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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Taxi 9

Thursday day shift 6a-6p

The day started out good–two airport trips.  The first was a freshman from Rhodes College going to meet her family in Montana.  I asked how she liked college.  “I like it and I like Rhodes.  I even like Memphis,” she said.

The second was a young woman who was here to be interviewed for admission to the College of Optometry.  She was returning to a freezing West Virginia.

The rest of the early morning was a variety of run-of-the-mill short hops, then things slowed down until mid afternoon.  When things slow down, a lot of drivers will hang out at the hotels.  I know one guy who waited at The Peabody for two and a half hours before getting a trip.  I can’t stand to sit at one location for more than twenty minutes.  Instead, I drive around the city from zone to zone until the computer rings those familiar “TRIP” chimes.  It’s kind of like being a pin ball rolling around until you hit the jackpot.  On this day, I even trolled through south Memphis.  The people who use cabs most often are those who can least afford it.  It’s because they either don’t have a car, or their car is broken down.  But it’s like George Carlin said, “Everybody has to be someplace,” and it’s my job to get them there.  Isn’t that right , Chuck? Chuck says, “That’s right.”

Which reminds me of one time when I was visiting my friend J.T. in New Orleans.  J.T. lived in a one room apartment in the Quarter overlooking a courtyard on Chartres Street about a block from Jackson Square. J.T. and his friend Parker, both artists who sold their paintings on the fence around the square, and I were walking down the street headed for a bar on an overcast but balmy January day.  Along the way, Parker was telling us about the woman he was with the night before.  Parker was in his sixties and had long grey hair and full beard, and was a caution if you get my drift.  Anyway, he was describing his sexual encounter with vivid detail when I noticed a priest walking toward us headed in the opposite direction.  I thought Parker would certainly cool it when the priest got close, but instead he increased the volume of his description  and looked at the priest and said, “Isn’t that right, father,” to which the priest replied, “that’s right, my son.”  Only in Nawlins!

Another one of J.T.’s friends was Jack the cop.  He was like a stoned Dirty Harry.  One time Jack got stoned while on duty and forgot where he parked the squad car.  The next week, the Department had him patrolling on horseback a block-long median strip on St. Charles.

On another occasion, the police were responding to a rape incident.  Seems that a guy was raping his granddaughter.  Jack got there first and went up to the third floor and arrested the guy then brought him out on the balcony to let the other cops know.  When the sergeant told Jack to “get that guy down here immediately,” Jack threw him over the balcony.

Speaking of the Big Easy, a couple of months ago I had a craving for oysters.  I hadn’t had any since that venerable midtown institution Anderton’s closed.  For those of you who have never been there, Anderton’s was a special place.  The main dining room was decorated to look like it was under the sea, while the oyster bar was a bar constructed to look like a square rigger complete with sails and rigging, and the walls were adorned with murals of a giant 19th century sea battles.  It was a place where the waitresses called you “Hon,” and the steaks came to the table still sizzling.

So, I had the craving for oysters and I went to the place where I was sure to get the best, Pearl’s Oyster House.  Well their oysters were the size of a quarter.  I looked at the bartender and told him these were a joke, and I went to Oak Grove in Laurelwood where I enjoyed a dozen nice-sized oysters.  A month later I gave Pearl’s another chance but it was the same old story.  I spoke to the manager and told him about the Oak Grove and suggested he change his supplier.  He blamed it on the oil spill.  Look, if you’re going to call your place an Oyster House, you damn well better have some great oysters.

But this is about driving a cab in the Bluff City.  As I said, it was a slow, uneventfull day–a good time to reminisce.

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Taxi 8

Worked Wednesday and Thursday day shifts, and Friday night.

 I try to abide be the golden rule of never discussing politics or religion.  But when a passenger breaches the topic, well, I don’t want to seem unsociable.

I took this cool guy from home to work at the FedEx hub, and after some small talk about his job, he said, “Ya know, Republicans just don’t care about average Americans, they only care about the rich.”  “ I hear ya, my friend,” I responded, eager to launch into my tirade.  “They believe if businesses are not regulated, then businesses will make so much money, it will trickle down to the rest of us.  But, they’re blind to fact that this theory never worked and only leads to greed which then leads to a disasterous economy.”  “They said they’re going to undo everything Obama has done,” he said, obviously referring to that narrow minded simpleton Senator Mitch McConnell.  “They can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk?” I asked.  I pointed out that after the big Republican victory in the mid-term election of 1994, Bill Clinton accomplished more than before.  “Over the next two years when voters see what the Republicans are really about, Obama will be re-elected and more Democrats will return to Congress.  But, I’m as frustrated as you and there’s not much I can do about it except cast my vote.”  We continued in this vein until we got to FedEx where we shook  hands and bid each other to keep the faith.

Ask yourself this: Over time, what have the Republicans done to improve our lives?
Other than Eisenhower’s interstate highway system, I can’t think of a single thing.

Now ask the same about the Democrats, and here’s a few:
1. Social Security
2. Federally insured bank accounts
3. Veterans Benefits
4. Voting Rights
5  Civil Rights
6. Medicare and Medicaid
7. Healthcare reform
8. Financial reform

Picked  up a young woman in Midtown headed for the airport.  She was returning to Australia after visiting her boyfriend here.  Talk about your long-distance romance, I thought. “Why don’t you move up here?” I asked.  “I’m a physician, and I’m about to start training for surgery,” she replied. “If I moved here, I would lose that opportunity.”

I love talking to foreigners.  I got a guy at Oak Court Mall and took him to the Hilton.  He was from Germany, but wasn’t very talkative.  I kept expecting him to say, “You vill take me to de hotel.”

