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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.)

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