A few weeks ago I went to the Kroger super store in east Memphis. It was amazing. The largest supermarket I’ve ever seen. The produce section alone must be around 1,200 square feet. It was an adventure and a festival for the eyes. I discovered their kosher section where I found challah bread and rolls. I hadn’t had challah bread since my mother used to serve it every Friday night with dinner many years ago. I got a bag of the rolls which were wonderful. I could eat them like candy.
I later learned that this challah is made locally by a small bakery, also in east Memphis. One day after dropping off a passenger in this area, I went to this bakery. It’s a little hole in the wall hidden on a side street in a large shopping center. From the looks of the front of the place, I wondered if I needed a password to get in. You know, something like, “ The Dough Boy sent me.” When I entered, I was met by a diminutive young woman who looked to be all of fifteen. The place was humming. Stacks of bread four to seven feet tall lined the walls. “Can I help you?,” she barked. “I’d like to get a loaf of the cinnamon bread and a bag of challah rolls,” I said. “We don’t have any!,” she said with convincing authority, “We won’t have anymore. Tomorrow’s Rosh Hashanah,” said the bulldog. Was she just having a bad day, or was she always like this, I wondered. “Never?,” I asked. “Next week. You can call Thursday or Friday and see if any is left,” she threw me a line. I looked to my left and saw a stack of beautiful, large round cinnamon challah and picked up a bag. “I’ll have this, “ I said. “ YOU CAN’T HAVE THAT. IT’S RESERVED. EVERYTHING IN HERE IS RESERVED,” she shot back. “Can I order some,?” I asked. “Call Thursday or Friday, I said,” was the response. Feeling rather frustrated with this transaction, I said, “Lady, I’m just trying to give you some business.” I stepped back, fearing she was going to leap over the counter and knead my face into a loaf of Eddie. What is it with short people? Do they ALL think they're Napoleon? She gave a heavy sigh and led me to her desk where she took my order. “Next Thursday or Friday,” her final notice. When I got back in the cab, it hit me – I had just encountered the bread Nazi.
I arrived at an apartment building in midtown near Overton Park. A guy in his early twenties, looking half asleep got in. He need to go to Olive Branch, MS. “Can you take me for sixty dollars?,” he asked, “The other drivers charged me that.” I told him I could then asked how often he goes down there. “Once a week,” he answered. “Let me guess,” I said, “you’re on probation and your license was suspended.” He confirmed. “What did you do?,” I asked. “Nothing. I was a passenger in the car with my friend who was arrested for DUI,” was his reply. “That seems unfair,” I offered. “Yeah.” he agreed, “I’ve had to go to driving classes and a class about drinking and driving.” I asked if he takes the cab home too. “My parents live there, and they give me a ride,” he said. Along the way we stopped at a convenience store so he could get the cash from an ATM. It’s always nice to know the passenger can pay.
Cab rates are set by the City Council, and they included a provision allowing us to increase the fuel surcharge from one dollar to two per passenger when gas prices rise above three dollars. So now we charge two bucks. This doesn’t always sit well with some passengers. The other day I went to pick up a woman and her daughter at Kroger. They loaded the groceries in the trunk and got in. I set the meter: two bucks minimum fare and four bucks for gas. “What’s the damn four dollars for?,” the mother shouted. I explained the increase. “He only charged us three yesterday,” she screamed. I radioed the dispatcher and asked her to tell my passengers how much the fuel charge is. “Two dollars per person,” the dispatcher said. The mother became irate and began shouting at the dispatcher about being charged only three the day before. The dispatcher was no longer on the radio. “Look,” I said, “if you’re not going to pay, you’ll have to get out.” At this point, the daughter chimed in, “Let’s just get another cab.” Her mother replied, “No. I have a headache. Let’s go home.” (NOTE: After reading this, both the owner of Yellow Cab and the director of operations notified me that the fuel surcharge is per trip, not per person. I had been charging per person as instructed by the driver who trained me over a year ago. If I see this woman again, I’ll apologize and give her a refund.)
I took a young guy to the courthouse downtown. He said he and his friend were on Beale Street, and when the friend got rowdy, the cops showed up, so my passenger “merely tapped” a cop on the shoulder to find out what the trouble was. He was charged with assaulting a police officer.
Three obese women got in the cab and asked if Sam’s Club in Raleigh was more than twelve miles. I told them it was, so they decided to go to the grocery a block down the street. Guess they have a twelve-mile limit.
On another airport run, my passenger was a tax consultant from Columbus, OH. He advises people who have tax liabilities with the IRS. He was boring.
Dude in his early twenties gets in. Wants to go to Whatever, a head shop on Highland. He asks me to while he goes in. Phase two of the trip is to his bank in midtown. Again I wait for him. When he gets in, he asks if we take debit cards. I said we do. “My card is in my apartment,” he said. Sensing a possible rip off I said, “This is your bank, right? Go back in and get cash.” He did, and we lived happily ever after.
I picked up a thirty-something couple at a house near Rhodes College who needed to get to the airport. They are from Boca Raton, Fl, and were here for a friend’s wedding. She was the bride’s made of honor, and mentioned how much work and responsibility came with the job. I suggested they see the movie “Bridesmaids.” It’s hilarious. The couple said the wedding was held on the grounds of the National Ornamental Iron Museum on the river bluff. It had a Memphis theme with a DJ who played Memphis music, and champion Barbecue chef who brought his giant BBQ pit and provided the food.
I took two sets of passengers to the airport who were in town for Gonerfest. One group from New York, and the other from San Francisco. The guy from San Francisco said Memphians seem to enjoy music more than those in other cities. Gee, really!?
Every Monday around 11:30 AM I pick up an elderly gentleman at Trezvant Manor Retirement Community and take him to a house in east Memphis. This time I said, “You must have a girlfriend you visit every Monday.” “I’m eighty eight years old. Too old for a girlfriend,” he said. “You’re never too old,” I replied, “I bet there’s a lot of women where you live who’d love to be your girlfriend.” They’re all too mean,” he shot back.
One of my passengers was a woman in her thirties who insisted on giving me directions. Wouldn’t have been so bad if she didn’t sound like Minnie Mouse on helium.
Speaking of giving me directions, I picked up a guy at his dentist’s office on Park and took him to an apartment complex on Hacks Cross Road. Long trip. He looked to be in his seventies, and he spoke with a very thick middle-eastern accent. He too insisted on telling me which way to drive even though I explained my GPS system. I couldn’t understand a word he said, not only because of the accent, but he had left his teeth at the dentist’s.
The computer instructed me to pick up a passenger in midtown and take him to the Westin Hotel downtown. Computer listed his name as Juan Carlos, and I wondered if this was the evil Juan Carlos, Zorro’s arch nemesis. He turned out to be some young dude going to work.
Picked up a young woman at Rhodes College, and took her to the airport. She’s a Rhodes alumni and was here for homecoming. She was returning to Washington, DC where she’s getting a masters degree in molecular biology at the Uniformed Services University. She said her father is in the military specializing in cyber terrorism.
I was driving a handicap van and had my first wheelchair passenger. She was a tiny woman, and since she was located in the very back, behind the back seat, I could barley see her in the mirror. At one point along the way, I heard her say “Oh.” Thinking she was in trouble, I asked, “Mam, are you alright?” No answer. “Mam, are you OK?’ Still no answer. I slowed down, thinking she had passed out or maybe worse. In a louder voice I said, “Can you hear me?” “I’m on the phone,” she replied. Whew!
© 2011, 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.)