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Thursday, December 20, 2012

“Dis Ain’t No Bullshit, Man”

The company has added a few Scions to the fleet.  If you’re not familiar with them, they are small, boxy cars which look like something Mr. Magoo would drive.  But they’re really pretty cool.  I like the way the dashboard is laid out and it has a shelf where I can put my Tom Tom so it won’t obstruct my view.  The Scion is very roomy, and easy to get into and out of.  And you can’t beat the gas mileage.  We have to return the cabs with a full tank which, for a 12 hour shift, usually means filling up half a tank’s worth, so naturally everyone wants to drive the Scions.

A few days ago I picked up a rough-looking guy at a convenience store in midtown to take him to the new Greyhound terminal near the airport.  As he was getting in the cab he slurred, “Dis ain’t no bullshit, man, dis ain’t no bullshit,” and handed me his debit card which I hung onto.  He was drunk, and his offering was meant to assure me he could pay.  “No bullshit, man, no bullshit,” he went on as he leaned into the front showing me his bus ticket to Denver.  “OK man,” I replied, “just sit back and calm down.”  This guy looked mean and menacing but I’m used to being around guys like this.  When I was a senior in high school, I worked the night shift at a branch of Kraus Cleaners smack dab in middle of the hood.  Guys like him would hang out in the alley at our back door drunker than hell and every now and then I had to go bang on the door to remind them to keep the noise down.  Occasionally I would find one of them in my car when it was time to go home so I would just give him a ride to his house.  You just have to humor them or, I guess, get your throat cut.

So me and No Bullshit are on the way to Greyhound when he asks, “You know Charles, man?” “Charles who?,” I asked.  “CHARLES,” he shouted.  “Oh, that Charles,” I said, playing along.  “Does he still work at the same place?,” I asked.  “No, man, he moved on.  Good man, Charles,” No Bullshit replied.  This was beginning to sound like a Mantan Moreland routine.

When we got to the intersection of Airways and Lamar, No Bullshit wanted me to pull into the convenience store so he could get a beer.  I told him beer wasn’t allowed in the cab so he said he could drink it fast.  I told him no and we headed for the bus station.

I asked him why he was going to Denver.  “To stay outta prison, man.  I’ve been in there five times already” he answered.  “That damn sister inlaw.  It’s all her doin.”  I didn’t ask but thought to myself, “Great. I’m aiding and abetting a fugitive.”

When we arrived at the terminal, I processed his debit card.  “Declined,” the computer said.  “OK man, you’re good, have a nice trip,” I said.  I just wanted to get the hell outta there.

New Year’s Eve two years ago, I picked up a black woman at Studio on The Square.  She appeared to be in her sixties, was nicely dressed and very cordial.  I was listening to blues on the radio and she sang along and even told me some anecdotes about some of the artists.  Several months later I picked her up again at the same place and we discussed movies.  Well, a few weeks ago I picked her up one morning at a discount grocery on Highland near Lamar.  She had several stops to make including a nearby Kroger where I waited with the meter running while she did some shopping.  After that, I took her to a private elementary school near the airport where she dropped off two trays of cookies for the kids.  She then had me take her to a soul food restaurant on Danny Thomas.  I opened her door and escorted her to the front door where she said to me, “You know me, don’t you?”  “Well I’ve given you rides before,” I said.  She replied, “I’m Carla.”  I thought for a minute then remembered the name on the computer was Ms Thomas.  Then it hit me, “Oh my God!” I said, This is quite an honor.”  She was Carla Thomas, the Queen of Memphis Soul.  She was at Stax from the beginning, recorded a duet album with Otis Redding as well as over a hundred other albums. She just smiled at me and went into the restaurant.

Picked up an elderly woman at a retirement home to take her to the bank. Along the way she told me how someone at the home accidentally knocked her down, and then told me that her sister was killed when she fell down a flight of stairs.  And, of course, her husband had three heart attacks, the last of which killed him, and then she added that her brother was in a car accident and was burned to death.  “Have a nice day,” I said when I dropped her off.

A short middle-age woman got in where I picked her up next to her car which had a flat.  She had black, stringy hair and a graveled voice like Satchmo’s.  All she need to complete the picture would have been an unlit stogie in her teeth.

“Is that Patchouli oil I smell?,” she asked. I occasionally spray a little in the cab so I can relive the sixties.  “Boy does that bring back memories,” she said.