Around dusk, I picked up a passenger at Target going to his hotel.  When he got in the cab he said, “Howdy mate.”  “Australia,” I replied.  “South Africa,” he quipped.  He was cool.  He lives in Toronto where he said the temperature was in the forties, and that he doesn’t like cold weather. “What’s the weather like in your country? I asked.  “365 days of golf, “ was his answer.  He’s a partner in a marketing firm and was here to meet with Hilton Wolrdwide. He had worked in several of the big ad agencies both in the U.S. and Europe.  I told him my background.  We commiserated over similar experiences along the way.  I would have liked to share a beer with him. Got a nice tip.

Took a young guy on a round trip from his apartment to a couple of stops and back.  He has cerebral palsy, and walks with his legs bent low, almost in a siting position.  It was obviously very difficult for him.  His name is Antonio and he’s twenty nine.  A nice guy with a healthy attitude and good sense of humor.  Said he prefers not to use a wheel chair.  He said people often stare at him, so I told him to tell them that he’s getting ready to take a big shit. He laughed.

I got a signal to go to the Residence Inn downtown where I picked up a family of four who were headed to a wedding reception at the Pink Palace.  The father sat up front.  They were from Florence. Alabama.  I told him that I spent the night there once when I rode my Harley on the Natchez Trace Parkway up to Nashville.  He proceeded to tell me about everyone he knows who has had a motorcycle accident.  Apparently he knows a bunch of dumb asses.

Around midnight I picked up a guy at the Med.  I could hardly understand a word he said.  It wasn’t just Ebonics, but maybe a combination of that and a speech impediment. I was able to figure out he was asking me to take him to Millbranch and Winchester for ten dollars.  “No problem,” I said.   Along the way he was very talkative.  All I could do was shake my head as if I understood.  At one point, I said, “You sound like you’re from a different country.”  He laughed and said, “the country ok.”

Later I picked up a guy a 35 S. Prescott across from Poplar Plaza.  It was a round trip to a seedy neighborhood north of Summer Ave. where he went into a house for a couple of minutes and returned.  An obvious drug deal. On the way back he talked about the big Thanksgiving dinner he prepared.  When we arrived at his place, he bolted from the cab without paying.  I tried to find him and had the dispatcher call him but of course he didn’t answer. It was a twenty dollar fare.

From there I picked up an inebriated CPA at a bar on Highland near the U of M.  As he got in he asked, “How’s it going?”  “Some mother fucker just ripped me off for twenty bucks!” I exclaimed.  “Man, that’s not right, he said.  “Look, I’ll give you an extra twenty when you drop me off.”  “No man, you don’t have to do that,” I replied.  “But I want to make this right.  Just turn off the meter and I’ll give you forty dollars in advance,” he kindly offered.  He needed to go to his condo downtown which would normally run about fifteen dollars.  I accepted his offer because Mrs. Tucker didn’t raise no dummy.

So, all’s well that ends well.

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Taxi 7

Friday night was busy.  Two fares alone accounted for over $100.

I got a call to go to 1800 Pyramid Lane which is in Nonconnah Office Park.  Well, after driving all around the area, I discovered there is no 1800 Pyramid Lane.  The only business where people were leaving for home was Sofamor Danek, but their address is 2600 Sofamor Danek Drive, so I pulled in and picked up two women who wanted to go to the Madison Hotel downtown.  Along the way, one said she had to catch a plane at seven, (it was now 5:15) would she make it, she asked.  I said yes if you rush.  “Will you wait while I pack?” she asked.  Are you kidding? Wait with the meter running while a woman packs her suitcase?  “No problem,” I told her.  So I stood outside the cab to stretch my legs and watched the people in the fitness center across the street while I enjoyed a cigarette.  I’m not in the best shape myself.  I could be mistaken for a nesting doll with legs.  The fare and tip totaled $60.

The other high fair was a guy I picked up in the 3000 block of south 3rd and drove him to Frayser at the opposite end of town.  The fare and tip was $45.  He and his dad work at a clothes hanger factory on Presidents Island.  “What time do you wake up” he asked.  “Why?” I replied.  “I need a cab at 4 am to get to my dad’s house to catch a ride to work.” I told him that as soon as he gets inside to call Yellow Cab and tell them you need a cab at 4 am, then in the morning, call again to confirm it.  He thanked me, and left me alone in the hood.

Actually, I spent most of Friday night in the hoods, mostly South Memphis.

These neighborhoods are depressing.  A little basic landscaping would brighten them up, but I’m sure the residents are busy trying to survive and have little interest or money for such things.

Between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. I usually troll downtown for people ready to go home.  My last fare was the bartender at Grill 83 in the Madison Hotel.  Turned out we had a couple of mutual acquaintances whom we chatted about for awhile.  He then told me there were several attorneys from different parts of the U.S. staying at the hotel.  They had been there for a week trying to settle a big merger, but they wouldn’t reveal the companies.  I figured it must have been FedEx and Dairy Queen.  He said one of the attorneys told him how surprised he was to find so many outstanding restaurants in Memphis.  I keep telling these out-of-towners that we have every Klan rally catered by a 5-Michelin-star French chef.  I mean really, who do they think we are?

Wednesday before Thanksgiving

This day was a total disaster. I thought I’d work a 9 to 9 shift but the taxi supervisor had other ideas.  “You can’t start at 9 unless you want to bring the cab back by 6,” she said with the scowl of my fourth grade spelling teacher.  “What time is the next shift,” I asked. “12 to 12,” was her answer.  So I went back home and waited for noon.

If you’ve ever seen the TV Show “Taxi,” then you get a general idea of what the supervisors can be like.  That’s right, Danny Devito with a Napoleonic complex.

This particular supervisor is a middle-aged black woman, and if you’ve ever upset a black woman, you know what I mean.  It’s like telling a fanatic Muslim you saw Mohammed on a bus drawing cartoons of himself.

There are four supervisors.  Generally speaking, they are all nice folks unless you screw up.

