It’s 12:30 a.m. and I’m at a loft party across town—and I want to go home. I’ve had three and a half pints ($26) and have been having a good time, but sometime around midnight, a switch always flips, and whatever enthusiasm I have for being around people evaporates into thin air. I have now morphed into a whiny kid that needs to go home right now at all costs.
“Okaayy I’m going home!,” I say. I grab my bag from its futon-hiding-place, dodge a couple “you’re leaving now whyyyyy”s and scoot outside. A band is climbing out of a cab. Without really thinking, I tell them to hold the door. I climb in.
Meter, $3.45 As I am asking the driver if he takes debit cards, I see the meter, am reminded even stepping into a cab costs more than taking the bus. I start to rationalize my decision to get in the cab. I’ve just moved into a new apartment and this is not the right time or sobriety level (three pints is a bunch for me) to be figuring out the night bus schedule. The metro is closed. It is definitely a positive thing that I did not bike here and that I am not trying to bike home right now. If I could phone my mother right now, she would tell me to make this decision.
Meter, $5 We more or less sit on the curb for a full two minutes, lurching forward a little bit now and then as I stumble over the name of my new neighbourhood, trying to pronounce it in French first, then English (I live in Montreal). It’s not complicated neighborhood name either way, but I am drunk. The cab driver thinks it’s a street. Neither of us can locate it on the GPS. We argue about whether it is East or West of where we are now. It is West. We go East. Our conversation is punctuated by the hum of the radio that cab drivers talk to each other on. My memory tells me that we are on a stretch of highway briefly, but who knows. By the time the meter hits ten dollars we are a net distance of six blocks from where we started, and going East. I am drunk.
Meter, $10 We have finally stabilized so that we are going exactly South, which is progress. The driver pulls over to check directions again. I tell him to turn off the meter. He does. We start driving again. He turns it back on.
Meter, $13 Sensing my annoyance, perhaps, he says, “I just told my colleague that I have a beautiful customer.” I consider popping open the door and making a break for it, but I’m not sure that I’ll fair so much better on Saint Laurant— a street covered in bars and clubs and, at night, people yelling and falling over. Instead I say, “thank you,” because what else do you say? (I don’t know, but I regret saying thank you.)
Meter, $14 We pass my previous apartment building. If you lived here you’d be home right now! Can I get out now and go curl up on stoop? The super was nice and might find it funny.
The last time I took a cab was Halloween of last year, from the same venue that I was at tonight, to this spot. It was a van-sized cab, and I was by myself, holding my cat ears in my lap, feeling sad for being alone. It is okay to go home alone and feel okay about it, I realized, in that drunken stupor, which is kind of obvious and I probably already knew, but rolling those words around for $10 or so of cab ride made them stick for several months after, so that particular cab ride was worth it, an itsy-bitsy therapy session.
Meter, $20 We’re on the highway again, and now we’re going through a tunnel, and there are no other cars, just lights, and silence left by the absence of the cab driver’s walkie-talkie-radio, and I want to curl up in the backseat and sleep. I never take cabs, I should enjoy this!, I think, and for a moment I do. My brain snaps out of the pleasant lull that comes with being driven around when you’re sleepy and tired. Its the same way that I always feel with fancy dinners or weekend vacations—it’s all too indulgent and impermanent to really take in. I would pay $20 to be able to make stupid (within reason) monetary decisions and then not worry about them.
Meter $28 We’re a block away, and I tell him to just drop me here, and I contemplate not tipping.
Subtotal, $30 Because I can’t not tip, and rounding is easy enough.
Total, $31.35 Because $1.35 extra for the service charge for paying with a card.
Looking at the total, I think: It was, of course, a mistake, and my stomach settles to the bottom of my body for several long moments. What’s $31.35 – a cheap haircut, a nice-ish dinner out? I suppose I can afford it, the same way that I can afford a cell phone bill that I went over on, or a textbook that somehow costs $165 and isn’t available used or in PDF form (why do you assign these books, professors?), or the flat tire that I got earlier that day, or any of the other bills that are slowly creeping into my life. I used to wonder how my parents, who make thousands and thousands of dollars a year, would fret over things like coupons and store brands, coffee from the shop. This is how: No one picks them up from after prom or offers to spot their bus ticket home for winter break, or removes a parking ticket out of their clenched, teary hands, so that they can take care of it.
I step inside my apartment, curl up in front of Netflix with leftover pizza, down glass after glass of water, and realize: The$31.35 was worth it. I’m so happy to be doing this right now, to not be around people, to not be at that loft party, exhausted. Noise of my own choosing, and less of a hangover in the morning—at $31.35 its almost a bargain, and definitely, totally, worth it.
Shannon Palus lives in Montreal.