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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Taxi 11

Remember back in the 80s when cell phones were big and bulky and had a six inch antenna?  They looked like a gravy boat on a stick.  Today, cell phones can do everything short of waxing your pubic hair.  They’re called “smart phones.”  I have a dumb phone.  Just the basics.  I hardly even use it.  Hell, I don’t even answer the phone at home.  I carry a cell phone because I ride a Harley and my wife thought it would be a good idea in case of an emergency.  So I carry it with me everywhere in case of an emergency, like ordering take out.

What I don’t get is all these people who walk around, constantly glued to their phones, having long-winded conversations no matter where they are.  We used to say “looked like the phone was attached to his head.”  Well, I’ll be damned.  Now they literally are attached to their heads thanks to Bluetooth.  So it’s common to see people everywhere who appear to be talking to themselves, and you know what we used to say about them.

I was in a restaurant the other day for lunch.  Not many people there, but there was one woman sitting a couple of tables away from mine all alone, eating lunch with her friend who was on the other end of the phone.  I guess the friend was also all alone in a restaurant somewhere.  I could hear every word, even with her mouth full.

Have you ever wanted to grab someone’s cell phone in mid-converstion and say to the other person, “Scotty, get a lock on the Romulan.”

My mother used to talk on the phone for hours at a time.  It was her way of socializing.  Whenever I walked into the room, she would start speaking in Yiddish so I couldn’t understand what she was saying.   Like I really cared.  I’ll never forget that historic night in July, 1969, when man first stepped foot on the moon.  I, like millions of others worldwide, was glued to the TV in anticipation of the most significant event in recorded history.  My mother, of course was on the phone in the other room.  As the capsule began its descent to the surface, I ran into the other room and said excitedly, “They’re about to land on the moon!”  Mother began speaking Yiddish, and to this day I’ll swear she said, “My son’s crazy.  He thinks we’re landing on the moon.”  I’m sure I heard the word “mashugana” which is Yiddish for crazy.

The other day I picked up a guy at a popular Midtown.  Turned out to be the owner.  He came out of the building talking on his cell and got in the cab talking on his cell, not even acknowledging my presence.  I alway greet passengers with a friendly, “Hey. How are you today?”  But this guy simply ignored me, and I could tell by his conversation he was an arrogant little prick, so I thought I’d have a little fun.  On the way to his home, I repeatedly swayed the cab from left to right and watched in the rearview mirror as he rocked back and forth, left to right, right to left.  Upon arrival, he handed me the money, got out and walked to his door, the whole time on the phone.

The rocking back and forth reminds me of the best talk show story I ever heard as told buy comic Jay Thomas.  It’s such a great story, Letterman has Thomas tell it every year a Christmastime.

When Thomas was a young long-haired hippie in the early 70s, he worked as a DJ on a local radio station.  One day he and his engineer had to do a remote broadcast from the grand opening of a new car dealership.  The star attraction was none other than Clayton Moore, The Lone Ranger, in full costume complete with mask and six shooters.   When the festivities ended, someone apparently failed to provide The Lone Ranger with transportation, so he asked Thomas if he’d give him a ride to the hotel.  So the three of them pile into Thomas’s old, beat up VW with The Lone Ranger in the backseat.  Thomas and the engineer, who were completely stoned, couldn’t believe their good fortune of being in the company  of The Lone Ranger.  When they stopped at a red light, someone in a Cadillac rear ended them.  As Thomas got out to investigate, the Caddy drove off.  Well Thomas wasn’t going to let this guy get away with it so he gave chase at high speeds, weaving in and out of traffic, and looked in the rear view mirror to see The Lone Ranger rocking back an forth left to right, right to left.  When he caught up with the culprit at a stop light, Thomas got out and banged on the guy’s window causing him to get out of the car.  “You ran into my car,” shouted Thomas, “and I’m going to call the cops!”  “Oh yeah,” the guy said, “who’s going to believe a dirty hippie?”  At this point The Lone Ranger walks up and said, “I will, citizen.”

I picked up a woman at her house east Memphis to take her to work.  As she shut the cab’s door, the radio started playing the William Tell Overture.  I turned to the passenger and said, “And away we go.  Hi Ho Yellow.”  Thankfully she got the joke.  I should record that music and play it everytime someone gets in the cab.

