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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."

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