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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.”