Things were kind of slow in Midtown, so I checked the computer and saw a trip available in the Summer-Germantwon Road area, 14 miles away.  There was no cab in the area so I raced out there and won the fare.  It was a woman who sounded like she was from Jamaica.  She talked to herself, so I let out with my best De Niro:  "You talkin' to me? Are you talkin' to me?"

© 2010,  Eddie Tucker.  All rights reserved.

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

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taxi 10 New Year's Eve 2010

I knew New Year’s Eve would be busy, but I had no idea.  I worked from 4 pm to 4:30 am.  For the first couple of hours, things were slow.  I picked up an elderly man at Kroger midtown and took him to the Gilmore Apartments.  He said he was 92.  As he was getting in the cab, he said, “I spent three Christmases in the Pacific in World War II, me and my two brothers and we all came home.”  “I’ll be you’ve got some great stories to tell,” I replied, hoping to hear one.  All he did was complain about the woman who was behind him in the check out line.  “I thought she was going to push that cart right up my ass.”  I said, “So tell me what it was like in the Pacific.  “People these days just have no manners.  I have to go spend the night with my sister in South Memphis.  Best just stay indoors all night lest ya get shot.  They shoot ya for no reasons these days.”  I’m sure he had plenty of reasons to shoot in the Pacific campaign but I’ll never hear about it.

Around 6:00 I headed to the Liberty Bowl.  After about thirty minutes, the fans started pouring out and i got tagged by a couple for a ride to the airport.  They were from Georgia, and had flown in that morning to see Georgia get beat by Central Florida.  The didn’t even have any luggage.  I was listening to game on the radio.  It was pretty boring: 3 to 3 at half time, and 6 to 3 at the end of the third quarter.  In the fourth, UCF made the only touchdown to win the game.  “We had a chance to go ahead early in the game,” said the husband.  We were inches from the goal line and it was fourth down, but instead of going for it, coach  Richt called for a field goal.”  “That’s insane,” I answered, “a bowl game is no time to be conservative.”  My passengers agreed.

After I dropped them off at the airport, it started to rain and rained continuously all night long.  Geeees!!!  I hate driving at night in the damn rain, but I think it contributed to a busy shift.  About this time, the computer lit up with trips in every zone, and messages from the dispatcher: “Cabs needed at the Westin.”   “Cabs needed at the Marriott.”   “Cabs needed at the Sleep Inn.”   “Cabs needed at the Peabody.”    “Cabs needed at the Crowne Plaza.”  And so on.  It was so busy that at one time there was 22 trips available in the coveted midtown zone, and that was at 4:15 am.

Whenever I tried to make it back to midtown, I got sidetracked by a trip elsewhere.  Eventually I began rejecting trips until I could get to midtown.  Midtowners tip better than anyone else.  When you’re notified of a trip, you have the option to accept or reject.   Sometimes when you reject a trip you get the message that rejects aren’t allowed.  If you don’t accept, you get booked off which means you aren’t available for any trips for about ten minutes when you can book back on.  Why do they have a reject button if they don’t want you to reject a trip? Am I right, people???

Downtown was alive.  People were everywhere, and they were either all dressed up or all dressed down.  One young woman was wearing a shiny gold mini shirt just long enough to cover her ass.  I wondered if  she was planning to sit down?  I can hear it now: "No thanks, I'll just stand. No really, I like standing.  I stand maybe ten times a day. And you know what they say 'Standing leads to walking.'"  You could feel the excitement and I was vicariously taking part.  The sidewalks were jammed and traffic moved at a snail’s pace.  I could hear people’s conversations as I creeped down Second Street:  “Yeah, man. She said fifty dollars for a blow job.”  “Where’s Jessica?  Anybody seen Jessica?”   “Do yall want to eat first?”  “I heard they were going to drop a giant guitar.”  “I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”  "Dude!"  “Damn, Jessica, where were you?”

And the cops were everywhere.  You’d think the President and Al Qaeda both were in town.  They had roads blocked even where there were no roads.

