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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Taxi 24

A compilation of four day shifts.

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.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Taxi 23

Two Shifts

I don’t drive on Saturdays because I don’t think anyone takes a cab on that day, but this was Dead Elvis week, and I was sure there’d be a lot of business.  I drove the noon to midnight shift.

As soon as I got the cab, I headed to the taxi stand across from Graceland.  There were enough cabs lined up to invade a small country.  I waited long enough to see two Elvis clones and several chubbie woman in their latest Walmart attire.  No one wanted a cab, so I went around the corner to the Heartbreak Hotel and waited.  “Come on!  Don’t any of you yokels want to go downtown?,” I muttered to myself.  No dice.  I headed to good ol’ reliable midtown, parked and waited for a trip. And waited, and waited and waited. Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  It was the most boring day yet.  Eventually I got a few trips, but only two were blog-worthy.

The first was a young black guy I picked up at the hostel on South Cooper.  He was from Manchester, England and spoke with a beautiful accent.  This was his third trip to Memphis.  “I love Memphis,” he said, “but I hate the public transportation system.  Back home, buses run every ten minutes, and we have trains and trams.  I’ve spent about a hundred dollars so far on cabs.”  I took him to the Dead Elvis concert at the Orpheum downtown, and wished him a good time.

As I was pulling away, I heard someone shout, “Yellow!”  It was a thirty-something guy with Elvis hair and side burns.  He wanted me to take him to his motel but he forgot where it was.  “It’s a Days Inn somewhere near Lamar,” he said.  I tried to look it up on my iPhone, but he said, “Just take me to Graceland.  I came downtown with a buddy, but he got so stinkin’ drunk he was embarrassin’ to be with.  He tried doing a somersault on Beale Street, and cut his hand then wiped the blood on the back on my shirt.  I felt like knocking the shit outta him.  I wanted to go back to the room to change my shirt, but the hell with it.”  I let him out across from Graceland where there was a crowd gathered under a large tent listening to a band.  When he got out, I looked at his shirt, and told him I didn’t see any blood.

It was now around nine p,m., and I decided to call it quits.

I received training on how to use the handicap wheelchair vans.  I thought you just roll the chair in and set its brakes.  Wrong.  The vans are like rolling bondage chambers.  There are seven straps to secure the passenger:  two connected to the floor in front of the chair with hooks you attach to the chair, two in back for the same purpose, and three straps which comprise the seatbelt.  It’s like doing calisthenics every time you hook up somebody.  The good thing is we can make more money driving a van, but I hate calisthenics.

On my next day shift, there were no vans available so I got a Grand Marquis.

Friday was a good day.  Grossed over two hundred.

I had two airport trips.  The first was a woman headed to New York for some R&R.  She was a software developer on vacation.  We chatted about New York, and how she loves the Gyros from the street vendors, and somehow started talking about the TV show All In The Family.  I’ve become addicted to the reruns.  I didn’t watch it much when it originally aired.  The acting by Carol O’Conner and Jean Stapleton was and still is outstanding.  Just some of their expressions alone has me reeling.  It’s this and the wonderful dialog that has me wanting more.  Meat head.  Dingbat.  Stifle.

My other airport trip was a young man I picked up at the old Greenstone apartments on Poplar near the med center.  He works in IT at Hilton Corp., and was headed to Houston.

There was a notice in the office this morning alerting us to counterfeit hundred-dollar bills.  The notice said, “You can identify the bills by the picture of Abraham Lincoln instead of Benjamin Franklin.”  I can just hear the counterfeiters now:  “Whose picture is on the hundred?, asks one.  “I think it’s Washington,” says another.  Then the third guy pipes in, “No you idiot.  Washington’s on the thirty.”

Gave a ride to a trucker who drives back and forth on the same day to places no more than 320 miles from Memphis.

Three big fat women and a little boy got in, and they couldn’t decide where to go. “How much is to go to Walmart in Raleigh?, one asked.  “Is it more than twelve dollars?”  “Much more,” I said.  They conferred and decided to go to Montesi’s Grocery about four blocks away.

Picked up a young black couple at Old Navy in Poplar Plaza.  I had been listening to sports talk on AM, but decided to switch to music for their sake.  When I went to switch from AM to FM, I inadvertently hit the CD button.  Apparently, a previous driver had left a hip hop CD in, and when the music came on, the couple went nuts.  “Alright,” shouted the guy, “We got us a bad cab!”  They sang and jiggled all the way home, and I’m sure they thought I was a pretty hip old dude.

© 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.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Taxi 22

Day Shift

It was hot and muggy.  The air was so thick it was like sticking your face into a bowl of mashed potatoes, but the air conditioner in number eighteen was doing its job.  Eighteen is a Grand Marqui with leather seats and a little over 142,000 miles on the odometer.

The city council approved an increase in the fuel surcharge cab drivers can charge from one dollar per passenger to two dollars.  Since we have to buy our own gas, it helps.  On top of that, the company bought a Prius.  Wonder if I’ll ever get to drive it.

It was six-thirty a.m., and I had just left the cab yard when I was flagged down by two scruffy-looking guys at Beale and Third.  They had just gotten off work at Alfred’s and were heading home.  Turned out to be nice guys.

My next trip was taking two twenty-something women from the hostel in Cooper Young to the bus station.  They were from Canada, but their English was impeccable.  They were traveling with their back packs throughout the U.S.  From here, they were headed to New Orleans.  Maybe they were just sleepy, but they weren’t very talkative.

When these two got out, a nicely-dressed, middle-age woman with a suitcase asked if I could take her to the Knight Arnold-Perkins area about twelve miles away.  When we got into that area, she had me take her to an atm, which turned out to be broken.  So then I took her to her house.  The fare was thirty-one dollars, but she only had twelve.  She impressed me as being honest, so I gave her my name and address and told her to send me a check or I would have to fie a complaint with the police.  She assured me she could be trusted, and sure enough, a money order arrived two days later.

Picked up a woman at the city school’s learning center on Central at Hollywood to go to the airport.  She was an education consultant from Atlanta here to conduct training sessions for new principals.  I told her my daughter is working toward her masters in education at Portland University.  The consultant assured me that P.U. has one of the best education programs in the country.

Headed back to midtown and got a trip taking an old veteran to the VA Hospital.  He said he still suffers from wounds he received in an explosion when he was stationed in Lebanon in 1958 and that the VA doesn’t do much for him.

Went to Perkins restaurant on Poplar.  When I pulled up, a young woman came up and said my passenger would be here in a minute, he went to buy cigs.  I started the meter.  The destination was an address on Whiteway, but my Tom Tom couldn’t find it.  When the passenger got in, I told him to give me directions.  He wasn’t sure which way to go at first, but figured it out.  I thought, “This is gonna be a long trip.”  Indeed, it seemed like an eternity, not just because of the distance, but the guy wouldn’t shut up.  “You know that girl who met the cab?, he asked.  “What about her?, I replied.  “She’s been my best friend for about four years, ya know, just platonic, but with an occasional hook up.  She wouldn’t give me a ride home because I told her I found somebody I really like,” he went on, and on.  “Normally when I find somebody, she tells my why the girl’s bad for me, but she didn’t this time.”  He repeated this with variations for the entire trip.  I just said, “I hear ya,” or, “She’ll get over it.”  “This is a switch, he said, “I’m a bartender usually listening to other people’s problems, now I’m tellin’ them to you.”  “Hey, no problem.  I get it too,” I said.  Boy, I was glad when that trip ended.

Picked up a young black guy and took him to work at the National Civil Rights Museum downtown.  He was pretty quiet until I told him I designed the museum’s logo. I told him I used to be creative director with an ad agency here, and we handled the grand opening of the museum. Regarding the logo, he asked, “What was your thought process?”  “I wanted a humanistic design.  Nothing too abstract,” I said.  The logo depicts the stylized figure of a man who has broken his chains and is pushing against the wall of a box that contains him.  It represents the struggle for civil rights.  I named a few more logos I knew he’d be familiar with.  He told me that he designed a logo for a company nine years ago, and was surprised it was still in use.  “A good logo is timeless,” I said.

