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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.)