in the past two days I have had two customers who I really remember.
The first was a guy I picked up in a pretty bad neighborhood (since the summer slowdown I have to work in places I normally wouldn't think of going... Eagerly awaiting August). He was pretty nice but he spent the whole trip talking about all the horrible things going on today. What I remember most is how convinced he was about the hopelessness of the world (and how much this depressed me).
Last night there was a terrible shooting on the same block I picked him up on. Some people pulled into a vacant lot across the street from a home and shot (automatic guns) into the porch. They say it is gang related... sadly, there were small children on the porch. Also, there have (in the last week) been five murders in a small township neighboring my own. This is an extremely strange thing, I live in a very safe part of St. Louis County, and many people are nervous about it... well the guy lives in a bad neighborhood, grew up in bad neighborhoods, and was telling me about this stuff and more. It is so depressing. This is why I don't watch news :)
The last one was by far the worst; a female customer (couldn't have been more than 20) and her three children call for a ride at 1 in the morning. It was ok at first, but then she started talking about how bad it was to raise kids and then her 4 year old daughter randomly started talking about kissing her doll's "booty" and other private parts and making very clear and unmistakable noises to accompany the monologue. I've known people who think "kids will be kids" about stuff like this... two things I have to say about it: 1) her mother did not in any way respond to this and seemed unconcerned (and as if this were normal conversation for a 4 year old) and 2) how does a four year old come to know about such things? One of the major signals of sexual abuse in young children is early sexualization and sex play with toys and other kids... I'd say 4 is pretty darn early. I can hope that the actual situation is that this child has just seen this (though I can't say that sits well with me either)... I think that's the belief I'll adopt on this one.
The thing is that no matter what I choose to believe (though in actuality I will likely just forget this) that little girl is probably living in a situation that is depriving her of a lot of opportunities in life. It is so easy to worry about stuff like that. To see careless parenting (which this woman appeared, for several reasons, to be) and all of the horror in the world and wonder why we even hope that things will work out, that there is any chance to live a good life, that it's possible to raise healthy and well-adjusted children in such a world... It would be easy to go down that road and, to be honest, it becomes something I must be ever-vigilant about. I do see a lot more ugliness than I would in most any other profession... the lucky thing is that I am generally quite adept at ignoring ugliness and daydreaming away harsh realities that I cannot change :)