The first cab I got didn’t have a working electrical outlet.  The radio didn’t work in the second cab, and I drove all the way to the University of Memphis in the third cab before I realized the computer’s GPS wasn’t working.  Without the GPS, the dispatcher doesn’t know what zone I’m in so I get no fares.

So, I’m in the fourth cab now, and head out east to the Hilton’s cab stand.  After awhile, I get a notice to pick up a passenger at the Kroger in Poplar Plaza.  Before I get there, the address changed to 721 N. Fourth Street.  So I rush down there and while I’m waiting, the address on the computer changes back to Kroger.  The GPS was screwed up.  I turned in the cab and went home.  Didn’t make a penny.

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taxi 6

Yesterday, Wednesday, I worked the 6–6 shift and was as busy as Sarah Palin signing books at a Nazi rally.

Four airport trips

The first was a young couple I picked up at their riverside condo.  They kept me waiting.  She’s an optometrist who teaches at the School of Optometry.  I didn’t catch what he does but he struck me as being a dude.  Not THE DUDE, mind you, just a hey-dude-where’s-my-car dude. THE DUDE, if you recall, ABIDES.  This one was just tagging along. They were headed to San Francisco to an optometry conference where everyone sees eye to eye no doubt.  We chatted briefly about optometry, like I really know a hell of a lot about it.  Nice tip.

Waiting puts the cab out of commission.  We can’t charge for waiting unless asked to wait by the passenger.  For example, if he or she sticks their hand out holding up five fingers, that means 5 minutes and BOING!, the meter starts

The second airport fare was a nice woman I picked up in midtown.  She teaches yoga to children as young as pre-schoolers.  I asked her if the children were hard to control, and she said only the three-yea-olds.  If you’re interested, here’s her web site:

Next I picked up John Hornyak and his wife, also in midtown.  They were headed for L.A. and had some real serious-looking large steel suitcases, the type in which you might expect to find weapons.  His name was very familiar so I asked if he was in the music business and if so did he know Ward Archer.  Yes to both, in fact he recently sold his recording studio to Ward.  Ward was my boss for ten years at Archer Malmo Advertising where I was creative director. We talked about Ward’s success in the recording business and also about what a great guy he is.  I really enjoyed working with Ward.  He did an outstanding job of turning that agency from near collapse when he took over, to one of the largest agencies in the mid south.

Eventually I got around to telling the Hornyaks my name.  “I’ve been hearing about you for years,” said John.  “Well, here I am,” I replied.  I started to say, “It’s me. 250 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal,” but that would have been borrowing from Sputnik Monroe, a popular wrestler in Memphis during the late 50s and mid 60s.  (As an aside to the taxi stories, the next story is a true experience I had with a professional wrestler when I was a kid.  It has northing to do with driving a cab, but you might enjoy it anyway.)  During the eighties and part of the nineties, I received a lot of exposure in the media for my work with the agency, and my posters.  So it’s nice to meet someone who’s heard of me.  Nice people, the Hornyaks.

The last airport fare was a doctor who appeared to be in his sixties.  Picked him up in a gated community in east Memphis.  His specialty is geriatrics, and he teaches at UT Medical School.  He too was headed to a conference.  We chatted cordially about living in Memphis and where we each went to college, and about his son and yada, yada, yada...

Next was a woman near the University of Memphis campus at a run-down looking duplex.  I took her three blocks to the store and back.  When she first got in, she said, “Rough losing five people in two weeks.”  Well, what can you say except, “I’m sorry.”  “God has a plan for all of us.”  WHOA! I didn’t say that.  That’s just not me.  I should have said, “Henry Winkler won’t be around forever either.”  It was a beautiful day and discussing death wasn’t on the trip card.

I lucked out today and got one of the newer Impalas.  Only had 176,000 miles on it.  Impalas are nice because they have good cup holders and I need my beverages.

I picked up a nurse at her clinic and took her to her house where she picked up either her brother or husband.  They had “words” with each other in the yard before getting in the cab.  When they did get in it was stoney silence so I said, “every body happy?”  More silence.

I took an elderly lady from her apartment building to her doctor’s office, and later picked her up and took her home.  She said she was spending thanksgiving here because she wasnt up to traveling.  I felt sorry for her, and declined her tip.

The only other passenger worth mentioning was a young black kid, late teens or early twenties.  I took him to the community college.  When I asked what he was majoring in he said graphic design. Bingo!  “That’s what I do,” I said and filled him in on my background.  His goal is to do animation for the movies, i.e Pixar.  I told him that’s an excellent field to get in, and also said there is a great demand for web designers.  I mentioned that it was good that he was really so focused, and that his parents must have done a good job raising him.  “My mother stuck to me like white on rice,” he said. “I didn't understand it then, but I’ve told her now how much I appreciate it.” The more we talked about design, the more excited he became.  When I dropped him off, we shook hands, I wished him luck, and gave him my web site address.

It does my heart good to see young blacks who are determined to get a good education when so many of their peers are stuck with lousy parents and little hope.


In 1959, I was in the seventh grade at Snowden school.  Every Monday night, my father took me to the wrestling matches downtown at Ellis auditorium. In those days, Elvis and wrestling were the hot topics in Memphis.

For a young kid, wrestling was very exciting.  It was classic good versus bad. I remember witnessing brutal battles among the likes of Sputnik Monroe, The Mighty Yankee, Jackie Fargo, Spider Galento, The Von Brauner brothers, Joe Scarpa, Cowboy Lester Welch, and others.  But everyone’s hero was Billy Wicks.

Billy Wicks was a young, handsome, golden-haired guy from Minnesota who took up wrestling at an early age to overcome the effects of polio. We all loved to watch his ongoing feud with Sputnik Monroe.  It was like watching Batman grappling with The Joker, and I loved every minute.

I also remember seeing Wicks wrestle Gorgeous George, and the time he answered the question, “Who’s tougher? A boxer or a wrestler?,” when he forced former World Heavyweight Champ, Jersey Joe Wolcot into submission.