“My fuckin’ husband’s an asshole,” she graveled, “I was on my way to get some boxes to move my shit and had a flat.  Take me to the liquor store on Southern so I can get some boxes.”  From there I took her home.  As she got out she said, “I’m gonna teach that asshole a lesson.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Winnipeg, Aruba, Sri Lanka in one cab

Another day, another buck fifty after topping off the tank.  Gas prices are killing us.

Had a guy in the cab who had moved here from Detroit a month and a half ago.  He was very talkative.  Said Memphis is slow compared to Detroit.  “Yeah, it’s pretty laid back here,” I said.  Then he said the liquor stores closed too early compared to his home town where the stores stay open until 3:00 am, and they’re open on Sundays.  Then he went on and on about Memphis cops.  “Man,” he said, “they pull you over for the littlest thing.  They pulled me over for having a taillight out and gave me a hard time about my license.  There were two cops, the one who pulled me over and his backup.” My passenger was black so I asked him if the cops were white.  He said one was white, but it was the black cop who was the asshole.  “He accused me of having a phony license.  It was my Detroit license, but he kept saying it was a phony.”  It turned out that the white cop said the license was OK, and apologized for the other cop’s behavior.

“What’s the deal with the piece of paper they give you and say you have to get your photo made and be fingerprinted at the jail within twenty-four hours?” he asked me.  “That’s a misdemeanor citation.  A misdemeanor is a small crime like shoplifting,” I explained.  “Did they issue a citation to you?,” I asked.  “Naw,” he said, “I saw them give to somebody else they pulled over.”  I said, They probably had a joint in the car.”

When we arrived at his apartment building, he paid me, and just kept goin on incessantly about the cops.  Finally I said, “Hey man, I’d like to talk to you some more (NOT), but I gotta go.”  He got out and continued talking out loud as he went up the stairs to his apartment.

Went to Oak Court mall where I picked up two young men and an older Chinese woman.  I couldn’t figure out their connection since neither of the men were Asian.  They wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale St.

They were visiting from Winnipeg, and were here to do the Elvis thing.  One of the guys sat up front.  He told me it gets down to thirty below in Winnipeg, and I told him he could have it.  He also said driving a cab there is extremely dangerous because of consistent cab robberies.  There, he said, the drivers seat has a steel plate attached to the back, and there is a shield between the front and back seat.  There also is a light on top of the cab which, when activated by the driver, flashes silently to alert police.  Sound like good ideas to me.  Wish we had all that.

Dropped them off then went to the Comfort Inn on Front St. and three middle-aged men hopped in.  They need to go to the public marina on Mud Island.  They had come to Memphis on their twenty-one foot boat from Tulsa.  Being the geography genius that I am, I said, “How the hell did you take a boat here from Tulsa?”  “On the Arkansas River,” one guy replied.  “Oh.  Well hell yeah if you want to do it the easy way,” I said.  They were planning to go from here to New Orleans but due to lack of places to get gas along the way, they decided against it.  They gave me an eight dollar tip.

In the back seat sat a young woman who appeared to be of Polynesian descent.  She needed to go from her apartment on Central near CBU to the University of Memphis.  Along the way I told her I went to the U of M long before she was born.  “When do you think I was born,” she asked.  I told her 1989, and she laughed and said, “I’m thirty-seven, and I teach at the university.”  “No way!,” I said.  She laughed some more.  She said she teaches economics and finance. I wonder what’s to teach about finance since it’s all about getting turned down by the banks.

Back during Memphis in May I picked up two guys at Oak Court Mall to take them to Gus’s Fried Chicken on Front.  They were probably in their thirties.  Nice guys.  The had come here from Aruba to go to the barbecue festival.  I thought, “Really?  You left Aruba to come here, huh?”  I asked what they did in Aruba and they said they work, drink, play golf, fish and go to the beach.  “So do we,” I said to laughter.  I dropped them off and got a nice tip.  Back in midtown I heard a cell phone ringing in the back seat so I stopped and reached down behind the seat and pulled out a Samsung phone but couldn’t figure out how to answer the call.  Then I got a message on the computer terminal to radio the dispatcher who told me that one of the Aruba guys left his phone.  I went back to Gus’s, walked in and handed him his phone and he gave me a twenty.  Nice.