Went over to south Memphis and picked up a large, good-natured, jolly black man.  “I got a vest just like yours.  I it wear when I go fishing,” he said.  When I’m in the cab, I wear a khaki vest that has about ten pockets.  Makes it easy to get at my stuff, especially my taser. “I love crappie,” he said. “Man, I like it too.  Nice and sweet,  I also like bluegill, but I’m not too crazy about bass,”  I replied.  He laughed, “Yea, I don’t much care for bass either.”  He said he has family living at Reelfoot Lake in Tipton county, and he does a lot of angling there.

After dropping him off, I went to get my next fare at a sleazy motel on Elvis Presley Boulevard in the hood.  A mean-looking black guy wearing a hoodie got in.  I was immediately suspicious because the heat index this day was 106, and a hoodie is a good way to conceal a gun.  The destination on the computer was the “Union area,” which meant either midtown or downtown.  Instead, he had me turn left on Walker.  “Man, we ain’t even gone a mile and the fare is already six dollars.  It’s supposed to be one-eighty a mile,” he said.  “where did you hear that?, I asked.  “It’s state law,” he protested.  “Actually,” I said, “cab rates are determined by the city council, and it averages about two-sixty a mile, plus the per passenger fuel surcharge just went up to two bucks.”  I kept my eye on him in the rearview mirror, and noticed he kept string at me.  “Where you from?,” I asked, hoping to defuse the situation.  “California,” he replied.  “Where bouts,” I asked.  “Bay area near Oakland, “ he said.  He was quiet the rest of the way, and I dropped him off at a small grocery store.

Back in midtown, I got a trip piking up a woman at Kroger.  After I helped her load the groceries in the trunk, we headed off toward her home on Rainbow Drive.  When she noticed I was coughing, she said, “Cod liver fish oil.”  “Mam?, I asked.  “It’ll knock that cough right out.  I smoke and it works for me.  Got my brother started on it and it worked right away.  He was amazed,” she said.  “There seems to be a natural remedy for just about everything,” I said.  A lot of African Americans in the south grew up in the country, and used natural remedies handed down from one generation to the next.  “We been using cod oil since I can remember.  Now if you don’t like the oil, it comes in pills too.  Where did Jesus live?,” she asked me.  “Uh,” I said.  “He lived near the sea and in the olive groves.  That’s where he got his nourishment.  It all comes from Mother Nature,” she said.  I didn’t know whether to say “Amen” or not.  When we got to her house, I helped her carry the groceries in.  As I was leaving, she said, “I expect to get a good report next time i see you.”  “Yes, mam!”

Next was three swarthy-looking young men with a thick accent.  They were from Spain, and were here on vacation touring the U.S.  From here they were going to Nashville and then New Orleans.

My last trip was taking an elderly man form his apartment building on North Third to his credit union on South Third where he cashed his Social Security check.  Then it was a stop at the liquor store and back to his apartment.  I like his priorities.

© 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.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Taxi 21

Day Shift

I got to the cab yard just as the night shift was rolling in.  They were all lined up at the pump.  I had my pick.  Number nine was ready to roll so I followed the driver into the office.  “Is number nine running OK?,” I asked him.  I’ve encountered this guy before.  Not the friendly type, in fact, he always looks like he’s either a psychopath or constipated, or a constipated psychopath.  “It runs,” he replied, “What do you want a car to do anyway?”  I just smiled at him, wishing I could offer him a box of ex lax.

Number nine not only ran well, but the air worked, which in ninety-eight degree heat is quite welcome.

My first fare was a regular.  An elderly woman who is an attorney.  She always takes a cab from her condo to the office near the courthouse.  She’s a very pleasant lady.  Always dressed to the nines and full of talk.  She normally dresses conservatively, as one would expect from an attorney, but today she had on a flowered summer dress with bold bright colors, all topped off with a big floppy straw hat.  “You look mighty snazzy today,” I said.  She thanked me, and said she normally wears black, but decided to go all out for one day.  “Hats are coming back in style,” she said.  “Back in the thirties my husband and I went to the Breakers in Palm Beach.  It was summertime, and I had on a dress much like the one I’m wearing now.  Well, when we walked in, everyone was wearing black.  We had to ask if we had just walked into a funereal.”  We both got a chuckle out of that.  “I like that nice shirt you’re wearing,” she told me.  “You look like you wear clothes well,” she said.  “Yeah, I like nice clothes," I replied, "but I’m so fat now that I don’t bother with buying very much.”   “Men look more important with a portly look.  I hate those little skinny ones,” she said.  Usually the word “portly” is followed by “gentleman.”  I’ll buy that.  I’m a portly gentleman.  You never hear, “He’s a portly schmuck.”

Got a fare on Bellevue, just north of Poplar.  An old, run-down apartment building.  As I waited for the passenger, a woman from the next building approached and asked if I could take her to the Family Dollar store.  “I’m waiting on a passenger,” I explained.  My passenger showed up.  A nice, elderly black man wearing a suit and tie, a straw hat, and carrying an umbrella.  I told the woman, “Mam, if he says it’s OK, I can give you a ride.”  He approved, and off we all went, first to drop him off at the VA hospital, then to the Family Dollar store.  Along the way, the two of them chatted and became friends.

The computer signaled a trip.  I hit the accept button, and saw the passenger was at Smith & Nephew, the medical implant company on Brooks Road, and needed to get to the airport.  He was from Cleveland, but instead of my usual rant about that city not deserving the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, I brought up Lebron James’ poor showing in the NBA playoffs.  My passenger expressed his contempt for James, and the manner in which the NBA star deserted his fans.  I agreed wholeheartedly.   The passenger didn’t talk much because he was eating lunch which smelled great and created a craving within me for a corned beef sandwich, which I grabbed later.  I love a good deli style corned beef sandwich.  The best one I ever had was at Canter’s Deli on Fairfax Avenue in L.A. It was piled high and served on a Kaiser roll.  MMMMMMM!

Once I went into Boagie’s Deli in Overton Square.  There are three Boagies in Memphis, and I had always been pleased with the other two.  But the corned beef sandwich I was served at this one was a joke: one slice of meat and enough mustard to cover an obese midget.  I gave it back and said, “I’ll come back when you learn how to make one of these.”  Memphis really hasn’t had an authentic Jewish-style deli since Rosen’s closed in the late sixties.  I should be driving a cab in New York.  My father drove one in Philadelphia, and he too loved corned beef, so it must be the genes.

While in midtown, I got a trip taking a twenty-something guy to the Majestic restaurant downtown where he works.  He was real friendly and spoke with a fine Irish brogue.  He and two of his friends are traveling and working their way around th U.S.  “We were in Los Angeles before coming here.  Didn’t much care for it out there.  Very phony.  Not at all like Memphis with the Blues and such,” he said.  “I bet that accent goes over well with the girls,” I said.  He smiled and said, “It does help.”  From that point on I suggested a few place he might like to go to, and we talked about Guiness Beer.  He said the world’s largest Guiness plant is in Nigeria.

This was international day in the cab.  Later I picked up a woman from India, and took her to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital where she is a doctor.  The only thing she said was. “Speed it up, but don’t get a ticket.”  Now if I could only get a passenger who will say, “Follow that car, and make it snappy.”

I took a young man form his home to the University of Memphis.  He was originally from Russia, and is majoring in international business.  He had served in the U.S. army, but didn’t have to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Occasionally I give a ride to a doctor from Methodist Hospital to the Baptist Med Center.  Today was the first time he talked to me.  Turns out he’s from Nigeria.  I told him about my Irish passenger’s telling me about the Guiness plant in Nigeria.  “Yes,” the doctor said, “We love guiness.”  One usually doesn’t think “Nigeria and Guiness.”