So it was to my delight when my mother said she worked with a lady who knew Billy Wicks, and how would I like to meet him?

The next Monday night, after the last match, my father took me backstage.  There stood Billy, bigger than life with a big grin on his face.  He offered me his hand and said “Hi Eddie,” put his arm around me an introduced me to some of the wrestlers as “my friend.” I was stunned speechless and about to pee in my pants.

I went home that night with a stack of autographed photos and the anticipation of telling everyone at school about my incredible experience.

A few weeks later, my mother had another surprise: Billy Wicks was coming to dinner at our house.  “Holy shit,” I said under my breath.

Although we usually ate around 6:30, I took up my position on the front steps at 5 p.m. and waited.

Two of the neighborhood kids came by and asked what I was doing. “Waiting for Billy Wicks.  He’s coming to dinner,” I said.  “Yeah, sure,” one of them laughed as they walked off.

Around 6:00, he pulled into our driveway, got out, grinned and said, “Hey Eddie, what’s for dinner?”

It was the greatest night of my life. I sat next to Billy, and we all listened intently as he regaled us with tales of his magnificent prowess.

After dinner, I called the two neighborhood boys and convinced them to come over.  When they arrived they were completely at a loss for words.

Billy entertained us by showing us various wresting holds, using me to demonstrate.

At one point he wrapped his strong arms around my neck and said, “This is the famous sleeper hold.  Eddie, if you feel like you’re going to pass out, just tap my leg.”

I glanced over at my mother who was wringing her hands, then suddenly, everything went black.  As I woke up a few seconds later, Billy said, “You forgot to tap.”

Of course the next day at school, all I could talk about was Billy Wicks coming to dinner, and how he was my best friend.  Nobody believed me, and since we didn’t own a camera, I couldn’t prove it.  On top of that, my home room teacher, Coach Flowers, would accuse Billy of being a faker every time I mentioned his name.

What a bummer!  Here I was with the greatest true story of the seventh grade and nobody believed me.  I felt completely dejected.  What could I do to prove it?

After a couple of days an idea hit me like a freight train: I’ll invite Billy to have lunch at school.

That night I wrote Billy a letter explaining my situation and could he please come to lunch.  I even drew a map of the school so he could find my home room.  I didn’t specify a particular day since I figured he had better things to do.

A few days passed, and I was headed to my home room to get ready to go to lunch when I noticed a crowd standing in front of the door.  I heard someone say, “Eddie, Billy Wicks is in there and he’s looking for you.”  My heart sunk as I entered the room to see Billy towering over a red-faced Coach Flowers.

“Hey Eddie,” Billy said. “I hope I’m not late.”  I was thrilled.  “Screw you, Coach Flowers,” I thought.

Billy and me and Coach Flowers and the entire school went to the cafeteria.  The room was buzzing with excitement as I ate lunch with my best friend.

Afterwards, we all returned to the home room.  Billy sat in a chair next to Coach Flowers’ desk, as one by one, each kid went up to get his autograph while he fielded questions from everyone.

At one point, one of the girls asked about his cauliflower ears. He invited her to come up and touch them as he answered her question. Just as she reached out her hand to touch, he let out a loud grow causing her to scream and the rest of us to laugh uproariously.

When it came time for Billy to leave, he asked Coach Flowers permission to give me a ride around the block in his new Cadillac.  Flowers dared not to say no.

I could tell Billy was proud of his new ride, and especially proud of the gold wrestler hood ornament.

That night, Billy lost his match with Sputnik, but I was the real winner.

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Taxi 5

Thursday proved to be a good day.  The weather was great and I had four airport trips.

The first was a business man from northern California, Silicon Valley.  He said this was his first trip to Memphis, and gave me the impression that he thought Memphis was some backwater town.  So, I told him about FedEx, Holiday Inn, Scherring Plough, International Paper, UT Medical School, Sharp Manufacturing, Nike and St Jude.  About Memphis being the home of the blues and birthplace of both rock n’ roll and soul music. I told him about the National Civil Rights Museum, Stax Records, the Smithsonian’s Rock N’ Soul Museum, Gibson Guitars and Morgan Freeman’s night club Ground Zero.  He left impressed.

The next was another business man who talked on his cell the entire trip.

Number three was a young guy from Indiana who works for Smith & Nephew, and who is moving his family to Memphis.  He said he heard Germantown is a good place to live.  I tried to convince him to move to Frasyer.

Later I picked up an older couple at a beautiful house in Chickasaw Gardens.  They were headed to Baltimore for their son’s wedding.  They had a lot of luggage but they managed to get it all in the trunk. The son is thirty and one of four children.  The other three are all women.  The son is a chef, and along with his partner, is opening a restaurant in Chattanooga which will be the bride and groom’s home as well.  From that point on we discussed SEC football, which led us to the University of Memphis football team.  We all agreed that coach Larry Porter, first year or not, should be fired.  My heart goes out to the players who put their hearts and souls into the games only to suffer from high, lopsided losses.  There’s no excuse.  The team has absolutely no defense.  The defensive coordinator should have been replaced after the third loss.  Porter is incompetent.  The three of us also agreed that the school shouldn’t have fired Tommy West who took the team to four bowl games, a better performance than any coach in recent memory.

The only other passengers worth mentioning was a couple from Chile.  I picked them up at Oak Court mall and took them to the Marriott downtown.  They had come to the U.S. just to visit Memphis.  They spoke little English, but did manage to say Graceland and “Beeela” Street.

Friday, I worked the 2pm­–2am shift.

I picked up at the Botanical Gardens.  They were from upstate New York where it was snowing when they left.  They were here as tourists, and marveled at the beautiful weather.  In fact, they couldn’t stop asking questions about our weather.  I felt like Dave Brown.  We also talked about Graceland and while they weren’t big fans, they were nevertheless impressed and moved by the tour. I told them I had been to Graceland twice, and back when Elvis was alive, how it was always comforting to know when he was at home. I gave them some suggestions on other places to go and dropped them off at the Rendezvous.  One wiff of barbecue and I was headed to Corky’s in east Memphis.  Corky’s has a drive in window so I could eat in the cab.

