Monday, December 29, 2008

Little Hip

Her name is Lisa. She was called Little Hip, because she lived with Hippy. Last I heard, Little Hip was teaching Math at NW Louisiana. When she got her PhD, it was time to leave town and pursue a real career. Being a cab drivers squeeze wasn't her vision of the future. She was only referred to as Little Hip by other cab drivers, and only out of her earshot, in person she was Lisa. She was a pretty nice person, in spite of her questionable taste in boyfriends. Hippy has always described her as a typical native of up north, a hard drinking blond with a Norwegian heritage.

When I met her I was a student, and life was good, too good in fact. It would be a number of years before I would discover that anyone who lives from paycheck to paycheck can't afford that life style, I certainly paid dearly for learning that lesson. She was a math grad student. It would be a few years before she'd get her PhD. It would be a couple of years before I would graduate and a couple more years after that before I'd become a cab driver.

I was having a few drinks in one of the Shenk's Corner's bars, I don't recall which one, probably Mel & Tony's. She was about my age, and I probably bought her a drink. How had I spent my day? Wading in Black Earth Creek, catching brown trout. She wanted to hear all about trout fishing. She said she and her boyfriend were out drinking after playing volleyball. Boyfriend? I didn't see any boyfriend.

Trout fishing? Pick up a girl in a bar talking about trout fishing? Since when were women interested in going fishing? That just doesn't happen, right?

I offered to take her fishing if she'd like to go. She really wanted to go. Ok, I suppose. I thought about it for a minute, and described a couple of places I could take her. When I take someone fishing, there is always the guarantee of catching fish. I suggested a beautiful spot north of Richland Center, and a not so beautiful spot north of Black Earth. About this time a pompous little man with shoulder length hair sat down and announced, "I'm Hip."

She introduced this character as Gary, and said that they'd been playing volleyball together. It turns out that Gary, AKA Hippie, was a ball player, and she'd been playing volleyball with a bunch of cab drivers. This was before I'd had any contact with the world of cab driving, so I just shrugged and said I liked to play volleyball too. For the record, I was never accepted as a ball player, and never invited to play on any of the their teams. This guy Gary said he was a night dispatcher at Badger Cab, like that was really important. Well, that's nice Gary, I don't think it'll ever matter to me. He told me that he was a big cheese, and I should care about him being a big cheese.

When I took her trout fishing, I chose a little trout stream that runs north and south, north of Black Earth. There are a few patches of DNR land, and we fished one of them, a really small one. It wasn't elegant fishing. I put a night crawler on a size 10 hook, and lobbed it in front of a tangle of brush, right where the current would sweep it into the hole under the tangle. I then handed her the rod and told her to carefully watch the line, it will move smoothly. If it twitches suddenly, or does anything else that indicates it has stopped being carried by the current, that probably means a fish has picked it up. When that happens, pick up the slack in the line, and give a slight little jerk when you've taken up all the slack. If you have a fish on, you'll know it right away. Her brown trout was about 12" long, she was ecstatic!! Could she keep it? Of course, it's yours, you did buy a license, didn't you?

I woke up on the floor of Lisa and Hippy's apartment with a roaring hang over. When we got there after fishing, I dressed her trout out, and we had a couple of beers. A couple? It was just fishing, I'm certainly not the first fisherman who woke up on the floor of the other fisherman's place.

I never dreamed that about 3 years later, I'd find out about driving a cab. Of course, Hippy never forgot. So, one of my first exposures to a dispatcher was this little jerk with the shoulder length hair, who'd told me how important he was. What a way to kick off what would become my most stable line of work, in working career that has so far spanned 44 years of paying social security, and over 20 years of driving a cab.

Hippy no longer drives or dispatches. He's in the US these days, he has a nice wife he met in the Congo, last time he was in Africa. She's very attractive, speaks good English, French of course, and they have a nice little boy who's around 3. Now the light black kid with the blond curly hair is Little Hip. But I kind of doubt he'll ever be called Little Hip around his dad.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The holidays alone at home

Unfortunately, this year, I spent the holidays home alone. My doctor didn't think I was ready to go back to work. I got hurt on December first, and haven't worked since. It's ok though, the insurance company is taking good care of me.