The other day I picked up a guy at Stax and took him to the Civil Rights Museum.  He was here on business but wanted to do some sight seeing in his free time.  He was from New York but was born and raised in Sri Lanka.  He said he grew up listening to Stax music and had to see the place. He asked where he could hear some live music and I recommended Rum Boogie and BB King’s since he was staying at the peabody.  I also suggested some good restaurants.  when he asked me what do people from Memphis call them selves, I said, “Memphians, but then there are those I like to call Memphomaniacs, including yours truly.  He got a laugh out of this.  Nice guy.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Screaming Bindi in the Back Seat

Early Monday morning I was notified to pick up a woman at a house in midtown, and take her to Fielder Square apartments downtown. When I arrived, I saw a twenty-something woman sitting on the steps with a young man.  They approached the cab and I set the meter for two passengers, but he was just escorting her, so I reset the meter for one.  Just before she got in, she asked him for his phone number.  I assumed someone got lucky the night before.

On the way downtown she asked, “Have you ever woken up and had no idea where you were?”  “Can’t say that I have,” I replied.  She said she’s here from St. Louis visiting her boyfriend.  Last night, they went drinking with some of his friends.  At one point later that night, the boyfriend had to go home early, but she continued drinking with the others.  This morning, she woke up on someone’s couch, two guys whom she didn’t know.  We were on the way to the boyfriend’s apartment.  “He’s going to kill me,” she said.  I shot back, “If you’re lucky, that’s all he’ll do.”

It was annual Elvis week when thousands of fans flock to Memphis to commemorate the King’s death.  People from all over the world can be found at the many events which take place near Graceland.  I had one passenger from Vancouver and a couple in their sixties from Calgary.

I too am an Elvis fan.  Have been since the beginning.  When I was seven, I had the Elvis hair style which I kept in place with Butch Wax.  I even had the classic leather motorcycle jacket with its many zippered pockets.  I clearly remember when Elvis appeared on the Dewey Phillips show, which I watched faithfully everyday after school.

I had a cousin, Alan Fortas, who was friends with Elvis and was part of the entourage otherwise know as the Memphis Mafia.  Alan had the large ears and Elvis called him Hog Ears.  When Elvis did the comeback concert on NBC, on the stage were two guys playing guitars and the middle guy, Alan, on the bongos.

My mother kept me posted on Alan.  I would hear “Elvis bought Alan a Rolex;”  “Elvis bought Alan a Cadillac;”  “Alan’s in rehab.”

There were always reports of Elvis sightings or doings, like when he would rent the Memphian theater just to watch a movie, or the time he rented the entire fairgrounds for him, his friends, and his date, Natalie Wood.  And there were stories of the King’s generosity.

Once, when Elvis was shopping at the Cadillac dealer, he went to get a closer look at one of the new models.  A middle age black woman in a raggety overcoat was also looking at it.  She told him she always dreamed of having a Caddy but knew she could never afford it, so Elvis bought her the car.

The area of town where Graceland sits is called Whitehaven.  The community takes its name from a Colonel Francis White, who was an early settler and major property owner. White was influential in getting a rail line to run through what was first called White's Station, later White Haven and then Whitehaven.  Today it’s predominately African American.  It’s also the armpit of Memphis.

The main thoroughfare is Elvis Presley Boulevard.  A boulevard is usually divided with a median down the center often with above-average quality landscaping and scenery.  EP Blvd. is more like Hell.  The traffic is always heavy, Elvis week or not, and the street is lined from one end to the next with a most hideous conglomeration of stores and fast food joints.  I only go out there if I absolutely have no choice.  Of course it wasn’t like this when Elvis purchased Graceland in the fifties.

But this isn’t the reason I called this meeting.  OK, everybody back in the cab.

My passenger was a woman from India whom I picked up at a small ethnic grocery on Cleveland.  She was wearing traditional Indian garb, and displaying the red dot on the forehead, or bindi.  The bindi is said to retain energy and strengthen concentration.  It is also said to protect against demons or bad luck.  The bindi also represents the third eye.  I was taking her to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital according to the info display on the cab’s computer terminal.

I pulled out onto Cleveland and stopped at the light at Poplar where I needed to turn left, but a left turn was illegal at this intersection.  I planned to cross Poplar and cut rough the convenience store’s lot.  As I crossed the intersection, Miss India screams at the top of her lungs, “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”  It was like someone had blown an air horn right next to my head.  I was so jarred you could have filled me with peach preserves and stored me for winter.  I explained the situation to her.