That afternoon I went to a hood in north Memphis, and picked up a rather rough-looking guy and took him all the way across town to a hood in south Memphis.  He had me park, and said this was a round trip.  He handed me a twenty to ensure I’d wait.  I watched him in my rearview mirror as he walked down the street past a few houses, then went to the door of one house.  The door opened, he reached in, got something, then returned to the cab.  A drug buy.  Not my first.

I got a signal to pick up at the VA Hospital.  It was the dapper-looking elderly man I had dropped off there that morning.  He needed to go to Kroger in midtown.  He heard jazz playing on the radio, and asked, “Do you like jazz?”  I told him I love it.  “Well then, you can’t do no wrong, man, “ he told me.  “That’s what I do,” he went on.  I asked him what instrument he played.  “Trombone.  Used to own a jazz club, The Gemini on Lamar years back,” he said.  We talked about some of the local jazz musicians from past days in Memphis.  As he got out, he handed me his card and a cassette of one of his albums.  I listened to it when I got home expecting an instrumental featuring him on the trombone, but he turned out to be a crooner with a nice mellow sound.  You can find him on iTunes.  Just look for Lee Miles Stone.  I’ll have to take him out for coffee sometime.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Taxi 20

Two Day Shifts

A cab, in some ways, is like Facebook.  People log in but I never confirm them as friends, especially if they’re drunk.  And when there’s conversation, it’s like posting and commenting.

The other day, a friend posted this message on facework, “I'm trying to eat more healthfully -- but Almond milk is most definitely not the answer.  Holy crap!”  So my comment was, “Try walnut crappie juice.”  A little later, his friend commented, “Walnut crappie juice? I knew you could fry crappie up and serve them with hush puppies, but I had no idea you could juice them.” “In a blender,” I said, and there’s also a crappie martini and a bass sorbite,” I said.  “No thanks,” she replied. “Yeah, lady, I also have a very nice bridge for sale.”

My lucky day.  I got to drive one of the SUVs, number 27.  Easier for me to get in and out of, and I could act ually bend my legs when seated. I didn’t even know they had SUVs, because they’ve all been out when I checked in.  It’s all in the timing.  If you get to the cab yard too early, there aren’t many cabs from which to choose because the night shift hasn’t come in yet.  So the best time to get there is close to 6:30 a.m. when the night shift ends.  So I log on and head out.  

As soon as I roll out onto the street, the computer signals a pick up at the motel next to the Ornamental Iron Museum where a thirty-something guy gets in.  He says the trip is charged to Southern Towing, one of the companies that pushes barges up and down the river.  I checked the computer, but see no indication of a voucher so I radio the dispatcher, and tell him the deal.  The morning dispatcher has a heavy ebonic accent, and I can never understand what he’s saying, so I have to keep asking him to repeat himself which only pisses him off.  However, my passenger understands him so I hand him the mike, and he tells dispatch his name, and explains who at Southern authorizes the charge.  Once it’s approved, we head out.  I have to take him to Avis car rental near the airport.  He has to drive to Cincinnati to meet his boat.  He’s a nice guy.  He asks me about driving a cab, and I ask him about working the river. Big fare.

I head back toward midtown, and as I get into zone 110, the medical center, the computer dings three times assigning me a trip.  I picked up this guy at UT and drove him all the way out to Mullins Station Road next to Shelby Farms.  Another big fare.  He didn’t say a word the whole time.

I headed back to midtown, zone 111 this time, to get an espresso at Starbucks, and I’m dinged to pick up a woman at an apartment building for seniors on North Parkway.  The destination indicated a street in a black neighborhood in north-central Memphis, so I was expecting a black woman.  Out came a diminutive white lady who looked to be in her upper eighties.  She was making her way to the cab in short, baby steps so I got out and offered to help her.  “I’m fine,” she said as she declined my arm.  I held the door for her, and then we were off.  I couldn’t figure out why she was going to the hood, and in spite of my efforts to ask her, all she talked about was her dogs, and I don’t mean feet.  As I turned down the street where she was to be dropped off, I notice three guys just standing on the sidewalk in front one of the houses.  I’ve seen this before.  It usually indicates dealers, so I watched them in my rearview mirror and sure enough, a car pulls up to them, and one guy bends down and hands a package to the person in the car who then drives off.

As we head down the street, she points out a small, white concrete building.  “That’s my son’s lumber business.  Turn in there,” she says,  I pull into a gravel lot, and stop behind the building.  To my right is a large dilapidated structure the color of a thunderstorm sky.  It must have at one time housed lumber, but now stood empty.  It was a gloomy place.  Her son came out and helped her out of the cab.  She paid the fare, but no tip.

Later, I go to an address in east Memphis in an upscale neighborhood.  It was a trip to the airport.  A young man in his thirties comes out carrying a large, cylindrical case and a suitcase.  I get out and lift the hatch in the rear.  “Going golfing?,” I asked.  “Shotguns,” he said.  “We’re going to hunt dove and quail in Argentina.”  A minute later, an older man joins us, and he sits up front since their guns and luggage took up so much space.  “Argentina, huh,? Must be nice,” I offered.  “Yeah, we go down about once a year.  It’s winter down there now.  A good way to escape the heat for a while,” he said.  “When you guys aren’t hunting in Argentina, what do you do?,” I had to know.  He hesitated, as if ashamed of what he does.  “We’re attorneys,” he admitted.  “At least your not a politician tweating pictures of your Weiner,” was my reply.  He laughed.  “What’s Argentina like?,” I asked.  “It’s great, especially the meat.  Their cattle are all grass-fed, and the meat tastes much better than grain-fed ones.”  You ever have any problem traveling with shotguns?,” I asked.  “Not really.  We have a good friend down there, a woman attorney who always represents us with the customs officials, and she gives them hell if they try to interfere,” he said,”  At the airport, I wished them a good trip, and got a nice tip.

Back in midtown I went to the VA Hospital where the passenger walked up to the cab and asked if he’d been in my cab before.  I told him no, so he got in.  “You’re beard made me think you were another driver who argued with me about forty cents,” he said.  I asked him if the driver had a full white beard, and he said yes.  “That’s Santa Claus,” I said, and that is what everyone calls him.

Later I went to a house near Rhodes college and picked up a young couple going to the airport.  “Where yall flying to?,” I asked.  “We’re going to Buffalo so he can meet my parents,” she said.  “I went with him to California to meet his.”  Both of them teach at the University of Memphis.  They were all giggles, and in love.  “Ever been to Buffalo?”, he asked.  “No. New York City is as far north as I’ve gone,” I answered.  They talked about how much they love NYC.  I told them about my first trip there in 1974 with my first wife.  A friend recommended we stay at the Edison Hotel in Times Square.  We didn’t know it at the time, but Times Square in those days was the armpit of the country.  When we checked in, the bellhop, who looked like "Ratso" Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, took us to our room.  On the elevator, he asked, ”Where youse guys from?”  “Memphis,” I answered.  “Ah,” he said, “Not like dis shit here.”  I went on with my story, telling my passengers that when we entered our room, we couldn’t help but notice a lump on the bed under the bedspread.  We pulled the spread back and saw that it was an upside-down, clean salad bowl.  “Well, at least it’s clean,” I said.  Around 2:00 a.m. we were awakened by a bunch of teenagers who were partying on our floor.  I went out and asked them to be quiet.  About an hour later, my wife did the same, and about another hour later, I called the desk to complain.  Soon after my call, there was a knock on the door.  I opened the door to reveal a mafioso-looking house detective dressed in a bright blue sport coat, black shirt and white tie, and with enough grease in his hair to fry a good-size chicken, who, in a thick Brooklyn accent and gravelly voice asked what was the problem.  I explained and he said to go back to bed because he’d take care of it.  It was quiet from then on.  I imagined the headline: “Forty teenagers found floating in the East River.”

