onto the road to signal for help to a passing car. Like floating promises they are, pauses in time and space, taking you home or a magical place; those were the days, but I am older now, and seldom need to cash out for the fun. Definite destination was home.
A cabbie saw my distress call and stopped despite my rather shabby appearance.
"Hey, man!" I said as I got in, never give them time to re-consider. Too many cabbies are killed, if they were all careful we would never get a ride.
"Good evening," he said. He was an old Norse rider, one of those who've seen the city turn from a province town to a capital to a self-inflicted monster. He's the right kind of guy.
"Can you take me home, please?" I said and grunted. The soft clothed seats made me aware of all the bruises.
"Sure thing, pal. Hard night out?" He said, when I'd given him the address.
"You bet. It's nothing else than a jungle out there, a mental asylum, a heathen altar of human sacrifice."
"Tell me about it!"
And I did. I told him about the One Night Out, the flirts in skirts, the mixup at the bar with the Piña Coladas that ensued, the buddies who went wrong and ended up at The Gay Bar, the accompanying tales of such trouble and finally the mugging as a topping to the piece.
And we both laughed at the trials and tribulations that have come to pass as the Oslo Experience if you don't watch your ass; and he brought back humanity and heart-felt appreciation of the wonders of life, lost love and tearful teasers, the cinnamon in the bun so to speak, which makes life so worth living here. And I smiled and I laughed my heart out, clearing the dark patches in the process, those scars you don't see but wake up with, the cancer of the soul, which later come to determine so much of your life. Indeed, he was the best cabbie this city has seen. And I've seen a lot of them.
The minutes passed like the orange street lights outside the window – fast – and soon we were there.
"As you know I was mugged, and I don't have any cash," I said, "I have money, just not right now."
"Don't worry about it. Take down this number," he said, and gave me the cab registration number that I jot down a couple of times for good measure, as well as the cab company telephone number.
"You just transfer the money to the account they read up to you, and give my best to Denise."
"Okay. What's your name, by the way?"
"It's Jonny, no H."
"Right. Thanks for the ride, Jonny. I really appreciate it."
"Don't worry about it. You just get yourself home safely and make sure to sleep it out. Those bruises will heal but you better be careful the next time around."
"Oh, I will. Thanks again!" and I slammed the door shut and locked myself inside.
The reader should know that I once asked a cabbie what he would do if a passenger couldn't pay the fare. "Nothing," he said. There was nothing he could do. There has been too many killings over small bills that it wasn't worth the risk. Christ, just a week before this there had been a fatal stabbing over a failed taxi transaction downtown. Therefore the note and the transfer details. Good people will always pay up, and most people are a little good, especially the days after drinking.
It was Monday after this ordeal, having recovered from the whole thing through Sunday, that I found the piece of paper in my pocket with the number to call.
"Hi, this is Oslo Taxi, you're talking to Laura," said Laura.
"Hi, my name is Sigge and I'm calling 'cause I got this number from one of your cabbies that I couldn't pay on Saturday. But I'm a good honest-to-god kind of guy so having found it just now I want to make it right!"
"Alright, no problem." she said and laughed. "Can you give me the cab registration number, please?"
And I read it up, just like it was.
She became very silent before she said, "Are you sure about the number?"
"Yes, I even wrote it down twice!" I said merrily. "His name was Jonny, no H, and I was supposed to say hello to Denise. You got a Denise there by any chance?"
"Yes, we do. She's in a funeral right now, but can I take a message?"
"Just hello from Jonny no H, I guess."
"I don't know who that is. I'm sorry, I just started working here. Let me give you my boss."
A few moments later a man picked up the phone and asked me to give me the cab registration number all over again, and I did, just like I'd written it down with the Jonny, no H, and hello to Denise.
"Sir, could you state your name again, for the record?"
"Yeah," and done.
"Is this some sort of sick joke?" He was angry.
"What? What do you mean? Jonny said I could pay through here, 'cause I didn't have the cash on me Saturday."
"Jonny doesn't work for us anymore. Not since he died last week! And I think you should fucking take that into consideration before calling here again you bastard! I'll call the cops!" then he slammed down the phone.
It just couldn't be. I picked up the newspaper and flipping through the dead pages I found Jonny no H taxi driver, "Taken from us prematurely."
I didn't call back, but I hope Laura delivered the message.
To this day I haven't seen Jonny's cab again. But I'm sure that he's out there with the other phantom cabs of Oslo, keeping an eye out for those that need a fare, but can't pay. I still have the note that I wrote and I keep it with me when I go out to town so I remember to stay out of trouble, and save some extra cash for a safe ride home.
Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Olso, Norway.