I've missed holidays with the family before, this isn't the first time. It's true I could have gone over to the office and hung around, but the new office is a kind of antiseptic place that doesn't lend itself to that sort of thing, at least in my mind. Imagine it if you will, a building, and specifically a dispatch office, designed by an architect, to be the best it could be. Sigh..........

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The sad fat cat

It was a football Saturday, around 10:00 pm. It was absolutely jumpin! The first time I saw the guy, I was turning into the 600 block of State, off of Lake.

He was fat. He wasn't wearing pants, he wore some kind of exercise suit bottom, and he was wearing something like a hooded sweatshirt for a top. He had a couple of takeout bags in one hand, perhaps tacos in one and pizza in the other. He just didn't look real promising. People who carry around bags with tacos don't usually tip well, and given it was a football night, he'd probably expect me to single him out to timbuc two, so I drove past, as did the cab before me and the cab after me. There were literally hundreds of people who wanted a cab ride in the next 4 blocks, so there were lots of passengers to pick from.

In the course of an hour he migrated 2 blocks to the corner of State and Gilman. I'd pulled over to get a group of 4 who were waving, and he rushed up to me, and frantically begged me to take him anywhere, he said he'd give me a hundred bucks to take him anywhere, just get him away from State st. I don't think I've ever been asked for a ride by a person who looked more terrified. I told him I'd take him were ever it was that he wanted to go. I knew why he wanted to go anywhere, he'd told a driver or 2 where he really wanted to go and they told him they wouldn't go there. When he was safely seated in the back seat, I asked him again, where to? He gave me a street name that rung a bell, but I couldn't place it, so I asked him where that street was. Off Lacy rd. he said. Near Fish Hatch? Yes. No question in my mind, he'd been told they wouldn't take him there, it's quite a way from downtown, perhaps 6 miles. So, we were off.

The first thing he talked about was what a terrifying place State st. was. He said that in an hour of attempting to flag a cab, he'd seen 5 fist fights. I've seen a lot of fights on State st. myself. Have you ever seen a guy get hit over the head with a beer bottle? I was sitting in front of The Pub one night and I watched a guy come out of Chesty's, and start to walk down the street, when a guy rushed out of the bar and hit him over the head with a beer bottle, just like in the movies. The guy was immediately covered with blood, but it didn't faze him, he spun around and blasted the guy with a single right. The guy who swung the beer bottle went stiff and went down about the same as if someone had a plank standing on end and just let it fall over. The guy who was covered with blood, turned around and continued to walk down the street like nothing special had happened. You can definitely see fist fights on State st.

Once he'd gotten the fear out of his system, he started talking about losing his daughter. His daughter had been a undergrad, until she'd been killed in a traffic accident earlier in the fall. He had more children, but only one daughter. It was easy to tell, it was dominating his life, and would for quite a while to come. He said that if he were to live life over again, he'd have more children. It sounded like that would be the focus of his life if he had it to do over again, and as we all know, children and family are not the focus of many men's lives. I had to change the subject, it was just a little too sad for me.

He said he ran a couple of hedge funds, he was from Chicago. Now, I knew why his destination rang an odd kind of bell. I'd taken people there before, but never the same people, and they were always from out of town. Now I knew what that modest 3 bed room ranch in Fitchburg really was, it was the cottage up north. When I think of a cottage up north, I think of a flimsy house on a lake, decked out in hunting and fishing decor, but I'm not a big time fat cat. This was a cottage up north for excursions to party city, Madison, Wisconsin, for some rich people from Chicago. I guess......... What the allure of this terrifying place called State st. would be for big city people is I just couldn't tell you, a lot of bars and drunk kids, woo hoo.

I guess he did offer to be generous, he started to offer me a stock tip, but I declined saying that my timing was always terrible. He said that timing was everything in the stock market.

When we got to his cottage, he said, "I know I promised you a hundred bucks, but the fare can't be anything close to that...........", and I cut him off. I told him that no matter what he promised, all I could legally charge him was the fare calculated as stated on the door of the cab, he owed me something like $18.00 and as always tips were at the discretion of the passenger. He gave me a fifty and asked me if it was enough. I told him that any tip offered by a passenger was appreciated. He told me to keep it, and I hung around long enough to see that he'd gotten the combination correct for the garage door. As he was stepping into the garage, I was turning the corner, heading back down town.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What do you suppose is news worthy?