We had driven to Washington where we spent a few days, then caught the train to New York.  When it came time to leave, we were seated on one of the benches in Penn Station.  It was very early in the morning, so there weren’t many people.  After a while, a black lady came over and sat next to us.  She had some sort of white powder all over her face, but otherwise seemed normal.  She asked where we were going and where we were from, then suddenly started demanding that we pay her.  “You can’t leave without paying me what you owe,” she screamed, over and over.  About thirty feet away were two cops deep in conversation.  They were completely oblivious to our situation.  We got up and went out to where the trains were.  Thankfully, she didn’t follow.  Such is New York.

That afternoon, after dropping off an elderly man at his apartment building, I noticed on the computer that I was no longer booked on.  I tried, without success, to book on several times, then I phoned the office and was told the computer system was down, and to use the radio.  So I picked up the mike, switched the radio from data to voice, and said, “This is 308 (my cab number), I’m in zone 133.”  I immediately got a trip.  I could hear the dispatcher barking orders to the other drivers, “car 24 are you there? Car 24, where are you?  Has anybody seen car 24?”  Using the radio was fun for a change.  I felt like Broderick Crawford on the TV show, Highway Patrol:  “Get in the car, punk!”

© 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.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Taxi 19

Friday, May 27, 2011.  Day Shift

Driving trips in and out of the various hoods here in Memphis reminds me of an incident in which I was involved in 1961 when I was fourteen.

Two of my buddies and I were headed to a party at the old Jewish Community Center behind the dairy on Madison in midtown.  After one of our parents dropped us off, we decided we needed to get some beer.  None of us looked old enough nor did we have a fake I.D. We had to find someone who, for a few bucks, would contribute to the delinquency of three minors.

We started walking toward a black neighborhood nearby where we were sure to find some guys hanging out on a Saturday night.  When we got about two blocks, we were surrounded by ten or fifteen black guys.  One held a butcher knife and yelled, “Let’s kill ‘em!”  We were too scared to run.  It was as if our feet had melted into the pavement, and we couldn’t budge.  Here we were, three dumb white kids wearing coats and ties in the middle of a gang of angry black men.  Where was Tarzan when you need him?

As we were contemplating our eventual demise, an older man stepped forward.  He appeared to be the leader.  He was my height, perfect for staring into my eyes.  “Didn’t I meet you last week?,” he asked me.  It took me a minute to realize it was Bowlegs Miller.  His band, Bowlegs Miller and The Triangles, played at a dance I attended.  Since I was interested in jazz, I went back stage during the band’s break and talked to him about playing the sax. “YES!.” I responded to his question.  We spent the next three hours sitting on the curb, sharing beer with Bowlegs and the gang.  The guy with the knife was disappointed at not being allowed to slice us up and went home.

The moral of this story:  Get a fake I.D. or get to know your sax players.

Speaking of knives, I picked up a guy in midtown headed to Memphis Country Club.  He was carrying what I first thought was a tool kit.  “Doing some handy work today?,” I asked.  “This is a case of knives,” he answered.  OK, I get it, he’s a knife thrower.  “I’m a cook,” he said, stepping on that theory.  “When I started working at the club, all the other cooks were recent graduates from culinary schools, and each had his own knife.  I decided to get my own so I could keep up.”

I’m sure you all have seen a movie in which someone gets in a cab and says, “Just drive.”  Well, it happened to me.  Normally the cab’s computer displays both the pick-up location and the destination, but not this time.  It was a twenty-something woman I picked up on Morrison Street in midtown.  “Where you going?,” I asked.  “Just drive down Union,” she said.  I asked her, “West or east?”  “Turn right, and drive slow,” she said.  I was curious, but didn’t press the issue.  “I’m lookin’ for a guy without a shirt,” she said.

I don’t know about you, but I hate guys without shirts.  White guys, that is.  Black guys can get away with it because they don’t have pastey-white skin.  They can also get away with shaved heads, whereas white guys with shaved heads just look ill.

What’s the deal with guys without shirts?  Did they simply forget to put one on, or are they trying to break the habit?  Maybe they gave the shirts off their backs to other guys without a shirts.  They could be aliens on a limited budget.  Maybe there’s really only 500 shirts in the world, and we take turns.  And, by the way, what’s the deal with the shoe in the middle of the street?

My passenger wasn’t carrying an extra shirt that I could see, so that wasn’t the reason she was looking for him.  If there was going to be trouble, I wanted to know.  “Did this guy do something to you?,” I asked her.  “He owes me some money,” she replied.  Yep, sounded like trouble to me.

After several blocks she said, “Drive past Printer’s Alley, he might be there.”  Nope, not there.  “Take me to Neil’s,” she said.  Neil’s is a midtown club.  “You don’t know where I can get a job, do ya?,” shed asked me.  “What can you do,” I asked.  “Nothing.  Never had a job.”

She and her husband came here from Louisiana.  He was arrested for distribution, and had been in jail for over a month on a $45,000 bail.  She said the shirtless guy owed her $2,000.  I wonder for what.

Had some good long-distance trips this day.  One was a guy I picked up in the medical center and took him out near Shelby Farms.  He wasn’t interested in conversation, but his money spoke to me.

Went to Willet Street, also in midtown, and picked up a lively thirty-something woman.

When I pulled up, I signaled the computer to call the customer and let her know I was there.  She stuck her head out the door and said she needed five minutes.  “I’ll have to start the meter,” I told her.  “I’m cool with that,” she said.

I was listening to the jazz station, and we she got in she said, “Aw right, good music!”  “Sorry I took so long.  I was up late finishing some business.”  What sort of business are you in?,” I asked.  “I’m a psychologist, she said.  She was very energetic with a good attitude.  I told her about the time in the 70s when I was in therapy following my divorce, private and group.  She asked if it helped.  “Yeah, I slept with two women in the group.” I said.  “Well, that certainly helps,” she replied.

She said her office is off Germantown Parkway, a very long way from midtown.  I asked her, “More neurotics out there?”  “Wi th money, “ she answered.

It was an airport trip, and she was headed to D.C. to meet some friends for a three-day bike trip along the Cheasapeake and Ohio Canal.  I liked her, and her tip.

I usually hang out in the midtown area, otherwise known to us as zone 111.  This zone accounts for most of our business, and midtowners tip better than anyone.

The computer rang out the three dings indicating I have a trip.  It was to an apartment building next to a railroad track on south McLean.  Young twenty-something guy got in for the trip to Bar Dog Tavern downtown where he tends bar.  I asked if the trains bother him.  “I’m from south Boston so I’m used to the noise,” he said.

Got another midtown trip from Madison and Rozelle to Outback Steakhouse on Union.  It was a three-dollar trip, but the young woman gave me a ten.  I like it!

Picked up a woman in the medical center, and took her to the library at the University of Memphis.  She wanted to research their graduate program in higher education.  Another long trip.

Went to a tattoo parlor a Summer and National where a big, young dude got in.  He was dressed in all black with black fingerless gloves and a little black pouch on either side of his belt.  He looked pissed, but when I started talking with him, he had a surprisingly meek voice.  He was learning to be a tattoo artist from his father who owned the shop.  I was taking him to Blues City Cafe on Beale Street.  “Do you work there?,” I asked.  “I’m a bus boy,” he said.  I countered with, “You look like you could bus heads.”   He laughed, and didn’t kill me.

From there I went to the zoo, and picked up a couple from Middleton, New Jersey.  I told them my father was raised in Atlantic City, but I hadn’t been there since 1972 when I attended his funereal.  We talked about the board walk, and how much Atlantic City has changed since 72.  Took the to the Peabody.

