So I'm down to the gas station just now, filling up the tank, and a cab pulls up to the pumps on the other side of the island, driver's side inward. Cabbie rolls down his window and calls to me.
"Sir? Is my gas flap on this side?"
"Yep!" I say, thinking he's new to the job or this cab is new to him or he's just like me, always forgetting which car he’s driving at the moment and which has the flap on which side, but I'm also thinking, "Sir?"
I'm being sir-ed by a cabbie?
A cabbie looks to be at least my age?
Isn't this against the Cabbie's Code? Shouldn't I be Buddy? Or Bub? Or Pal or Chum or Ace? Sport's kind of old fashioned but it still works. Guv, too, if you're in London where I think it was actually once mandated by Parliament. I hate bro and dude and especially dooood and Man would make me think twice about a contact high before I got into that guy's cab. But speaking of guy, Guy is fine, if proceeded by Hi. Otherwise, it's not an opening but a closing, as in Thanks, guy.
If you feel you really have to be polite and formal---or mean to be sarcastic in a way you can't be called on---how about Mister?
My favorite, though, is Mac, as in Where to, Mac?
Of course, all this applies only to male passengers. Ma'am and Miss are the only acceptable forms of address for female fares.
Once upon a time it was ok to say Girlie, especially in tough towns with hearts of gold like New York or Chicago where your fares would regularly include plucky, sweet-faced kids from the country come to the city to make it in the big time.
Sweetie and Honey are out nowdays as well.
It takes a special talent to get away with Lady.
I'm pretty sure this is covered in the manual. Back in college in Boston, I looked into becoming a cabbie and I think I remember reading this, how you only use Sir with fares who are obviously Kennedys or are being picked up or dropped off on the right side of Beacon Hill.
But I’m not a Kennedy, this isn’t Boston. There’s no reason to Sir me.
This isn’t like being sir-ed by a teenage store clerk or a pretty waitress.
It’s not vanity but principle at stake.
Being sir-ed by the cabbie didn’t make me feel old. Even if he’d been a kid, it wouldn’t have done that. I’m long over that. Or I’m at least used to it.
It made me mad. Not at him but at the very notion that a cabbie of all people would feel the need to address a fellow American as Sir. It’s against the democratic spirit. Cabbies are the representatives of all our fellow Americans, aren’t they? They’re the democratic spirit personified. That’s why they’re so useful to lazy journalists who make up conversations with invented cabbies in order to present the journalists’ elitist views as the Voice of the People!
Don’t sir me, bub! And don’t expect me to sir you either, Ace. We don’t sir or milady anybody around here!
At any rate, that’s how I feel about it.
What do you think, lady? What about you, Mac?