A high speed chase after a bank robbery? A body lying on the side of the road, close to death, hit late at night and left to die? Neither, from what I've seen.

It was the a football Saturday. The Saturday night before Halloween. It was fat, the money was real good that night, Bucky won and clinched the first Rose Bowl bid since the '60's. I was driving home around 3:45am, and at the intersection of John Nolan and Olin, I passed what looked like a guy sleeping on the shoulder of the road. I said to myself, it had to be a Halloween prank, it was way to cold for anybody to be sleeping on the shoulder of the road, he'd be freezing. I got down to my turn onto Rimrock, and I had to go back for a second look, that guy just looked too real.

John Nolan was tore up at the time, so it wasn't a divided boulevard like it normally is. My first reaction was to pull up with the head lamps on the guy, get out, and take a close look. Then I said to myself, wait a minute, what happens if he jumps up pointing a gun at me and says he wants my wallet and keys, thank you very much? I just won't take the chance, so I slowly pulled up on the shoulder on the wrong side of the road. I noticed a red stripe down the center of his head, as if the skin had been split and pulled apart 1/2" or so, yeah that's real, and he's either dead or close to it. I got out of my car and walked up to the body, it was quivering ever so slightly, so he was still alive. I looked immediately at his feet, no shoes. He was a pedestrian who'd been hit by a car, knocked out of his shoes. I found his shoes 50 feet away.

There wasn't much traffic but I was trying to stop every car that passed. The ones that did stop, I asked if they had a cell phone, if memory serves, it was the sixth car that had a cell phone and called the cops. The lady who called the cops told me they said they were coming, and she took off down the causeway toward downtown. It didn't take long for the first squad to arrive, and an ambulance came pretty quick too. Within 20 minutes there were dozens of squads, they had John Nolan closed from North Shore to Rim Rock, and there were scores of cops out with flashlights looking for what ever they look for.

The cops went through the immediate stuff with me, did I hit the guy? No. Take a look at my car, no I didn't hit him, who ever hit him hit him hard, look at how far away from the body the shoes are. Then they looked at the car a little, looked into my eyes to see if I'd been drinking, and thank god I hadn't had a barley pop after work. The guy got scooped up pretty quick and was gone, they let me go after around 30-40 minutes.

I watched the news the following day, no mention of the fellow who I was sure was going to die. 2 days later, when I started driving to work, I passed a Sheriff's squad that looked like he was working radar about 4 blocks from where I lived. The only problem with this was, I lived on Sandhill road out in the boonies, NE of Oregon. Why would a cop be working radar on a road that only had perhaps 5 cars pass per hour? He wouldn't, but if he was staking me out, because he wanted a second look at my car in the daylight, it might make sense to sit there. He pulled me over, immediately, saying he needed to cite me for not wearing my seat belt. He got his look, gave me the 10 dollar ticket with no points, and I was off on my way. Let no good deed go unpunished.

I kept watching the news, and listening to the news on the radio. I looked at local paper everyday for a week, and there was no mention of that fellow, none what so ever. After another week, I stopped a cop on State st. and asked if she was familiar with the victim I'd found, she said she was. Note, this is now 2 weeks after the guy got hit and left to die. She said, he had indeed died that night. She went on to tell me that the person who did it went to the Sheridan (corner of Rimrock and John Nolan), and used the phone to inform the police that he'd hit a pedestrian, and it had been ruled a legitimate accident. What?????? If that's the case why was it that I needed to call the cops, why did they want first and second looks at my car. Then I called the news director at the local ABC affiliate, and the guy actually talked to me. I asked him if he was familiar with the accident and death, he said he was. Well, why isn't it on the news???? His reply shocked me, he said it wasn't news worthy.

News worthy? Vehicular homicide isn't news worthy? Since when? If I killed a pedestrian, it would be news worthy. Indeed, not only did the ABC affiliate chose to not cover it, every radio station and every news paper chose to not cover it either. At this point, I guess I should share one small detail that I haven't yet included, the guy who got killed was probably an itinerant who was camping in the woods behind the Sheridan. Guess his life wasn't worth much.

A story that did get covered in the news, but could have been a REALLY BIG story was a high speed chase that went past me one afternoon. I was pulling up to the light a the corner of Schroeder rd. and Gammon, when this car went flying past me with a cop hot on his tail. They both went past in the oncoming side of the street, and ran the red light, narrowly missing a major collision. I watched as the guy tried to do a power slide turn on to New Washburn, and miss it, he crashed into the median, and the cop was out of the squad with a gun drawn in an instant.