Picked up another visiting couple at Stax.  They were from Florida, and had come here as tourists.  They were blown away by the exhibit at Stax.  The guy said he’s a musician, and soul is his kind of music.  I took them to the Westin Hotel downtown, and along the way recommended several restaurants.

© 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.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taxi 18

A compilation from two day shifts

I finally decided to surrender to baldness.  It happened one day in the cab when I looked in the mirror and saw the few remaining hairs on top of my head standing straight up about three inches.  “Sheesh!,” I thought, “I’m beginning to look like Professor Irwin Corey.”  So that night I shaved the top of my head.

Professor Irwin Corey
I was actually cursed to be bald many years ago.  When I was a teenager, I had a head of nice, thick hair.  One day at the barbershop, the barber, out of the blue said, “You’ll never go bald with that hair.”  It was the dreaded “reverse-never-going-to-happen curse.”  Someone says it’s never going to happen, and of course, it happens.  I only wish it had worked when, years later, a woman I know read my horoscope, and told me I would never be rich.  Apparently the “reverse-never-going-to-happen curse” occasionally shoots blanks.

Driving 302, a Grand Marqui with nice leather seats and only 172,000 miles. The Marquis have a very smooth ride, unlike the Impalas which have lousy shocks.

I picked up a guy at a law firm on Adams to take him to the airport.  “Where you flying to?.” I asked. “Charlotte,” he answered.  He said he’d been in Memphis for just a couple of days with a buddy.  “I’ll never come back here,” he said.  “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “What happened?”  “I spent the night in jail.  Had too much to drink on Beale Street, then went to the Westin to get my bags.  I wasn’t staying there, but just left the bags there for awhile, and they gave me a hard time about it.  Things got outta hand, so they called the cops, who showed up in about two seconds.  I tried to outrun the cops, but they got me and charged me with public drunkeness, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest.  Fortunately, my attorney got the charges dropped, and is going to try to get my record expunged.  I could be in bigger trouble if he’s unsuccessful.”  “How so?,” I asked.  “Im an airline pilot, and could lose my job.  And, I fly international which means every time I land, authorities check my passport, and I don’t need an arrest record showing up.,” he explained.  I tried to ease his concerns by telling him the court will most likely expunge his record since they dropped the charges, and if this is his first offense.  “It’s no fun spending the night in jail.  Happened to me once many years ago, so you’re in good company,” I offered.  Got to the airport, and wished him good luck.  Running from the cops?  What a dumb ass.

When he got out, another fellow asked if I was free.  “Yeah, where you going?, I said.  “Beale Street.  Meeting some friends later,” he replied.  “Where you from,” I asked.  “Cleveland.”  “Humph!, “ I muttered, “With all due respect, Cleveland doesn’t deserve the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame.  I dare anybody to put together an hour’s worth of Cleveland Rock N’ Roll.  It was born here.”  He took it in good spirit and admitted I was right.  “We tried to get the museum here, but the wheelers and dealers couldn’t come up with enough dough,” I explained, “So I can’t really blame Cleveland.  He asked where he could get some good barbecue on Beale Street.  “The best place downtown is the world famous Rendezvous.  It’s just two blocks north of Beale,” I offered, “I can take you there if you want to eat now.”  On the way I pointed out Sun Studio, “That’s where the revolution began,” I bragged.

Went to Holiday Inn Express in midtown and picked up a family of four.  They were from Switzerland, and wanted to go to Graceland.  The father had a kind of Elvis-style hair and shades.  He and I chatted about Elvis and Switzerland.  He said they live on a mountain overlooking a beautiful valley.  Turns out he was here to record a record at Sun Studio with Jerry Lee Lewis’s band.  A Swiss rock n’ roller.  What dya know!  He told me his name, but when I tried to recall it later in the day, all I heard was Shiny Doorknob.

Went to Motel 6 on Pauline in the medical center where I picked up a drag queen named Candy.  Tight shirt, tight jeans, platform shoes, blue eye shadow and orange wig.  Since it was a guy, I figured he could put his bag in the trunk himself, like most men do, but in his/her most feminine voice, he/she said. “My leg hurts, can you get my bag?”  I thought, “My back hurts and my toe is cramped,” but I relented, “Yes mam.”  The bag weighed a ton, and I wondered how he/she got it down from the second floor.  “These people here are mean.  I need to go to another motel,” he/she said.  We headed to the Lamplighter at Lamar and Bellevue, not exactly The Plaza.  I got the bag out of the trunk and said, “Be careful,” to which the reply was, “Don’t worry about me honey.”

While in midtown, I was signaled to go to a medical research building on Cleveland at Monroe where a young man in scrubbs got in, headed to the airport.  I always like to know where people flying out are going.  “San Antonio,” he said.  “Did ya really think yall could beat the Grizzlies?, I asked with pride in my voice.  “Yeah, I know,” he replied, “The Grizzlies really gave the Spurs a hard time.”  Now that I had weakened his defenses, I thought I would go in for the kill, “Ya know, you’re one ugly bastard.”  Just kidding.  He was a nice guy.

Got to the airport, and he handed me his credit card.  I swiped it on the computer but the swipe wasn’t working so I got an impression of it on the receipt.  I’d have to enter the information in the computer manually, so instead of keeping him waiting, I returned the card, and bid him a good trip.   Then I entered the info only to learn the card was declined.  Twenty nine bucks just evaporated.  I still have the receipt and occasionally run the card info, but it continues to be declined.  Next time, nobody leaves the cab without proper authorization.

As I was leaving the airport, I was signaled to go to the airport hotel and pick up a guy named Jonathan.  It was the weekend for the Beale Street Music Fest, and there were about fifty young people standing in front of the hotel, presumably waiting for rides.  I entered the “call customer” code to let him know I was there.  While I was waiting, two guys and a young woman asked if I could take them downtown.  “I’m booked,” I said, “but if he doesn’t show up soon, I’ll take you.”  Again I signaled the customer that I was waiting.  After the third signal and no response, I called the trio over and said to one of the guys, “If your name is Jonathan, hop in.”  He didn’t get it so I said, “Your name is Jonathan, and the meter’s running.”  They got in and off we went.  I could tell they were stoned because they laughed at everything.  I let them out at Beale Street and got a good tip.  “Sorry, Jonathan, but business is business.  Hope you’re not still waiting.”

Went back to midtown where most of the cab business is.  Picked up a couple at a music store on Poplar headed to Beale Street.  I heard the woman ask the guy if he got his strings.  This was the weekend for the annual Blues Awards.  I asked him if he was in a band performing at the awards.  He said he was solo, blues mandolin.  He also said Downbeat Magazine gave him a four-star rating.  “The highlight of my career” he said.  He looked to be around fifty, so he must have been at it awhile.  He was nominated for Best Instrumentalist Blues Award.  I told them I used designed the Blues Awards posters for twenty-two years.  Small world.  When I dropped them off, I wished him luck. His name is Rich DelGrosso, and his web site is

Stay tuned.......

© 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.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Taxi 17

Monday, April 18, 2011  Day Shift

After the last time when one passenger ripped me off and was arrested, and another accused me of stealing her non-existent fifty dollar bill, I was a little reluctant to get back on the “horse.”  In fact, I took a week off from driving.

It’s rare when someone rips me off, but it happens, and I hate confrontations.  It’s not what I signed up for.  But back behind the wheel I went.

I arrived at the cab yard around five forty-five a.m.  Slim pickens.  Most of the cabs on the lot were slated for repairs leaving two handicap vans, which I’m not yet certified for, and three checker cabs.  I picked number 382, and went inside to tell the supervisor, and to get the daily taxi card.

I got in 382, adjusted the seat and the mirrors, set the radio stations to my favorites, and turned on the two-way radio.  There was a tap on my window.  It was the shop foreman, “382 is scheduled for transmission repair,” he said.  Cabs due for repairs are supposed to be parked facing the wall.  382 wasn’t.

