David’s Daily Digital Dollop: Dollop 244 – Being Driven Mad

Download the audio version of today’s Dollop here

I opened the taxi door, and asked the driver whether the car was a taxi. This isn’t some kind of weird smart-arse philosophical question about the nature of vehicular identity: can this car really be said to be a taxi, or should we really be saying that the car is merely serving the function of being a taxi? For what is the taxi when it is not taxiing? Is it then still a taxi? But I was not trying to make a philosophical statement, I was merely enquiring as to whether the car door I had just opened was in fact a taxi, because, being blind, there have been times that I have made an assumption about a car being a taxi, opened the door, got in and sat on a bewildered passenger’s knee. Still, I ended up in a two year relationship with one of those bewildered passengers, so it’s not always a bad thing.

The driver responded to my question with a “yes,” but it was such a world-weary yes. I was genuinely taken aback by his “yes,” by the “fact that he’d somehow managed to convey so much misery in just one single syllable. The despairing nature of his “yes” was so intense that it caught me completely off-guard and I gave an involuntary chuckle.

I got in the taxi, feeling embarrassed by my inappropriate chuckle. I felt guilty that I’d responded to his misery-laden “yes” in such a way. I decided to try and redeem the situation, to attempt to take back my chuckle and disguise it as something else, maybe a cough. I began to venture a chuckly cough. I’ve never tried a chuckly cough before, and I wasn’t at all convinced by it. I think it just sounded like a very weird chuckle, almost as if I was trying to make a statement with the chuckle, a statement like, “yes, that’s right my friend, I am chuckling at your misery, and I want you to know it.” I needed to employ more cough and less chuckle. But my next attempt was even worse. I abandoned the chucle altogether, and just opted for the coughing. Normally when I cough, it’s because I feel a need to cough. I’ve never really coughed before deliberately. I assumed that it would be easy and sound perfectly natural, just like a regular cough, but I was surprised by how unusual it sounded. To me, it sounded like a man deliberately coughing in the most ridicullous way he could muster. It’s difficult to explain the sound in writing – perhaps in the audio version I will attempt the cough – but it sounded like someone with a really bad sore throat having very noisy sex. I am using artistic licence here, choosing to use this description in order to give you an effective comparison, rather than drawing on my lexicon of sounds.

I stopped my absurd coughing, and then said “sorry.” I’m not sure what I was saying sorry for, nor what he would assume I was apologising about. I was sorry that I had laughed at his despairing yes, but I also was apologising out of embarrassment for the weird chuckly coughing charade, although I couldn’t be sure that he’d registered my chuckle, or had been aware of my subsequent attempts of a cover-up. The taxi driver did not respond, and I too fell quiet.

As the journey went on, the only sound he made was very heavy sighing. I didn’t know whether his sighs were a sort of cry for help, as if begging me to ask him if he was OK, so that he could unburden himself to someone. Not being able to see his facial expressions, I wasn’t able to get any visual clues about what he might be thinking. Plus, after my odd behaviour earlier, I didn’t really trust myself to speak, as I’d probably say something embarrassing that would make the situation worse. I’d probably saysomething like, “what’s wrong with you?” intending for it to come across as caring and friendly, but it would probably come out sounding like an accusation, as if I was telling him to shut up with the bloody heavy sighing. So I continued keeping quiet. But then I became aware of my breathing, and started to worry that I might be breathing a bit too deeply, and that it might sound as if I am imitating his sighing. Normally I wouldn’t be so self-conscious – well, OK I do overthink a lot – but because of my chuckle earlier, I was concerned that he might be thinking that I am taking the piss out of him, chuckling at his misery and then mimicking his sighing.

“sorry,” I said again. Why the bloody hell had I just apologised? I’d overthought my breathing so much, that I’d convinced myself that he thought I was taking the piss, and so I apologised. It was an involuntary apology. I began to feel even more self-conscious. I sighed in exasperation at my stupid self-conscious behaviour. Oh for goodness sake, I’d just sighed. I resisted the urge to apologise.

Eventually, the journey ended, the driver muttered the price, sounding utterly depressed, and I handed over the money, tipping him heavily out of guilt.

It may be the case that all of this was in my imagination. It is unlikely that he thought I was taking the piss out of him; he was probably too caught up in his own doom-ridden world to be aware or care about what I was doing, but my brain had gone into a weird self-conscious fluster. I shouldn’t be admitting my stupid weirdness in these blogs so readily, but I need to publish today’s blog in the next hour, and this is the first subject that sprung to mind. This is the problem of doing a daily blog; I end up revealing a lot of stuff. If I’m not careful I’m going to have psychology students basing their PHDs on these blogs. Or maybe I’m just being a bit too self-conscious, again.

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