As I approached the rear of Le Bonheur she screamed, “TURN LEFT HERE!”   Jarred again, I immediately turned into the emergency room driveway for ambulances only.  Another blast from the back seat, “NOT HERE.  THE NEXT STREET!”  I screamed back “OK,” then began laughing because this reminded me of a scene from a W.C. Fields movie.  She laughed too.  I didn’t know if she was laughing at the same thing or if someone telepathically told her a joke through the red portal on her forehead.

I get back on Poplar and turn on Dunlap, and prepare to turn left into the hospital’s main entrance.  “NOT HERE!.” she screams, “ACROSS THE STREET!”  She wasn’t going to the hospital but to the apartment building across the street.  When she paid me, I screamed, “THANK YOU!”

The city of Mumbai must be a loud place with all that screaming.

My next trip was taking a guy to the airport.  Whenever I take people to the airport I ask where they’re flying to, then ask if it’s business or pleasure.  This guy was flying to D.C. on business.  He was in the renewable energy industry and was trying to get a federal grant to develop algae as a source of fuel.  I asked if Obama’s support for renewable energy was having a positive impact.  He said more so than any other president and that Obama was the only president to consider algae as a source of fuel.

Another airport passenger was a guy originally from Denmark but now living in London.  He was headed to Chicago.  He was a consultant to venture capitalists.  He had a job in 2008 traveling around the U.S. shutting down businesses due to the recession.  He said he had to quit because it was emotionally draining.  Nice guy.  He bought a copy of my book.

Later I had a woman in  cab who looked to be in her seventies.  She told me she was once a dj on WHER, the first all-women radio station.  I could tell she enjoyed her years there when she told me that she once had a date with Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger.  They wen to dinner at the Peabody Hotel and then to his room there.  When she giggled, I wondered if he showed her his silver bullet.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

15 Minutes of Fame

6:30 am.  First trip of the day, pick up a woman at the Poplar Lounge.  I pulled into the parking lot and sent a callout to let her know the cab has arrived.  Shortly, a young woman comes out and comes up to my window.  “This may seem a little weird,” she said, “but we’re shooting a music video and need a cab in one of the scenes.”  I asked how long it would take and was told about ten minutes.  “I’ll have to run the meter,” I said.  “That’s fine.  We’ll pay you,” she replied.

After a few minutes, the director/camerman came out the door with the young woman and two guys.  Both guys were wearing retro suits. One’s face was painted white and he was wearing big curlers in his hair.  The other one was wearing a long, white, powdered wig and lipstick.  They were soon joined by two women dressed like hookers. The shorter of the two was carrying a riding crop and her face looked like a failed Latvian dermatology experiment.  The other was either a woman, or a man undergoing a sex change. She was much taller and heavier than the other one, and her large belly was exposed and hanging over her waist.

“Action.”  With the camera rolling, the two guys escorted the women to the cab, helped them get in, then shut the door.  Exciting, huh?  They repeated this action a couple more times and then the guy with the white face pulled out a wad of cash and paid me ten bucks.  I never did find out who they were, nor did I really care.

But this wasn’t the only time I was exposed to film time this day.

Later that morning I went to WMC TV, channel 5 to pick up Ursula Maddon, a news anchor, and her camera man.  They wanted to ride along for a couple of hours and interview me because she was doing a story about me and my book.

We went to Overton Park which provided a quiet setting for the interview.  You can see the interview at

From the park, we went to a house in midtown to pick up a guy who needed to go to the emergency room.  He was waiting for us in the back, and I could see he had injured his foot so I helped him into the van where he was warmly greeted by a news crew.  They explained what they were doing and we headed to Methodist Hospital.  The guy said he had broken his foot Monday night.  Today was Thursday.  I should have asked what took him so long.

When we arrived a the ER, I went in and requested assistance and a wheel chair.  After waiting for several minutes, I went back in to inquire about the wheelchair.  “Ain’t nobody come out there yet?,” the receptionist asked, then said, “I’ll get someone right there.”  Several more minutes went by when I spotted an EMT with an empty stretcher standing next to her ambulance.  I asked her if she would take my passenger into the ER.  “Can’t do it without a work order,” she replied.  “Some humanitarian,” I thought.  Finally, I helped the guy hobble to the ER.

I regaled the news team with some of my stories and often had them laughing hysterically.