I head back to the office and noticed that 44 has just pulled in from the night shift.  I picked 44, got in, adjusted the seat and mirrors, set the radio stations, got my Tom Tom out and plugged it in, turned on the two-way and the computer, and logged on.  “I.D. Out Of Service,” appeared on the screen.  “What the...” I muttered.  Tried logging on again, and same thing.

So I head back to the office and tell the supervisor.  She checks her computer: license valid, no tickets; permit up to date; physical not due until 2013.  She’s new, and she couldn’t figure it out.  “Maybe I made a mistake,” I said, “I’ll try again.”  Same thing.  At this point I’m pissed and frustrated.  Another chapter in the “It’s Always Something” book of life’s little irritations.

I pack up my Tom Tom, go inside, hand her the taxi card, and say, “I’m going home.”  This day wasn’t getting off to a good start.  “Wait,” she says, "I’ll call So n’ So,” the veteran supervisor.  So n’ So tells her what to look for on the computer.  Turns out I owe forty-two bucks on my bond.  SHEEESH!  Couldn’t they have emailed me or called before I drove all the way down here?  Why no, that would be a courtesy.  Aren’t we in the courtesy business? “Mam, let me get that bag for you.“  “Can I help with your groceries?”  “That’s alright, just forget the sixty cents,” (you cheap bastard).

She says I can pay at the end of my shift.  So I get back in 44, which turned out to be a new car, less than 10,000 miles.  Most cabs average 200,000.  Drove one that had 300,000.  “Sweet, a new Grand Marquis,” I thought.

For a Monday, there wasn’t much business anywhere in town, but I did get a few trips.

I picked up a woman at Walgreens in the Medical Center.  She had a cane and was limping as she got in.  “How are you doin”, I asked.  “Oh, not so good,” she said, “I’ve got some kinda neurological disorder, and I’m allergic to the medications.”  “Sorry you’re not felling well,” I offered.  I took her to the Walgreens in midtown where the pharmacist had an over-the-counter drug she could use.  I then took her to work.  Nice size fare.

Next I went to Leath Street in north Memphis, and picked up a young woman.  The young ones are who try to rip you off, so I was a little suspicious, but didn’t insist on a deposit.  Took her to a Cricket store on Cleveland in midtown, and said I needed to hold onto her cell phone while I waited.  When she got back in, we went to a nearby ATM machine.  Good thing I didn’t ask for a deposit.  Took her back home.  Another good fare.

Computer signaled to go to an apartment building on North Belevedere in midtown where a young couple got in.  He was wearing Elvis-style sun glasses, so we chatted about the King.  He said they love his movies.  Obviously a couple of erudite scholars of film.

I took them to a nondescript building on Madison.  “What is this place?”, I asked.  “Methadone clinic,” she replied.  Later that morning I saw them walking down Union about two miles from the clinic.  Must have run out of cab fare.  I thought about giving them a free ride, but on second thought, I decided the walk would be god for them, gets that Methadone into their systems faster.

Gave a ride to the kitchen manager at Itta Bena restaurant above BB King’s on Beale.  Itta Bena is a small town in central Mississippi, and the BB King’s birthplace.  The name is derived from a Choctow phrase meaning “camp together” or “home in the woods,” and Three Stooges for “yum, yum, eat em up.”  Itta Beena is the only haute cuisine restaurant on Beale, and constantly gets rave reviews.  My passenger said they had ninety booked for this night.  Quite a haul for a Monday.

One more to tell you about.  Around three-thirty I was sent to a house on North Bellevue, and told to go to the rear.  The front of the house was boarded up and displayed a no trespassing sign.  As I pulled into the drive I noticed a group of guys next door just milling around.

In back, a woman stuck her head out the door and told me to come in.  I asked why.  She said I had to come in to sign the voucher.  There was no indication on my computer that this was a voucher trip.  Even more suspicious now, I told her to bring the voucher to the cab, but she refused, so I asked her, “What is this place?”  She wouldn’t tell me.  This was beginning to look like a horror movie with me as the victim, so I said, “Sorry, lady,” and drove off.  A few minutes later I got a message that said switch to voice (the two-way radio).  It was the dispatcher asking why I didn’t go in and sign the voucher.  I explained my concerns, but he insisted I go back.  I said, “Get someone else.”  He told me if I didn’t go back he would cut me off for an hour.  “Go ahead,” I said, “I’m signing off anyway.”  It turned out to be a shelter for abused women.

More next time......

© 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.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Taxi 16

Thursday, March 31, 2011  Day Shift

Thursday was busy.  Made good money, but most of my passengers weren’t very talkative, so the blogworthiness award, “The Bloggy,” goes to only three riders.

The first was a young man I picked up on Maury between Tutwiler and Jackson.  He was a third grade teacher, and I gave him a ride to a new school on Sam Copper Boulevard.  Why it’s called a boulevard is beyond me.

As we rode, we talked about the state of public education.  He told me he has seen only a handful of his student’s parents, and half the class still needs glasses even months after the parents were notified.  And, he said one eight-year-old girl has been in twelve schools in the last five years.  “These kids didn’t ask to be born,” he said, “they deserve better.”

The second Bloggy goes to another young man, or in his case, “dude.”  From midtown to Blues City Cafe where he is a cook.  I asked him what his specialty was, expecting the name of a really unique dish.  His answer was, “Grilling.”  I suppose that’s a legitimate specialty along with steaming, boiling and flipping.

After dropping him off, I parked on Peabody Place between Third and Second to count the day’s loot.  A young guy with a small suitcase wandered up and asked if I was waiting for someone.  When I said no, he asked me to take him to the airport.

“Where you from?,” I asked.  “Texas, but I live in Tampa,” he replied.  I told him about the time I went to Tampa to art direct a photo shoot.  We selected Tampa because there was an animal trainer there, and the ad featured a businessman with a lion.  The lion was a piece of cake.  When we wanted him to growl and show his teeth, the trainer would simply tease him with a broom.  After we shot the lion, the trainer wanted to get a shot of his baboon which he had in his trailer.  The trainer sat the baboon in a small director’s chair and the photographer starting taking pictures.  Suddenly the baboon got up and charged directly toward my crotch.  I jumped out of the way in order to save my twig and berries, and the baboon ran out of the studio and down the alley with all of us chasing him.  Fortunately, the trainer found him sitting on a fence post.

Anyway, my passenger was an airplane mechanic in the Air Force.  His plane had a layover in Memphis on his way to Texas, but his second flight was cancelled, and he had an eight-hour wait for the next plane.  He decided to explore our downtown.  “Someone at the airport told me to go to Beale Street, and I asked him what Beale Street was.”  He said he soon found out, and I offered what I could to further his education.

As we rode down Riverside Drive toward the freeway, he said, “What river is that?”  I replied with, “Ever hear of the Amazon?”  “Yeah,” he answered.  “Well, that’s not it,” I said, “That’s the Mighty Mississippi.  You know, Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn.  It was discovered by Hernando DeSoto when his car broke down on the way to Little Rock.”  OK, so he’s in the Air Force.  I’m just glad he’s not in charge of maps.  Let’s see, isn’t Libya just outside of Chicago?

After letting him out at the airport, I stopped at a convenience store back in midtown.  As a guy walked past, he pointed to the cab and said, “That’s not yellow, it’s orange.”  I replied, “It’s Swamp Holly Yellow, the most visible color in the spectrum.”  “I stand corrected,” he said.  Damn right.  Ain’t nobody gonna diss my cab.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011.  Worst cab day ever.

A few days ago I was talking with another driver who’s been driving much longer than I.  He had spent the past three days training a new driver whom he said was extremely nervous the entire time.  He told the trainee that if he seemed nervous to passengers, he was going to get ripped off.  It turned out to be a prophetic conversation.

