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.)