The first time I was on TV was in 1973.  I was working as a lab instructor in the graphic design division of the art department at the University of Memphis.  One of the other instructors and I created an animated tv spot for the Memphis Arts Council.  Marge Thrasher, a local tv personality invited us on her live morning show to introduce the commercial and talk about it.  In those days my self confidence was about a bucket short of whole, so prior to going to the tv station at 7:00 am, I took a Valium.  When we got on the air, Marge, who was like a locomotive, quickly realized I was responding very slowly to her questions so she conducted most of the interview with my colleague.  Too make matters worse, the two guys who were there with their antique bottle collection nearly fainted when I accidentally knocked over my empty coke bottle.  I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

After dropping them off at the tv station, I went to pick up a guy named Wild Bill.  Wild Bill turned out to be blind, but this didn’t stop him from giving me directions.  Surprisingly he knew exactly where to turn.

Later, I was notified of a trip at 877 South Somerville to pick up a Mrs. Lawrence.  While driving up and down the street trying to find the address, I spotted a woman in my mirror waving at me, so I backed up and she got in.  After driving out of this residential community, I asked her if she was going to the address I was given on Lamar.  She said, “No. I’m goin to Broad Street.”  “Are your Mrs. Lawrence?,” I asked.  “No, Sims,” she said.  Great, I picked up the wrong person, but the trip to Broad would be a higher fare, so I continued on my merry way.

Mrs. Sims, unfortunately for me, had a really serious stutter and a thick ebonic dialect and she wanted to talk.  I responded to her with an occasional “Yes,” or “That’s right,” or “I hear ya.”

We arrived at her destination, a community health care facility and I said, “It’s fourteen dollars.”  She replied with, “TennCare’s paying for the cab,” which meant there would be a voucher for me at Yellow Cab.  I got on the radio and called the dispatcher to let her know about picking up the wrong passenger and that I should get the voucher.  The dispatcher had no record of a Mrs. Sims on Somerville, so I was screwed out of fourteen bucks.  Apparently Mrs. Sims had called a different cab company but was too dumb to notice the difference.

After her I had two trips with passengers who each had a thick ebonic dialect and wanted to talk.

Til next time, this is Fast Eddie saying, "Always tip your cab driver or you might end up in the Toxic Taxi."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

“They can only kill me once.”

Friday was a good day.  I hade a fifty dollar trip to West Memphis, and eighty-one dollar trip to Millington, and a couple of runs to the airport.  But the last trip was the most fascinating passenger I’ve ever had.

He was a guy I picked up in midtown to go to the airport.  He looked to be in his late forties or early fifties, well-built, had a military-style haircut and he was dressed in all black.  Even his bags were black.

I noticed his German accent as he got in because he was talking on his phone.  “You tell that mother fucker this German redneck is going to kick his ass the next time I see him,” he said, “I told him this is the last time.  No, I fly to Amsterdam, then Istanbul, then to Kabul and from there I go into the mountains.”  He paused, then said, “No I haven’t been doing any sharpshooting lately.  Yeah, that’s right, and don’t forget to tell the little asshole what I said.”

I couldn’t hold my tongue.  “Man,” I said, “that was the most intriguing conversation I’ve ever eavesdropped on.  What do you do?”  He hesitated then explained, “I’m a former marine, an engineer for NASA, and I work part time for the Department of Defense.”  By the same token I could ask what you do but I see you drive a cab.  I bet you don’t drive full-time.”  “No I don’t,” I replied, “I’m a graphic designer but the recession really hurt my business, so I drive for extra cash.  In fact, I just published a book about my experiences in the cab.”  “That’s wonderful,” he said.

He told me he escaped from East Berlin because “No mother fucker is going to tell me what to do,” and he had learned a lot from both his grandfathers who were high-ranking officers in the Wermacht.

I asked, “Have you been to Afghanistan before?”  “Many times,” he answered.  I continued my line of questioning, “Do you think we should get out?”  “Yeah. We have no business being there any longer,” he replied.  “Don’t you think the Taliban will take over once we leave?,” I asked.  He laughed and said, “They already have.”

“Have you been to Iran?.” I asked.  “Often.  Not a nice place. The people are really suffering,” he said.  What about Syria,” I went on.  “Been there too, same thing,” he said.  I responded with, “It seems like the military would to take over, especially considering the latest sanctions.”    “One thing you have to understand about Arabs and Persians, they’ll follow their leader no matter what.  They’re not like Latin countries where there is a long history of military coups,” he said.