My first trip of the day started around 6:15 a.m.  I picked up a young woman at Methodist Hospital in midtown and took her to Slumber Lane in Frayser.

She was quiet the whole way.  When we arrived at her house I told her the fare was $19.80.  She said it was a voucher trip.  I explained to her that a voucher trip is when the hospital pays, and the instructions on the cab’s computer indicate a voucher.  Plus, I don’t leave the hospital until I have the voucher in hand.  She still insisted it was a voucher, so I radioed the dispatcher who said it was a cash trip and the passenger called from her cell phone.  I then told her that if she wasn’t going to pay, I’d have to take her to the nearest Police precinct. “Go ahead,” she said.  As we were driving, she noted that I passed the street where the precinct was located. “You missed the turn,” she said.  “I decided to take you back to the hospital instead,” I told her. At this point she kept threatening to jump out of the moving cab, so I pulled over and let her out with a few choice words.  Later that day, I went to the Police precinct in midtown, and filed a complaint complete with her name and address.  She faces a charge of theft under $500.00, will be fingerprinted and photographed, and will have to appear in court or be arrested.

This day also proved to be slow.  I had a few more passengers, then around 1:30 I went to the Cricket store on Poplar across from East High school where a young pregnant woman was waiting.  I took her to an apartment building on Southern near the university.  I told her the fare was $5.80.  She asked if I could change a fifty.  I said yes, but then she said she would go inside and get change.  I knew right away she intended to rip me off, so I said again I’d make change.  She claimed she’d been ripped off by a cab driver once, and wasn’t going to give me the fifty.  I said, “How am I gonna rip you off while you’re sitting here in the cab with me?,  Just show me the fifty.”  “I ain’t gotta show you nuthin’,” she bitched.  I told her I’d have to call the police.  “Go ahead.  I’ll just tell them how you acted,” the bitch bitched again.   So I called the police, and waited for them to settle this bullshit.

As we waited, two of her girlfriends showed up.  “He done called the police cause I wouldn’t give him my fifty.  He’s trying to rip me off,” more bitching.  One of her friends paid me, and I called the police and cancelled.  When she got out of the cab, I lit a cigarette.  She bitched to her friends, “He’s smokin’ in the cab with a pregnant lady.”  She said this standing next to one friend who was smoking.  I never smoke with a passenger on board.  “And he’s got dog in there with a pregnant lady,” she ranted, and yes, Gracie, sweet lovable, laid back Gracie, was with me.  I just said, “Fuck it,” and drove off.  “Whats next?,” I thought, “A priest with a 38?

I got back to midtown and was dinged to pick up on Adams and take the customer to St. Jude. Along the way, a message appeared on the computer: “Mr. Tucker, call the Operations Director.”  SHEEESH!!!!  I called and learned that the bitching, ranting bitch-bitch called Yellow Cab and told them I stole fifty dollars from her.  That’s the INVISIBLE, NON-EXISTENT fifty.  I explained what happened and that I had been ripped off earlier.  I told him I’d had enough and was coming in as soon as I stopped by the house.  I wanted to take Gracie home first.

After leaving St. Jude, another message appeared on the computer: “Mr. Tucker, come straight to the office.  Don’t go home first.”  This didn’t sound good.  On the way, I kept fearing each police car that I saw, thinking I was going to be arrested.

When Gracie and I went into the office, all the women fell in love with my sweet dog, and why shouldn’t they?

We went back to the O.D.’s office and sat down.  I removed my sunglasses, and looked him straight in the eye and again explained everything in minute detail.  His response was, “First of all, I didn’t think you would do anything like this, and secondly, she called here three times, talked to three different people, and gave each a different story.  I’ll take care of it.  On another note, don’t take your dog with you.”  “I thought it was OK since we give rides to passengers with dogs,” I replied.  He said, That’s true, but this is your dog and if she bit anyone, you could be sued. I know you’re an independent contractor, but I want to look out for everyone’s welfare.”  He’s really a good guy, and I like him.  I thanked him, and left.

It’s my nature to trust people, even though I know better.  From now on, I’m going to insist on a deposit when I suspect a rip off.  No deposit, no ride. I’m also changing my name to Vinnie “The Executioner” Sarsaparilla.

© 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.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Taxi 15

Hello readers.  It’s been a while since my last story, and in the meantime, I turned another year older.  “Whoopie!” my ass!  I remember hearing older people say, “Growing older is no piece of cake.”  It’s actually more like a Twinkee someone stepped on.  When you get past sixty, you get hit with the famous “flying pains” which crash indiscriminately into your body.  You could be walking along with a smile on your face and WHAM, suddenly your foot hurts, or your arm, knee, elbow, hair...then thirty minutes later, the pain is gone.  But I’ve discovered a way to halt the aging process:  I’m going to join the Republican party since they’re always trying to turn the clock back.

I haven’t written in a while because I’ve actually had some design projects for a change.  If you haven’t read Taxi 1, the you should know that I’m a graphic designer, and started driving a cab when my business was reduced to one active client.  I can make more in an hour designing than in a day of driving.  But I love driving a cab.

I completed a nice and lucrative poster project.  Only the second time in 40 years I’ve been paid for a poster.  The other time was for a poster I did for the Notodden, Norway annual blues festival (largest in Europe). The others were done pro bono.  I created and produced the annual Blues Awards poster for 22 years, free of charge, and worth over $120,000.  Then the Blues Foundation brings in a new director from Florida who sent me an email saying they didn’t need me anymore.  Phone call would have been nice.  It seems some of the board members thought my last poster was racist, which is total horse shit especialy considering the fact that it was approved by a black interim director.

The blues posters can be seen in clubs throughout the U.S.  Warner Brothers Records has thirteen of them, and several adorn the walls in Gibson Guitar’s conference room.  I’ve even had posters appear in the TV shows “Thirtysomething,” and “Going to California,” and one is in “Cast Away” in Helen Hunt’s character’s office.  Read more about me here:  You can see some of my posters at

But that’s not why you got in my cab.

The day began with a woman from Connecticut who was here visiting her father.  Took her to the airport.  She commented on the nice weather even though it was cold.  “Not as cold as where I’m going.  Still snow on the ground,” she said.  “You should come here in the spring when the azaleas and dogwoods are in bloom,” I suggested.  Nice tip.

Later, I picked up a young couple on Johnson Circle near Tillman.  They asked how much the fare would be to their destination.  I always hate to estimate fares.  I could radio the dispatcher and find out, but he’s usually busy and it could take a while to reach him so I guessed.  When we got there, the fare was much higher than my guess, and they wanted me to wait for them and take them back home, so I didn’t charge for waiting.  Hey, I’m a nice guy!  The rate is twenty cents for each one-ninth of a mile, but math was never my strong point, especially fractions.  I’m an artist, not a rocket scientist.

A woman got in my cab and said, “Knmlknas, nonss wjosl and mpoi, cvosie,” well, that’s what it sounded like.  No she wasn’t speaking any Slavic language, she was as American as Thomas Jefferson.  But I could only understand about one out of every six words.  Thankfully I already knew her destination.

That afternoon I picked up another woman whom I could easily understand, but she wouldn’t shut up.  Her sister didn’t pay the utilities, and she wasn’t spending another night there.  She wanted to go to a motel.  She told me about her heart surgery and her diabetes, and how her sister put her in a home to die, but she got out, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah......and then tell me again.  ”Yes mam, whatever you say. I hear ya,” I would reply whenever she would shut up long enough to drink some water.  All in all she was a nice person, and it’s my job to listen.

