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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.)