I’m not used to staying up all night.  Hell, I’m usually in bed by nine, so working all night takes it out of me.

Friday night was unusually slow probably because of the Tiger’s basketball game.  I’ll have to tell the university not to play basketball when I’m working.

Had a couple of fares of a young woman in each going to work at two different restaurants.

I also picked up a topless dancer and took her to work at the Gold Club.  Unfortunately she wasn’t dressed for work.  She also wasn’t very friendly.  She had me wait at TJ Max while she did some shopping.  With the meter running, I sat there and imagined she must be buying something to wear on the job.  All I got out of her was that she was from Hot Springs.  She was thin, and looked to be all of twelve years old.

Later I went to one of those by-the-hour motels on South Bellevue where I picked up a very attractive black woman. “Whew!”, she said, “Those people are crazy.  I was invited to a party and sat there thinking these folks need to get a degree and get some jobs.”  She told me she was originally from Pennsylvania, and has two children in the Navy, and two in high school making As and Bs.  She was nice.  I had to take her to dreaded South Memphis where I didn’t linger very long.

I spent some time trolling the streets downtown and was flagged by two guys: one from Wisconin and the other from St. Louis who decided to meet up here for some R & R.  I took them to the hotel, and they asked where in town would I go for an evening out.  I suggested they eat at Sweet Grass in the Cooper Young district and take in some live music at the Young Avenue Deli.  Good tip to them, and them to me.

Got a signal to pick up at Tugs in Harbortown.  Two guys got in.  One middle aged the other around forty, and he was pretty drunk. They wanted to go to another bar, Molly Maguire’s in Victorian Village.  They weren’t very talkative.  Later that night I was sent back to Molly Maguire’s where I picked up the same two guys who wanted to return to the first bar.  The younger one kept passing out, but at one point when he was awake, the other guy asked him how his interview went with Vince Vaughn.  I was able to learn he was trying out for Vaughn’s comedy tour.

At around 12:45 I settled on waiting in line at the Beale Street cab stand.  I could tell how slow the night was because there were at least ten cabs in line.  The deal at a cab stand is the first in line gets the next fare.  I like this cab stand because it gives me a chance for some good people watching.  After about twenty minutes, a phalanx of cops approached the cabs giving each of us an eagle-eyed look.  I immediately felt guilty, but then I was raised by a Jewish mother.  Apparently someone must have sent a cab distress signal, but it was a false alarm.  Reassuring nevertheless.

My last fare was from the cab stand.  A twenty-something guy whom I took to a house in Midtown.

When you return to the cab yard, you get your tank filled and write down the mileage on the odometer on your trip card then take the gas receipt and card to the supervisor along with any credit card receipts.  He adds an amount  for gas to the lease amount then deducts the credit card amounts from that.  I pay the balance, which tonight was $103.10.

I almost forgot to mention that during my shift I had four no-shows (assholes who make other arrangements but who don’t call and cancel the cab).

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taxi 4

Thursday, I did the day shift.  It was a beautiful day and business was like the ceremony of a Jewish infant’s rite of passage –brisk.

After getting my first esspresso of the day, I staked out the Westin hotel downtown.  On Thursdays many out-of-town business people return home, and airport trips make good fares.

There are several hotels downtown, and each has its contingent of cabs.  The Marriot used to have a cab stand right in front on hotel property until the doorman caught a driver pisssing on the sidewalk.  Now the stand is accross the street where you almost need binoculars to see a signal form the doorman.

Speaking of pissing, when you’re my age and have an enlarged prostate, pissing almost becomes a hobby.  I don’t always have time to drive to the nearest public restroom, so I have discovered several discreet places downtown that have been blessed by the Wizard of Wiz.  But enough with my bodily functions.

Most of Thursday’s fares were uninteresting. The first were two guys were from Mystic, Connnecticut who discussed business the whole way.  I should have asked them about the pizza.  The second was a guy from Boston who began the trip with a phone call to his kids.  I told him about my daughter and how I miss her, and how precious her childhood days were to me.  Both fares had good tips.

The only other passsenger worth mentioning was a middle-aged guy whom I picked up in east Memphis and took to the Grove restaurant.  As he was giving me directions, I told him I’m familiar with the Grove having eaten there before.  I then told him about a fantastic new retaurant in the Cooper-Young neighborhood called Sweet Grass.  Turned out he’s a good friend of one of the chefs-owners.
I told him to tell his friend that I’m constantly singing their praises.

Sweet Grass specializes in low country fare.  The night I ate there, I had mussels in a delicious wine sauce followed by pork Osso Bucco.  This dish is normally made with veal, but pork is more low country.

One thing I realized on this day had nothing to do with food.  It was that at least fifty percent of the buildings in Memphis, both residential and commercial, don’t display their address.  C’MON PEOPLE!  WHAT”S UP WITH THAT?

On Friday, I did the night shift.

I learned early that when you go to the cab yard to get a cab, you can get stuck with anything from a Mercury Grand Marqi or Crown Vic to an Impala unless you request a particular cab by its number.  I prefer the Impala.  They’re much nicer, plus the later models have 2 electric outlets—one for my Tom Tom and one for my spotlight.  I once drove a Grand Marqi with over 300,000 miles on the odometer.

One drawback of getting a different model car each time is figuring out the details: does the gas door have a secret release?; which buttons lock and unlock the doors?; how do you turn on the dome light?  can I adjust the seat or not?  does it have a cup holder that’s not broken?  where is the button to open the trunk?  is anyone locked in the trunk?  does the bumper make my ass look fat?  yada, yada, yada....