Hmmm, interesting. I had a delivery to make and one to pick, so I didn't have time to rubber neck this fracas, and continued past the cop with the gun on my way south on Gammon rd. When I got to Raymond rd., what should I see but a mobile recording truck for one of the local TV stations. I don't know what they were doing, but what ever it was, they were mostly just milling around. I pulled up and told them that if they were interested in a high speed chase and accident, they could take pictures of it at the corner of Gammon and New Washburn. They didn't bother, I mean who cares what a cab driver in a cab says, right?

The accident they didn't cover was the end of a high speed chase following a bank holdup. That cop caught that bank robber.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Somebody did a doougie in this cab?!?!?!?????

I will forever remember that line as the single funniest thing I've ever heard said in my cab. In 30 seconds I went from a slow smoldering rage to laughing so hard, I couldn't stop laughing for 3 days. Here's how it went..........

It was a normal winter afternoon. I started at 3:00 pm., and I headed out to the east side to start. I was lucky. I was going to sit on a couple of metro's that came out of the east Y at 3:30, when a delivery popped on Milwaukee st. I got the delivery, and as I got back in the cab the dispatcher stuffed me the metro's. Wow. What a start! I was going to go down the beltline and across the south beltline all the way to Verona rd. I was set for rush hour.

When I pulled behind the east Y, Koombiiyah came out right away. Koombiiyah? Yeah, she chant's koombiiyah like a broken record, which will drive you right out of your mind. I have a long standing deal with Koombiiyah, if she keeps her mouth shut she can sit next to the window in the front seat. She waddles up to the cab, opens the passenger door to the front seat and gets in. I say to myself that she must have been playing basketball or something, she really smells like she needs a bath. It takes around 3 minutes for the other passenger to come out, she's the quiet type, she sits in the back seat and never says a word.

I start off down Stoughton rd., and I'm hitting everything in sight!!! By the time we get past Cottege Grove rd., the smell is getting pretty bad. I tell Koombiiyah to roll down the window.

"I don't wanna roll down the window. I think I be cold", she says.

This goes back and forth a couple of times, me telling her to roll down the window and her refusing. Finally I tell her that if she doesn't roll down the window, she's going in the back seat. "Why I gotta go in the back seat?", she sighed, "I not singing."

"Roll the window down, and roll it down now!!!!!"

She gave in and rolled it down. Sitting in the front seat was very important, and she'd act about like a 6 year old. Usually she's actually a sort of fun passenger. How many 40ish dwarfs use a ball point pen as a make believe cigarette, take fake puffs off it, and tap fake ash's off it?

I had passengers in and out, delivery's in and out, and when I finally got to South Towne, the cab was loaded, 5 passengers, so she had to scoot over and let a rather elegantly dressed woman in, who wore a white car coat. The woman in the white car coat was going to the dealer to pick up her Lexus, she sat right where Koombiiyah had been sitting.

When I got to Leopold Way to where Koombiiyah got out, she waddled away from the cab toward the building. There was a wet spot on the seat where she'd been sitting, and it was steaming in the cold winter air. The stench was beyond description. As she waddled away, I could see the dark circle on the back of her coat about hip pocket high. It was immediately obvious, she'd been sitting in a pile since she'd gotten in at the east Y. I was ready to kill somebody!!!!!!! Oh, my god!!!!!!

I still had another oblivious passenger in the back seat, he sat there like a Spinx, and if he smelled it, he never let on. I went to the gas station at Todd drive and used the window squeegee to clean the seat. Thank god those Diplomats had vinyl bench seats. With the windows open, I took the last passenger to Lumley, and I was empty.

A short time later, I got a lady from Allied drive to south Park (yes, that south Park, in fact). I told her all about it, and she said that she figgured I had a perfict right to be as wound as I was. She gave me her sympathies, paid me, got out and I sat and steamed for a few more minutes.

Then I got 2 rides to do. The grocery for 3 people going to Fisher st., and a single from Bram to Sommerset. I pulled into the grocery and there were 2 huge black ladies and a skinny black man waiting with 3 carts of groceries. The guy got in the front seat, while the ladies filled the trunk. When they sat down, they told me the address, I put the cab in drive and lifted my foot off the brake.

