It was my last job of the night. Of course, I didn’t know it was going to be my last job when I started, but that’s how it ended up anyway. It was just before Christmas, my busiest time, and the weather was on the turn; there’d been a bit of snow and there was one of them cheeky winds that takes a shortcut through a bloke instead of going round. He was an old codger, this pick-up; smelt a bit funny! You know the type – didn’t seem like he spent too much money on soap, if you get my meaning. He seemed a bit touchy and rambled a bit. Half the time I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or to himself and some of what he said was just rubbish. It’s sad when they go like that, but he was getting on. Looked as though he’d had a good innings even if it wasn’t a happy one.
He didn’t look all that well when I picked him up and, if I’m honest, I didn’t think he was long for the world and I was worried his heart might give out during the journey and then I’d be stuck answering a load of stupid questions. It’s happened before; the other bloke had that same grey look that this fella had so I made a mental note to keep a close eye on this one.
It had to be one of the longest journeys I’ve made since I started doing this job . We bounced all over London and stopped off at quite a few places: we went to see his sister, who didn’t look too good herself to be honest; we went to some place he used to work, which is not something I’d fancy doing if I didn’t have to, and then I took him to see his ex. I’ve made that mistake meself before. Never go to see your ex when you’re feeling a bit low; it never ends well. They hadn’t parted on good terms, as it happens, so he was pretty emotional by the time I dropped him back off at his, but at least he was still in one piece, so to speak, which meant he would be somebody else’s headache if he croaked.
Not that I was unsympathetic! I’d been in his shoes meself. You take a wrong turn and before you know it you’re headed into all sorts of wrong and sometimes you just can’t see how to get out of it. In fact – and again, I’m speaking from personal experience – it’s easy to get so far down the wrong road that you don’t even recognise it’s wrong and you start to think everyone else’s way is the mistake.
I was pretty young when I strayed. I’d been a bit of a shy kid and didn’t have many friends so, when some lads who lived by us started showing an interest, talking to me, sending me on messages, sticking up for me and that, well … I suppose I was just trying to make them like me. When they started to ask me to do things that I shouldn’t have – a bit of nicking and suchlike at first and then worse stuff that I don’t rightly like to think of now – well I didn’t want to say no. And if I’m being honest with you, I liked doing it! It made me feel like someone important, seeing people scared, and I was good at it. I had more stuff than I’d ever had, better clothes, even a decent place to live. It was hard to see the downside even while I still knew I was out of order.
In the beginning I was telling myself it was just until I could move away; until I’d made enough money to tide me over until I could find proper work, like. Not that there was much I could do, with me not having been all that clever and not really having a trade to fall back on; sort of felt like crime was the best option, or the only option. As the years went on and on, I forgot I’d ever even thought about stopping and then I got into a bar fight and some big fella put a bottle through me and it was too late. I was dead! So I ended up doing this for me sins; taking people – like old Ebenezer there – to see their old Christmases, to try and get them to see the error of their ways before it’s too late. Fingers crossed it works out for him; he seemed an alright sort before he got greedy. Let’s just hope I’ve scared him straight, eh! I wish someone could have done that for me.