Any the way, back to Friday night which was also brisk—27 fares from 5pm to 2am.

I picked up a guy at an aparment building in the medical center. He wanted to go to a bar in Frayser, which is a pretty good distance.  He was a nice looking, burly,  middle-aged guy, neatly dressed.  When he got in the cab, I thought I was going to die from the excessive use of cologne.  I had to do all I could to keep from gagging.

He was also drunk, and slurred out, “Im gonna let you in on someding.  I’m gonna beat the shit outta guy, and settle a long-standing score.  If I call you when I’m through, can you come get me?”  “Oh darn, wouldn’t ya know it.  I think I left my cell phone at home,” I replied.  “That’s otay, buddy.  What’s your phone number?”  “So, are you from Memphis?” I interjected, hoping to change the topic.  Along the way he kept talking about taking care of business. “Do you believe in what goes around comes around?” he asked.  “Sure do,” I answeerd. “I just don’t want to end up at 201,” he said.  201 is 201 Poplar Avenue, the Criminal Justice Center, or jail if you prefer.  I offered some advice, “Just sucker punch him and get the shit out of Dodge.”  Gotta good tip.  Now to get the hell out of Frayser.  Hope he’s ok.  He reminded me of Nick Nolte.

Later I picked up four young women in Central Gardens.  They were all dressed up for a night on the town, and wanted to go to McEwens restaurant downtown.  One of the ladies is an accountant visitng here from Atlanta.  Another, a law student. I never got the low down on the other two.  They were busy texting.

As we started out, they began changing there minds about where to eat and whether or not they should see if Ashley wanted to go.  We got about a half mile when one realized she forgot her keys.  I didn’t mind waiting since the meter was running.  Eventually she returned, and we picked up Ashley at Boscos, then headed downtown.  Again they kept changing their minds about where to go.  I tried to convice them to go to Ronnie Grisantis which is about ten miles from where we were (cha ching!)  but they eventually settled on McEwens. The fare was $32.60.  Without all the detours, it would have about $14. Isn’t this fascinating?

I picked up another group of four young women on South Front and took them to Beale Street.  These gals had driven here form Cookeville, TN (East of Nashville) just to eat barbeque.

One young man I picked up got in the cab with a snare drum, and wanted to go to a house in the Cooper Young area.  I asked if he was in a band or did he just enjoy carrying a snare drum.  “The wife’s gone to another gay birthday party.  I’ve had my fill of gay birthday parties.  “Im a musician and artist.  Gotta have my outlet, ya know,” he replied.  He went on to say, “I’ve had a couple of exhibitions, and graduated from the University of Memphis in 2005 with a degree in art.  I actually majored in graphic design.”  “I’m a graphic designer,” I pointed out, and told him my background and mentioned several logos I was sure he’d seen over the years.  “No shit!? You did those,? he exclaimed.  “Where do you work?,  I asked, assuming he works in design.  “Im in sales for a wholesale food distributer who supplies mostly restaurants.”  I asked why he didn’t work as a designer.  He said he did for awhile at a real estate company, but got discouraged because it wasn’t very creative work.  “You should try working at a design firm or agency where you can be around other creative people.  I hate to see you waste your talent, but if you’re happy, that’s what matters,” I offered.  We chatted about this and who we know in the advertising business.  Before he got out, I gave him a slip of paper with my web site address and my phone number.  “Man, he said, “you’re a real inspiration," and gave me a nice tip.

My next fare was an elderly black gentleman who was standing with an elderly woman in front of the apartment building.  As he got in, I noticed his oxygen tank.  The woman stuck her head in the window and asked, “If I give you ten dollars will you let me ride along and bring me back?  I said I’d be happy to.  “Go on driver!  I don’t want her to come along, exclaimed the old guy who looked to be close to ninety.  “Mam,” I looked at her, “he doesn’t want you to go.”  She looked dejected and returned to the building.  “That woman’s gonna kill me yet,” he said.  “I came over here to lie down with her for a little while, and she wouldn’t let me go!  “Hell, I ran out of oxygen after the first five minutes.”  I asked if he had more at home and he assured me he did.  “Where to?” I asked.  2785 Fizer, in Orange Mound.  Stay outta the hood,” was his response.

My last fare of the night was a young twenty-something woman whom I picked up at her boy friends apartment building.  He reached in and gave me ten bucks to cover the fare, and kissed her goodnight.  Riding along I asked, “How are you tonight,”  “Oh, not that great.  I think my boyfriend’s having an affair,” she replied.  There must be something about the back of my head that says “Counselor.”  But I don’t mind.  Hell I’ve been up and down many times over the past several decades.  I must have learned something I can share.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I’m not bad looking, I’m very loving and compassionate, I’m easy to get along with, I like to have fun, and I love sex;”  she revealed.  “First of all,” I offered, “don’t blame yourself.  Never blame yourself.  Secondly, you don’t know for sure if he’s having an affair or not, so you don’t know the reason if he is.  You can continue to be miserable by wondering and being suspicious, or you can get to the truth right away.  Just ask him if it’s true, and tell him why you suspect it.  If true, then you can ditch the asshole and get on with your life.  It’s as if you have a thorn in your foot.  Are you goning t leave it there and suffer, or yank it out and move on? “
When I let her out, she touched my hand and said “Soulmate.”

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taxi 3

Working the night shift, I need an energy boost around midnight.  I prefer mine in th form of an espresso.  Since Starbucks closes at midnight, I have to go to McDonalds.  That’s right, McDonalds now offers lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos, but I think they forgot to tell the employees.

The first time I ordered an espresso there was at the midtown location.  I rolled up to the speaker: “I’ll have a triple espresso with three equals.”  “Would you repeat your order, please,” replied the speaker.  “I’ll have a triple espresso with three equals” I said.  “You want three espressos?” she said.  “Yes, but I want them in one cup with three equals.”  “Please drive around to the window,” was the response.  At the window, the woman asks, “You want three espressos in the same cup.?”  Yes,” I said, with three equals.”  “That will be $3.59.”  And, sure enough I got espresso.