I picked up a party of four young woman at a downtown condo.  They were headed to the Westin near Beale Street for dinner.  The Westin would be blocked on Second Street  but I decided to titilate my passengers with an attempt to run the blockade knowing I would be turned away.  “What are we gonna do?” asked one of the women.  As I was approaching the Third Street blockade I said, “I’ll bet you five bucks I can get through.”  “No way,” they replied.  Sure enough, the cop moved his car and let me pass.  “How did you do that?” one of the women asked.  “I just gave him a look,” I said as I returned their five bucks.  The truth is the cops let cabs pass through this location only.

My next fare was three elderly ladies and their younger gay male friend in the Greenlaw district who were headed to the Peabody to go dancing.  The ladies were all giggly like teenagers.  Me thinks they were a bit tipsy too.

The Peabody is always packed on New Year’s Eve.  In addition to the great lobby bar, they had two ballrooms offering live music and dancing.

I tried again to get to midtown.  Along the way I stopped at a convenience store to use the restroom.  As I was standing at the urinal, my phone rang.  It was the daughter of a friend of mine who, along with three of her friends, needed a ride from South Bluffs to the Peabody.  I flushed and zipped up and zipped down to South Bluffs then deposited the gang at the hotel.

As I was about to pull out and head to midtown, a young man flagged me. “Are you available?” he asked.  I told him I was and he and his wife got in.  They were headed home near the University of Memphis.  The young man’s wife was sobbing the whole way home.  I felt like cheering her up but decided to mind my own business.

There’s something about the backseat of a cab that makes some people feel like dropping their guard.  Some just rant and rave, some just rant while others seek advice or just lay out their problems.  And then there’s the occasional sobber.

People sometimes suggest I play Cash Cab.  My response is always the same: “I’ll play Cab and you pay me in Cash.”

I picked up a young couple who were headed to his parents house in Harbortown.  A nice trip.  She was an attorney so I said, “Mind if I ask your advice about something?”  Her ears shot up like a rabbit who just farted. “Go ahead,” she replied.  “Last summer, my dentist, Dr. Timothy Kutas, accidentally drilled a hole in my tongue and it never healed.  Last month, he referred me to an oral surgeon who said he needs to do a biopsy which will cost $865.  I asked Kutas to pay, and he said he’d speak to the surgeon and call me back.  After two weeks, I called Kutas and left a message for him to call me.  A few hours later, his receptionist called to tell me Kutas wouldn’t pay because the surgeon advised him he wasn’t responsible for the current condition.  The condition wouldn’t exist if Kutas hadn’t drilled my tongue.”  She advised me to get a personal injury attorney.  As it turns out, her firm defends a lot of dentists.

Next I was signaled to go to TJ Mulligan’s on North Main where the passengers were a married couple and their male friend who said to me, “I’m drunk. Is  that OK?”  “Just as long as you don’t barf in the cab.”  I had brought some barf bags just in case.

We dropped the drunk off at his downtown apartment then headed to east Memphis to the couple’s condo.  The husband asked me where I was from. “Memphis,” I said.  “Yeah? Me too”, he replied.  He was a little less drunk.  He told me where he went to school, etc. and that his father went to East High.  “I went to East for a year and a half after I was expelled from Snowden School.  What’s you father’s name?” I asked.  “Bob (So and so),” he answered.  “No shit?  I saw your asshole uncle Bill get his ass beat by Billy Plyler on the playground. It was great,” I said. “Yeah, uncle Bill is still an asshole.  I’ll have to ask about that.” he said.    I said, “Ask him if he remembers Billy Plyler.  Your dad was OK.  He was a little goofy and his shirts always looked too big.”  Bill and Bob (So and so) own an upscale men’s clothing store which they inherited.  “We used to steal stuff all the time from that store when they were downtown in the 50s and 60s,” I offered up. “How did you remove the electronic tag?” asked the wife.  “In those days there were no tags, and you didn’t even need a receipt to return merchandise,” I replied.  Bill’s still an asshole, but brother Bob turned out alright.  He’s had several mystery novels published, and also wrote a book about a Roman Coin from the coin’s point of view.