My curiosity was screaming, “Are you really going into the mountains in Afghanistan?”  “Yep.  We have the best military in the world but they’re restricted from this sort of thing,” he replied.  I was dying to ask him what he was going to do, but I knew he wouldn’t tell me or if he did, he probably would have had to kill me.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Taxi 25

New Year's Eve 2011

I love driving on this night.  It’s always non-stop action until past daylight.  This year I raked in more than three times the average from a day shift.  But that’s not the only reason I enjoy New Year’s Eve.

Most of my passengers are young and in a party mood.  They actually engage me in conversation unlike many of the Silent-Bob types during the day.  Plus, they’re dressed to the nines, which is a pleasure to see, especially the mini skirts.  What a great invention.  At least half the young women must have received the same memo.  Legs, legs, and more legs.  Oh, are there men on the streets too?  I think so.

On this night I feel like I’m part of the action without having to fend off the crowds, a vicarious spectator peering through the periscope as I roll through downtown in my yellow submarine.  At my age, enjoying life while seated and on wheels has its benefits.

At first, I didn’t think I would be able to drive tonight.  I had planned on working from 4:30 pm to 4:30 am.  At four, I called the taxi supervisor to see if any vans were available.  No luck, so I asked if he had any good cabs on the lot.  “Only four left, Mr. Tucker.  Better get down here if you want one,” he advised. “Hey, man,” I was ready to plead, “I’ll give you five bucks to hold one for me.”  “Can’t do it, Mr. Tucker.”  Damn!  The company has added several new drivers which increases the competition for everyone.  We not only compete for business, but for cabs as well.  So I got my stuff together and rushed down there, breaking all the speed limits, and clenching my sphincter so tight I could have cracked walnuts in my pants.  I was in luck.  I got a nice Impala that looked new in spite of the 227,000 miles on the odometer.  Our shop does a great job keeping these cars running, and they’re quick to respond if you have a problem before leaving the cab yard.

I like Impalas because I can plug my iPhone into the car’s radio and play my tunes through the car speakers.  Sometimes I try to match the music to the passenger, except I don’t have any hip hop.  One day, when I dropped off a middle-age black woman, as she got out of the cab, she said, “K-97,” in an apparent critique of my choice of music.  K-97 is a black radio station.  In fact, I designed their logo in 1979.

After leaving the cab yard, I headed home where my wife had a thermos of hot tea waiting.  The tea kept me going all night without having to stop for coffee.

I didn’t stay in midtown because there were already nine cabs in this zone, so I headed downtown where I was signaled to pick up a young couple at a house on Mud Island.  As we rode along Island Drive next to the river, headed for Beale Street, the young woman said, “I’ve never been in a cab before.”  I shot back with, “Well hell, let’s go to Little Rock.  I can get you there in two hours.”  They laughed until I turned onto the bridge, (just kidding).

My next trip was taking a woman and her two kids from the MATA bus terminal on North Main to their house in the Raleigh-Frayser area.  I didn’t want to get stuck in this part of town with more trips, but sure enough, I was signaled for a pick-up in the area.  It turned out to be a no-show, so I rushed back downtown.

As soon as I got near zone 102, Mud Island, I had to go to another house on the island where eight people were waiting for two cabs.  As I pulled up, I saw the other cab was already there.  The driver asked me to do a callout because his computer had been shut down.  I didn’t know why he just didn’t call the office and have it re-booted.  So I did the callout, which is entering a code into the computer which sends a phone call to the customer letting them their cab has arrived.  So we waited, and waited, and waited.  I did another callout, and waited, and waited.  Did a third callout, and worried that they had already left.  After several minutes, I went up to the house and knocked on the door.  A young woman answered.  “Do you still want a cab,” I asked.  “Yes,” she said, “sorry to keep you waiting.”  I explained that we were real busy.  Well they came streaming out, four in my cab, four in the other.  In mine were three very attractive young women in their mid to late twenties, and all dressed up.  There was also a young man who wasn’t dressed as nicely.

Two of the women are attorneys, and the guy is in advertising.  When I told him I used to be creative director at Archer Malmo Advertising, it was like opening the faucet to his mouth.  He began talking non-stop about who he knows and what he does, and who did I know, etc., etc.  And he was trying to talk over the women’s conversation which actually sounded more interesting.  He was a real go-getter type.  He would have driven me nuts if I had to work with him.  He also tried giving me directions until I said, “OK junior, I know my way around.”