Last Saturday night I went to a different McDonalds and ordered a double espresso with two
equals. Well, the poor woman had absolutely no clue, and after explaining it to her three times, she told me to drive around to the window where she said, “That will be five dollars.”  “Whoa!,” I said,“I’m not paying five bucks for a double espresso,” I insisted, at which point she left and returned with the manager.  I had to explain the entire thing over to him.  He did some calculation, and said, “It will be $3.62.”  “Whatever, “ I thought and gave the woman four dollars.  She gave me $4.59 change.  Yep, $4.59 change.  I felt sorry for her, but felt like they owed it to me for instructing their employees how to make a double espresso.  I drove to the next window where the manager handed me a cup that was filled to the top.  “My God,” I thought, “there must be ten espressos in here.”  There wasn’t even one. It  was just bad coffee.

This was my first Saturday night.  I don’t know if it was like this every Saturday night or it was because it was the night before Halloween, but business was none stop.

The first two fares weren’t anything of note.  The third fair was a pick-up at the University of Memphis. I was not given a street name, and had to drive all over the campus looking for my fare.  I radioed the dispatcher who told me it wasn’t the University of Memphis, but University street which was about five miles away.  After heading that way, the dispatcher radioed and said it was the university after all and gave me directions.  Gees!

The fare turned out to be four young men from India who were here attending a conference.  I don’t know if they were interesting or not because on the way to their hotel, the spoke only in their native tongue.

Next was four young yuppie women.  Their husbands were out of town and they were costumed as sluts and wanted to go to a club in midtown.  Along the way they talked about their kids and about a mutual friend of theirs who breast feeds her baby every time he cries, and who for months, wouldn’t let anyone know the baby’s name because she might be embarrassed by it.  Turns out, the kid’s name is Leo.  I guess they call the mother Loco.

As soon as I let them out at the club, a young woman hops in the front seat, slams the door and says, “Take me home.” “Where do you live?” I asked.  “I’m not gonna let that bastard teat me this way,” she replied.  “Don’t blame ya,” I said, “Now where do you live?”  At this point, a six feet two white rabbit approached the car.  Off came the head to reveal none other than her husband.  Apparently he was kicked out of the club for some reason.  “That’s i! I’ve had it,” she screams.  He gets in and she directs me to Mud Island.  He was soused.  According to her, they’ve been married for only two years and she was “sick of his fucking drinking!”  Her ranting went on for the entire trip.  I offered her candy, but that didn’t help except to get a small laugh.  He didn’t say much.  An apology here and there.  When we arrived, she stormed into the house leaving the rabbit to pay the fair.  He was too drunk to count accurately, and as a result, I got a nice tip.  I wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Bugs Bunny have similar problems.

Before I forget, there was a good fare Thursday night when I picked up two middle age men at their hotel in east Memphis.  There were from Sweden by way of Chicago, and they wanted to go downtown to the Rendezvous.  Along the way we talked briefly about Elvis, and comparing the weather here to that of Chicago.  Only one of the men did the talking.  “I read today that there was a blizzard in Fargo, North Dakota.  That reminds me of the movie Fargo and Sweden’s claim to fame.  Peter Stormare, who played the evil, blond kidnapper is from Sweden.”  I pointed out that Peter Stormare also played the nihilist in the Big Lebowski.  This began an hilarious retelling and quoting from the Lebowski movie that kept us all in stitches until we arrived at the restaurant.  Laughter also generates a good tip.  I always liked the Swedes.  “The dude abides.”

Now, back to Saturday night.  I had so many fares, it’s hard to keep up with them.  I had two different groups of optometry students, with costumes ranging from Marlyn Monroe to Billy Madison.  I told each group that I wasn’t the real cab driver.  “I killed the real driver,” I laughed maniacally.  They enjoyed that as well as my candy.

Another fare was a young woman whom I picked up at the Memphis Mental Institute.  She seemed normal to me.  She had been beaten up by her boyfriend three days earlier, but for some reason the sheriff sent her to this place.  I flet sorry for her.  She had just moved here in August and now she has to go back home.

The last fare of the night was a small, slightly plump cherubic-looking woman with a shock of white hair sticking straight out from beneath her crooked baseball cap.  She was like a character from a Dickens novel.  Along the way we talked about the holidays being upon us and how we both like this time of year.  We spoke of the beauty of the fall colors and the smell of wood burning from someone’s fireplace.  We also spoke of looking forward to Christmas and the general feeling of peace and good will.  I let her out at a bar on north Thomas Street.  As she got out, she called to two men who were standing at the bar’s door, “What are you two cocksuckers up to tonight?”
What a sweet lady, I thought.

Stay tuned...

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Taxi 2

When I decided to be a cab driver, I swore I wouldn’t work at night, not only because of safety concerns, but I’ve always hated working at night.  However, after talking to some of the other drivers, nighttime is where the money is, and isn’t that the name of the game folks?  So my third time out began at 4:30 p.m., the 4:30 pm. to 4:30 a.m. shift.

It began slow, but after awhile I got a call to take a woman to the airport from Harbortown.  Well, my Tom Tom got me to Harbortown, but the led me astray.  But due to my superior powers of deduction, and blowing the horn on every street, I found my passenger, a 40-something woman on her way to a conference.  She was all business, and didn’t care for conversation, plus she objected to my choice of the route to the airport.  “Oh, cool your jets,” I wanted to say, but reassured her she’ll be on time instead. And we arrived in plenty of time but she insisted her gate was the last door even though I told her otherwise, so as a result, we had to circle the airport to get beck to the actual gate.  She was making me nervous so I didn’t get a decent impression of her credit card and lost $30.

