Me: Could you tell me a ghost story that you heard before?
Z: Sure. I can even create a new story for you.
Me: Really? How is it like?
Z: Listen here. There was a taxi driver who often work during nights. When day, a woman in red took his car, telling him to go to a house in a small village. On the way, the woman was talking with someone through mobile phone. The driver heard from the conversation that the woman’s family was preparing a big meal and was waiting for her. When he finally arrived at the destination, he found that the woman was gone. He then came to knock the door of the house and ask the people inside about the woman. They told him that the woman died last year and they were preparing a meal to commemorate her since it was her anniversary.
context: the story was told in an informal private conversation.
interpretation: Taxi is a kind of common motif in ghost stories. There are also some stories in Japanese culture that are similar to this story, where a ghost, usually a woman, takes the taxi and then disappear when they arrive at the destination, which is usually his/her home. This may be because of the shared tradition of East Asia traditions to commemorate the death at a particular time point when the dead is considered to come back home. These related rituals and motifs are so common in East Asia sense of ghost story telling that they appeared in this improvised story by my friend when trying to create a ‘typical’ ghost story.
There’s a beautiful girl standing on a street corner. It’s a dark night. She calls a taxi. The taxi driver says he will drive her wherever she needs to go. He thinks that she is so beautiful so he will do his best. He asks her where she needs to go and she says the house at the top of the hill. Its really dark. He tries to sneak glances at her in the rear view mirror. First time, he didn’t see her in rearview mirror. Then at the red light he turns around and she is there. He makes up an excuse that he was checking something in the back. He tries again and doesn’t see her in the rearview mirror but does when he turns around. It happens a third time. He gets spooked thinking she might be a vampire or a ghost. Finally, they get to the destination, and he turns around, and she has a bloody nose. It is because she picked her nose to hard and gave herself a bloody nose. Each time he didn’t see her in the mirror was because she was ducking to casually pick her nose in the back of the taxi.
The informant does not remember who exactly told it to him, but he thinks it might be a friend from church who had taught him other strange songs and stories. As he was telling me the story, he said he wanted to go down to his apartment and tell his roommates. The story isn’t something that he tells a lot, but he enjoys it enough to tell it to his friends when he remembers.
The story has certain plot elements typically associated with marchen and legends like the rule of three, but it adds the surprise humor element instead of the scary ghost story that the listener expects. In this way, it keeps the attention of the listener without spoiling the ending. I found the story a bit perplexing because it seemed to have little pay off for the large amount of explanation in the beginning, but I think that the story finds a certain charming aspect in the telling of it.
“So, this taxi driver used to be a lawyer, and he was a really successful lawyer until one day he screwed up in court. For whatever logistical reasons, he lost his lawyership. He became a taxi driver. But you know, once you become a lawyer, you get a radar for lawyers. So every time he sees a lawyer, he tries to run them down with taxi. (He gestured as if he was driving a taxi and running someone over). One day, a priest got in his car. He saw a lawyer, and he was getting excited to hit him. He remembered there was a priest in the car though so he changed his mind, and he swerved at the last minute. He heard a clunk, and the lawyer was dead. He turned around and whispered, ‘I’m sorry father. I didn’t mean to.’ The priest replied, ‘That’s okay. I got him with the door.'”
The informant learned the joke at Boy Scout camp over one summer. He said it was one of the jokes they would tell around the campfire. He doesn’t tell the joke regularly, but he was really entertained as he told it to me.
The joke plays to a lot of different groups. It makes fun of lawyers in a way while also reaching out to taxi drivers and priests. The joke finds its humor from the fact that the priest who is supposed to be good purposefully hurts the lawyer instead of the ex-lawyer who had previously been bad. The joke takes on religion and purity in a humorous manner, but it can also just be seen as a good funny narrative joke. I found the joke funny myself because the ending is so unexpected.