They wanted to stop at Silky Sullivan’s to buy wrist bands, and then I took them to Molly Fontaine’s on Adams.  I told them about this blog, and the Memphis Flyer cover story about it.  They all got excited, and asked if I’d be in the area around ten because I was so cool.  I told them it’s a busy night and I couldn’t promise anything.

After dropping them off, I drove to the Peabody Hotel where I picked up a nice middle age couple from Cincinnati who were in town for the Liberty Bowl game.  “Have you enjoyed your stay here?,” I asked.  “Yes, but we were disappointed with the ribs at The Rendezvous,” she answered.  "Yeah, well, their ribs are dry and a little spicy,” I said, “but they have great barbecue pork shoulder.  I just like the atmosphere”  They asked if I had been busy so far.  “Non-stop,” I answered, “I usually don’t drive at night except for New Year’s.”  I guess it can be dangerous,” the woman said.  “I’ve never had any problems, but I carry a taser just in case,” I replied.  “Do they let you carry a gun?,” her husband piped up.  “They discourage it.  Besides, I don’t want to kill anyone.” I said  He laughed, and said, “I’m retired law enforcement and I carry pepper spray.”  “Do you make good money doing this?,” he asked.  “Are you kidding?,” I joked.  “I’m actually a graphic designer, but the recession hit me, so I drive part time for pocket money. I can make more in an hour designing than in a day driving a cab.  But it’s fun, an adventure.  I never know where I’ll go or who I’ll  meet, plus I write a blog about it which many people seem to enjoy.  I dropped them off at their hotel near the med center and wished them a happy New Year.

I headed back downtown, and was sent to Riverside Tower.  It’s an upscale condo hi-rise overlooking the river that used to be a hotel where my wife and I stayed one night in 83.

A well-dressed, middle-age man and his squatty date got in the cab.  They wanted to go to Beale Street.  “How do you like living at Riverside,” I asked him.  “It’s great,” he answered.  I asked him what line of work he was in, and he told me he was retired, and is now going to law school.  I let them out at Beale and Second where there was a very long line.  Turns out the police were checking everyone’s id before allowing them onto Beale.  People were lined up for blocks.

I’ve always been proud of our police department and support their efforts to prevent crime, but I feel they went overboard this year with regard to Beale Street.  Not only were they checking ids, but they parked their cars down the middle of Beale which created more congestion.  Then, around eleven, they blocked all major thoroughfares into downtown at the intersection of Danny Thomas.  Fortunately for me they allowed cabs to pass.  Some of my out-of-town passengers complained about having to stand in line and having their ids checked.

Got a young couple at some condos on West Carolina.  They weren’t in the mood to chat, so I voted them out of my chat room at Beale and Third.

I pulled into the Peabody driveway where two guys walked up to the cab.  Once the drunk one made contact with me, the other one walked back inside.  “Can you take me to 3706 Sherwood in Midtown?” he slurred.  “Man, I don’t think there is a Sherwood in Midtown,”  I said as I entered it in my GPS, which displayed, no such address.  “No such place,” I told him.  “Yeah there is.  I’m not retarded,” he insisted, “It’s off Graham.”  “Graham isn’t in Midtown,” I pointed out,  “Spell Sherwood.”  “S-H-I-R-W-O-O-D,” he said.  So I entered that spelling.  Still no such address.  At this point he was in the cab.  “It ain’t there, dude,”  I said.  “Yeah it is.  I ain’t retarded,” he shot back.  “No, you’re drunk,” I said, thinking this guy has no idea where he’s going.  “It’s my friend’s house.  I’m staying with my friend, he replied.  That was good news for me because it meant he wasn’t going to spend the night in my cab.  “What cross street is it near?,” I asked.  “It’s off Union,” he said.  Sheesh!  Now it’s off Union.  “Call your friend and let me talk to him,” I said.  Turns out the street is Shirlwood in the Highland Heights area.  As we got near Midtown, he asked if I’d stop at a drive-thru.  “Do you like McDonalds or Krystal?,” he asked me.  “Not hungry,” I answered, so we went through McDonalds.  He gave me a twenty to pay for his order, and insisted I keep the eleven dollars change.  “Man, you’re a great cab driver for taking me to my friend’s house,” he spit out between bites.  “Glad to help,” I said.  On Shirlwood, I asked him which house.  “It’s the one with my big bad-ass truck in front,” he said.  Found it and out he went with a “Thanks, man.”