Got a trip from Beverly Mansion on Central at Melrose to the airport.  The rider was a young man in his thirties, a landscaper who cares for the grounds at the mansion.  He said he was originally from upstate New York and came to Memphis with his band to become a rock star.  The other members didn’t like the Bluff City and returned home.  When the landscaper realized he was no Elvis, he took up dirt as a living.  He was returning to Rochester to deal with divorce matters.  “She could suck the chrome off a trailer hitch but was dumb as a goat,” he said, “plus, she was twelve years younger than me.”  “Yeah, I lived with one like that about thirty years ago,” I replied.  I went on to say, “I once took her to the fourth of July fireworks show downtown where she asked me what the fourth of July was all about.”  “I told her it marked the end of the fourth of liquor and the beginning of the fifth.”  “Oh,” she said, “I wondered where ‘fifth of liquor’ came from.”

He said he hires a lot of young black guys for various projects because they’re hard workers.  We talked about black youths and African Americans in general.  We both agreed the young ones are trend setters as evidenced by their music and street lingo which eventually seep into popular American culture.  I pointed out that black people are often not afraid to show their emotions, and many whom I’ve met have a genuine and endearing way of laughing and expressing themselves.  I dropped him off, and wished him a safe flight.  Got a nice tip.

Gave a ride to a young woman and her two little kids.  She wasn’t very talkative, and the kids were also very quiet.  I noticed the little boy’s fascination with my Tom Tom GPS as his listened to the female voice speaking the directions.  At one point the Tom Tom said. “Bear left.”  I turned to the boy and said, “I don’t see a bear.  Do you see a bear?”  His eyes got big and his mother finally broke her stony silence with a laugh.

Over the past few months I have had the same passenger three times to date.  She’s a woman whom appears to be in her forties, and who is working toward her masters in special education.  I’ve taken her from her apartment building to Snowden School, where she’s a student teacher, and to Christian Brothers University.  She’s very pleasant and dedicated to her work.  I told her about my daughter who will start grad school this July in Portland, Oregon.  She too will become a teacher.  Oregon requires teachers to have a masters degree, which I believe all states should do to improve the quality of public education.  This process also weeds out those who are not fully committed.  My passenger, by the way, has to use a wheel chair.  She propels it with her feet like she’s walking while sitting, but she seems to get around pretty well.  I just help her into the cab, and place the wheel chair in the trunk.  Next time I see her, I’ll have to tell her about Yellow Cab’s wheel-chair-assisted vans.  That way she won’t have to get out of her chair.

Later that day I took a young man to his job as bartender at Friday’s downtown.  Interesting guy.  From Newport Beach, CA.  He had worked for Random House in L.A. screening submissions, but the company shut down the west coast office and offered to transfer him to New York.  He turned it down because he said he’d have to work about sixty hours a week.  He came to Memphis because of his girlfriend who also tends bar even though she has a degree in micro biology.  I turned him onto my blog.  Bartenders and servers always tip cab drivers well.

Took a couple from east Memphis to the airport.  They were headed to Nassau.  I told them about the time in 1969 when four friends and I went there, and how we connected with four wealthy girls from Lima, Peru.  They provided a picnic on the beach every day for us, and we returned home, my friend Johnny said, “We’re driving to Lima.”  The Pan American highway and four good tires will get you there.  Johnny was “Mr. Adventure.”  I could always count on a memorable experience just by hanging out with him.  If you want to read the full story of the great Lima, Peru adventure, go to this link:  It’s a humdinger!

Ding, ding, ding goes the cab’s computer.  Pick up on Peabody.  She was a nice middle-age woman headed to the airport.  “Where are you flying to?,” I asked.  “A conference in Vancouver,” she answered.  “I understand Vancouver is a beautiful city,” I went on, “What line of work are you in?,”  “I teach German literature at the University of Memphis, and this is a literary conference.”  That explained her German accent.  As it turned out, she and her husband were in Tokyo when the earthquake hit.  “We were in a park but the quake lasted so long we had to find something to hold onto,” she explained.  “We were lucky.  We caught the last flight out.  It took us seven hours to reach the airport which normally would have taken about forty-five minutes.”  She also said Tokyo didn’t suffer as much damage as other areas.  Her flight had a layover in Los Angeles, so when I dropped her off I said, “Have a nice trip, and I hope L.A. doesn’t quake while you’re there.”

Last night, Friday, I decided to drive, thinking that since it had been a beautiful spring day, people would want to gey out and head for the many restaurants and clubs downtown.  Well, people were out alright, but they surely weren’t taking cabs to get there.  It was the worst shift I ever had, and I wasn’t alone.  In all the zones displayed on the computer, the available trips column was lined with big fat zeroes.  I didn’t make a dime, only enough to cover leasing the cab.

The first of my few trips was to a condo on Mud Island where I picked up two guys and a woman who wanted to go to Huey’s at Second and Union.   The couple were here from St. Louis visiting the other guy who had just moved from east Tennessee.  I told them about my blog and the Memphis Flyer, and showed them a picture of the Flyer cover on my iPhone.  They were impressed, as well they should be.  Not everyone gets to ride with a celebrity.  They asked how far the Flying Saucer was from Huey’s. “Two blocks, unless you’re drunk,” I answered.  They laughed, so I said, “Maybe four blocks in your case.”  More laughs.  Hey, I should go on the road.  Oh!  I AM on the road.  Making passengers laugh usually leads to a good tip.  But it was so slow this night, I just kept tipping myself.

I spent most of the night trolling downtown, driving slowly next to the sidewalk filled with pedestrians on Second, cruising past the hotels, making my presence known at Beale and Second, or rolling past restaurants and clubs on South Main.  Midtown, which accounts for the most cab business, was completely dead.  Was it a Twitter conspiracy or what?  I demand an explanation.  I should have driven to a Midtown house, knocked on the door and screamed, “You’re supposed to take a cab!”

Around 11:15, I was flagged on Monroe near Second by a thirty-something dude who needed a lift to The Lofts condos on Tennessee street.  Nice guy.  Said he’d been living it up all week and needed to get to his pad where a visitor would be arriving soon.  I don’t think he was talking about Santa.  Obviously a late night tryst.  I remember those.

Later, I picked up a disheveled runt of a woman at The Med emergency room and took her to Methodist Hospital’s emergency room. She had a large, bulging plastic bag and I wondered if she was going from one E.R. to another collecting... (Aw, yuk! I don’t even want to think about it!)

Around 12:30 I get dinged to pick up a woman on North Johnson Circle in the hood.  I pull up to the duplex and signal the computer to call the customer and tell her the cab has arrived.  I wait, and wait, and wait.  Here I am sitting in a cab late on a Friday night in the middle of the hood.  I remember several black passengers tell me that even they don’t go out of the house at night.  “Stay outta the hood,” one old man told me.  I do another customer call out.  A few minutes later the customer comes to the cab and says she needs a few more minutes.  I tell her I’ll have to start the meter, and she says that’s okay.  For some reason I felt particularly uneasy this night, so I get my taser out and activate it.  Sure enough, I notice this young guy with his hands under his shirt approaching on my side.  When I pointed the taser at him, he must of seen the red laser dot on his chest because he turned and went back from where he came.  “Come on lady, get your butt in the cab so I can get the hell outta here,” I say to myself.  She finally shows up, and we head to the Rehab club on South Front.

My last trip of the night was a drunk, t-shirted guy waving a credit card who flagged me down on Peabody Place between Third and Second.  “Hey man, get me outta here.  I got money, just take me to an ATM.”  He gets in on the left side, sitting directly behind me which I don’t like for safety reasons, so I tell him to move over to the right.  “They want to fight, man.  I’m a ladies man, and I pissed them off,” he slurs.  At this point in the night, I’m ready to go home, and I really don’t want any conversation, especially with a drunk.  “Where you headed?,” I ask.  “Bartlett, out Austin Peay,” he said.  “Good,” I thought because it’s about fourteen or fifteen miles.  I took him to an ATM, and off we went.  He didn’t talk much, and I wasn’t interested.  He tipped me ten bucks.  The end.

© 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.)