My next fare was a distinguished looking older couple from New Zealand.  Imagine that, New Zealanders right here in little ol’ Memphis.  What next, Mongolians in Millington?  They were touring the country and their itinerary included San Francisco, Memphis, New Orleans, Mexico and Cuba.  So, fellow Memphians, we’re in pretty good company.

Turns out they were also Elvis fans, and we had a nice conversation about our dead king, and those from down under tip well.  Took them to the Peabody.

Later I picked up a guy at his house who just wanted to go to a nearby beer joint.  On the way, he got a call on this cell, and I heard him say, “Don’t worry. The money’s there.”  Then silence as he listened to the other party to whom he responded with “Don’t call me dick head!,” and he hung up.  I understood why he needed a beer.  Dick head tipped well.

Next, a young woman from Australia.  She works for Virgin airlines and had a free pass to anywhere on their schedule.  She and her boyfriend were traveling around the U.S.  We talked about her country and she asked questions about Memphis, including, “Does Memphis have any colleges or universities?”  I thought, “No, and our schools stop at the fifth grade which is why I’m driving a cab.”  I listed all the places of higher education I could think of.  She too was a god tipper.

Then there was the young music major I picked up near the University of Memphis.  He was a junior also majoring in creative writing.  He seemed rather dejected so I shared with him some wisdom of life from the perspective of an old fart.  It must of impressed him because he asked my name, and his tip was more than the fare.

Midtown normally accounts for 60% of fares, but was dead this night, so I trolled downtown, and having a knack for drunks, was hailed by two 40-something guys who were lost and wanted to get to their hotel.  The police don’t allow us to pick up flag-downs, but nobody was looking.  Nice tip.

When I dropped these two off at the Marriott, I picked up a husband and wife and a third guy in their party. They were all feeling no pain, and wanted to go to Beale Street.

The third guy sat up front with me.  He was from Minneapolis, home of Harley Davidson, so I asked if he owned a Harley.  He owned two which he restored.  One was a 1947 Panhead, and the other a 1954 Knuckehead.  I told him he was my hero because I can’t even restore the lid to a relish bottle.  The more we talked the more I liked him.  He asked about the economy in Memphis, and I told him of my background and current situation.  “Guess what I do,” he said. I gave up.  “I own an advertising agency.”  I gave him my web site address.  When I stopped to let them out, the couple got out first and the guy in the front looked at me with a sincere gaze and said, “I’m a one percenter.  My brother died because of that.”  Then he gave me twenty bucks for a six dollar fare and asked me to join them, but I told him I can’t leave the cab.  I really wanted to talk more with this guy whose name I never got.

For those of you who aren’t bikers, a one percenter is an outlaw biker because their type make up one percent of those who ride.

He might think he’s a one percenter, but I doubt he really is.  Outlaw bikers are just that–either full-time criminals or blue collar workers and part time crooks.  They don’t own advertising agencies.

More to come...

© 2010, Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)

Taxi 1

My new adventure has begun.  I have the most dangerous job in what Forbes magazine has labeled the most dangerous city in the U.S. I’m now an officially licensed and bonded Yellow Cab driver in Memphis. While I’ve only been at it now for two days, I must say it’s fun.  There’s the anticipation of waiting for a call; the suspense of blindly following the Tom Tom’s directions, hoping it’s accurate; the relief and sense of accomplishment when you turn the corner to find your passenger waiting; the fun of meeting someone new, and seeing areas of the city you’ve never seen before.

Some of you may question why Eddie is driving a cab after such as successful career as an ad agency creative director, and after operating his own advertising and design business now for 19 years.  You can thank George Bush and the stinking republicans for creating the greatest economic crises since 1929.  I’m down to one active client, and need to supplement my income.

My first day out was pretty slow, only four trips and two no-shows.  One of the trips was taking a patient home from the hospital.  The poor guy looked to be around 85, and had to be helped into the cab.  Along the way, I was hoping he wouldn’t die in the cab.

The second day was much better, 15 trips.  I began the day at 4:30 a.m. since there are many who need a cab to get to work.  At 8:30, I picked up two 20 something guys outside Alex’s Tavern.  These two were completely shit-faced.  The must have been at it all night. They got in the cab and said ”Hookers and crack. We want hookers and crack.”  “Can’t help you there. Besides, I don’t think you’ll find any hookers out at 8:30,” I replied.  When we arrived, the drunker of the two wouldn’t get out.  I threatened twice to call the police.  Finally I told his buddy to just push him out. Reminds me of my earlier days, but instead of asking for hookers and crack, my refrain was “Bacon and eggs.”

I also met a nice young couple from Australia who are bummng around the U.S.  I took them to a hostel in the Cooper Young area.  I never knew about this place before.

When I applied to be a driver, I was told there would be a three day training course. “Three days!” I thought. “What’s to know? You drive a car, pick up and deliver a passenger.”  Well, there’s more to it, of course.

In the old days, the two-way radio was how drivers were notified of a fare, and so on.  Today, the radio is rarely used.  It’s all done through the on-board computer.

The city has been divided into 565 zones.  Each zone is two miles square.  The computer displays the active zones, how many fares, and how many cabs are in each zone.  When you’re notified of a fare, the computer dings several times, and on the screen is displayed “fare available in zone 111 (or the zone you’re in).  You have the choice of accepting or declining.  When you accept, the screen displays the pick up address, it’s page number in the map book, the passengers name, the destination, and any other pertinent information. You can also ask for displayed fares in other zones as long as you’re within eight miles of that fare.

Along the way, the driver can enter a code which notifies the passenger how much time it will take to reach their location.  The driver can also use this system to notify the passenger that the cab has arrived.  Pretty cool, huh?

There is also a secret method for summoning the police.  And, if you’re being taken for a ride, the system notifies the police of your exact location and movement.  Bring it on, suckas!

© 2010, Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

(Disclaimer:  The views expressed on this post are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellow Cab, Checker Cab, or Premier Transportation Services.)