After dropping them off, I was signaled to go to the Homestead Suites nearby on Poplar where I picked up a guy named Darrell.  And he talked like a Darrell with his strong country drawl.  “In town with my crew workin’ on the new Loews store.  I’ve built Loews stores in every state ‘cept Utah,” he said.  I guess Mormons don’t need hardware.  “Even been to Alaska,” he said.  “What’s that like?” I asked.  “It’s beautiful.  Pictures don’t do it justice.  I stayed in a hotel where they would call and wake you when the northern lights appeared, if you wanted,” he answered.  Darrell was real friendly and liked to talk, although I don’t remember what else we talked about.  I liked Darrell.  He’s a good ol’ boy just building a better world.  I’d like to have a beer with him.  I left him at another all suites hotel on Ridgeway Road.  Now I was out in the middle of nowhere, far from all the New Year’s activity.  I checked the computer and saw eleven trips available in midtown and no cabs in the area.

I raced to midtown and booked back on.  Right away I was summoned to Studio on the Square movie theater where I picked up a woman who appeared to be in her sixties.  She was all decked out in a white suit and wide brim hat.  She had started the evening with dinner at her church then went to the movies.  Apparently she couldn’t find anyone to celebrate this night with and decided come hell or high water, she was going to go out and have fun.  She wanted me to drive around downtown and past Beale Street so she could take in the excitement.  She had planned to walk down Beale but the rain prevented that.  On the way to downtown I was listening to a classic blues show on the radio, and she was singing along and laughing at some of the lyrics.  Occasionally she would identify the artists and tell me little tidbits of infirmation about them. “That’s Lighten’ Hopkins,” she said.  “Ol’ Lighten’ never cared about timing or rhyme, he just did it his way.” When we arrived downtown I drove very slowly down Second Street and paused for awhile at Beale.  “Want to go around again?” I asked.  “Naw,” she said, “best get on home.”  Home was about six miles east in Orange Mound.  She was real quiet on ride home.  “Are you still with us?” I asked.  “Yes, just listening to the music,” she replied.  I hoped she wasn’t feeling sad.  She was a nice lady.

I went back to midtown and stopped to get gas.  As I got back in the cab, a guy started walking my way from across the driveway.  Normally this indicates someone wanting a handout, but this guy wanted change for $100.  I said no at first thinking he was passing counterfeit. “Damn,” he said,  and then practically pleading, “I just want to get home.”  So I held up the bill to the light until I saw the telltale stripe, and gave him change.  Then he said, “I’ll give you twenty dollars to take me to Vance and Third.”  “Hop in,” I replied.  His name was Marty.  He looked to be in his forties, and he worked for the legendary Raiford of Raiford’ Hollywood club and the newer Raiford’s disco on Second Street.  Raiford had taken him in when he was ten years old.  “How many cars does Raiford own?” I asked because whenever you drove by the hollywood, there would be several of his cars on display, each one white with gold trim.  “Let’s see,” he said. “There’s two Escalades, two Excaliburs, a limo, a Jaguar, a boat and a motorcycle.”  The nightclub business has been good to Raiford.  Marty was a good guy.  “Sorry I gave you a hard time, “I offered.  “That’s alright.  It’s because they give you a hard time,” he said. A minute later he said, “I’m gonna get me a cheap hooker then go home.”  He directed me down this dark street and had me stop in front of what looked like an apartment building.  There were a few guys just standing around.  As Marty got out, I said, “be careful my friend.”  “No worry,” he said.  Then I got the shit outta Dodge.

Since I was downtown, I headed to Beale Street.  It was after 3:00 and all the clubs were closed.  As I got to Beale, two young guys walked up and said they needed to go to Lakeland.  “No shit!” I said.  Lakeland is about 23 miles from downtown.  Cha Ching!!!  I didn’t interact with these guys because I was tired. I just listened as one bored the other with talk of his girlfriend.

After dropping them off, I decided to call it a night, and headed back to the office, but I got tagged to go to a nearby house and pick up a woman.  It turned out to be a no-show.  The fourth one that night.  Two were probably because I got tired of waiting.  On a busy night, five minutes is long enough to wait.  They know I’m there because I have the computer call them.  The computer lets me know if the call succeeded, was a busy signal or answering machine.  So I left and headed in despite the fact there were 22 trips available in midtown.  It was 4:15 am.

© 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.)