In Midtown, I got a signal to pick up a woman at the MED.  She said this was a voucher trip which means the hospital pays, but voucher wasn’t indicated on the computer instructions.  Last time this situation came up, I was ripped off for nineteen bucks.  I radioed the dispatcher who said the voucher would be at the office with the taxi supervisor.  I took her home in the Raleigh_Frayser area where I started the night.

On the way back to downtown, I noticed the red light on the computer indicating that the radio had been switched from data to voice.  I tried several times to switch it back to data so I could be notified of trips, but it wouldn’t work.  I called the taxi supervisor on my phone and told her about the problem.  She said the computer and radio systems were down.  She gave me a trip before she hung up, and I picked up a guy on Vance near Cleveland.  He needed to meet his fiance at the Peabody before midnight, fifteen minutes.  When we got downtown we ran into gridlock everywhere so he hopped out at Fourth and Union and walked the rest.

Instead of calling in for a trip, I decided to troll downtown.  Bingo!  It was like shooting fish in a barrel.  There were people everywhere trying to flag down a cab.  I was approached by a group of two men and a woman and another group of three miniskirted babes.  Naturally I pointed to the three skirts, but the other three got in first. These people either had a bad night or were just void of any sense of humor. They didn’t crack a smile when I said, “Hey, why don’t yall give it up for those good lookin’ girls?.  “Aren’t I good lookin’?,”  the woman asked.  Well yeah, for a lizard, I thought. “Yes mam, you’re very attractive.  Glad to have you in my cab,” I uttered, just hope you don’t give me any warts.   They were here from Biloxi for the Liberty Bowl, and needed to go to the Marriott Courtyard near the airport.  I was glad to unload them.

I make it back downtown and I’m flagged by a couple who appeared to be in their late forties­ – Rita Sue and Hal.  He reminded me of Junior Samples, and she reminded me of a country music singer because of her shiny, tight pants and blond hair. They needed to go to a trailer park in Oakhaven, about seventeen miles from downtown.  He was chubby, loud, and drunk and she was attractive, in a trailer park sort of way.  I had been listening to one of my favorite albums, Queen Latifah singing jazz ballads.  As we neared the interstate, he blurted, “Change the music.  Sounds like a lounge.”  So I turned on the radio to an oldies station.  “I’m gonna hit you,” he said to her.  I looked in the mirror and was ready to pull over if he started any trouble.  “Yep, I’m a gonna hit you,” he laughed.  “Oh shut your cake hole,” she admonished him.  This banter when on for a while, but I didn’t pay much attention.  Eventually we reached the corner of Tchulahoma and East Shelby Drive – the boondocks.  The sort of neighborhood where you could actually be caught dead.  We stopped at the light when Hal spotted a McDonalds across the street.  “I want to go to that McDonalds,” he blared.  “Eddie, pull through that McDonalds.”  “Look at the line, Hal.  I don’t want to wait in a long line,” she declared.  “I gotta have McDonalds,” he said.  As we waited in line they argued over what he wanted to eat.  When he mentioned an item she would say either “too much butter,” or “too much fat.”  But he was determined.  We finally get to the speaker and she explains to the clerk this complex concoction of food he wants, to which the clerk says, “We’re no longer serving dinner, only breakfast.”  Great, I thought, we’ll be here another twenty minutes while he decides.  They had stopped serving dinner at three.  It was now three-o-four.  At last he decides, she translates, and we go to the window to pay, and to the second window to wait for the order.  And wait we did.  “Eddie, can you believe we’ve been married for twenty-three years,” she asked.  “Twenty-three years,” he confirmed, “and we ain’t never hit each other.  It just ain’t right anyway, to hit each other.  “Twenty-three years,” she said again.  I asked, “ So how many years have you guys been married?”  “Twenty-three,” he reminded me.  “And we got a married twenty-year-old daughter,” she said.  “And we ain’t never hit each other,” he said, again.  As the time passed ever too slowly, he asked me,”Ain’t this weird Eddie, having to wait like this?”  “It’s on par for McDonalds,” I replied.  This went on for the full half hour we had to wait, and the meter was just adding up the whole time.  Eventually, I pull into this huge trailer park, with streets lined with pick-ups and gawdy Christmas decorations.  After turning down a couple of streets, she says, “It’s the one with the new Corvette out front.  That’s my daughter’s car.”  The total fare came to fifty-two dollars.  He gave me sixty.  They went inside and I took a leak in their yard.

Happy New Year!

© 2012,  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.)