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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.)