The cab hadn't moved 3 feet when the black guys finger went past my nose. He was pointing out the drivers window, his hand right in front of my face. He said, "Hey man, I left something in that cart. I left something in that cart."

I put my foot back down on the brake and turned and looked in to the darkess to see what he'd left in the cart. Then his finger was right in front of my head, he was pointing at me and his finger was only 2 inches from me. "Ah hah!!! Ah hah!!! I didn't leave nothing in that cart!! Ah hah!! Ah hah!! I gotcha!!!! I didn't leave nothing in that cart!! Ah hah!! Ah hah!! I gotcha!! I gotcha!!", the skinny black guy really thought he was funny.

I slowly turned. His finger was about 2 inches from my nose. I lifted my finger and pointed it at him and coldly said, "You, got me?!? Why do you realize that less than an hour ago, somebody shit their pants, right where you're sitting??"

He came off the seat faster than anybody I've ever seen. He was holding himself up with both hands, one on the door rest and on the seat between us. The ladies in the back seat roared, they thought it was hysterical, "Ahhhh hah hah, you had to sit in the front seat. Ahhhhh hah hah........."

The guy sputtered out, "Whut, whut??? You mean somebody did a doougie in this cab?????" Then he slowly slumped back down onto the seat. "Oh man, I'm sitting in doougie. Oh man, I can smell it!!"

The ladies in the back seat continued to roar. He made me let him get into the back seat.

I didn't stop laughing for 3 days.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What means, "Goddammit?"

Some passengers sort of become part of the cab family too. Such was the case with a Persian lady named Pari. Duane and I both worked on her house in Middleton one summer, and that was a nightmare.

She wanted the outside of this house painted. Ok, I'll do it for you, you rent the equipment and pay me so much for labor. It looked pretty shaggy, the paint was peeling off that house real bad. So we got a power washer and I scaled the paint with that. Her siding was shot, so I told her she needed to replace the siding, paint wasn't going to do the job. No, she wanted to sand the house. Clap board siding? Sand the house? Ah, no way. She figgured if she asked me to sand it enough times; and I said that my first no was final, second was final, and third was too. Ok I don't talk to you again and figgure you're ripping me off for not paying me. Sand the house, she says again.

Duane finally looked at it and I don't recall if the previous owner had painted oil over latex or latex over oil, but it was a fatal mistake and the siding was indeed shot. So she finally paid me, thanks Duane.

Then she got a learners permit and wanted people to go practice driving with her. Again, it was Duane and I. He and I had (he's dead, the wake is a previous post) distinctly different styles of taking her for practice driving. I said that if we went she had to actually learn how to drive. Ah, what does that mean? Well, it meant doing 55 on narrow county highways, up and down steep hills, and she was terrified most of the time. Why can't we just drive 25 in the residential neighborhood near both her apartment and the DOT test site? Does that constitute learning how to drive? Ah, no, so you do that with Duane, when you and I go, you will actually learn how to drive, which is what a learners permit is for.

So one Sunday she want's to take a break, we're out by East Town, let's get an orange juice at McDonalds, she says. Ok, park the car behind McDonalds. In the grass median that seperates the parking behind Mcdonalds is one of those big green utility enclosures that says do not touch. She hit it hard enough to move it 6". We're sitting there, and she says, "What shall I do?!?"

I said, "Put one foot on the break. Put the car in reverse. Let off on the break enough for the car to move back 1 foot, then press the break and stop."

She did this, and I reached over and shoved the shifter into park. "Now", I said, "we're going to go inside and have our orange juice just like nothing happened. Don't worry, it'll be fine, either the store will have no electricity in which case we complain and leave, or nothing happened, got it?"

We did this, and it was ok. Durring our orange juice break she asked me in that high sweet voice of her's, "What means goddammit?" I nearly fell off the seat laughing.

Last time I saw Pari was at a Bar Mitzva, just before she left town. She was so greatful that she could drive, she loved driving on the county highway through Westport every morning to go to work, rather than to fight the traffic through town. Where is she now? Los Angles, now she REALLY needs to know how to drive.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years

They were good holidays. It was cold and snowy. In other years, it's been mild weather and Thanksgiving and Christmas have sucked the fat off dead bears butts. I was a day driver back in those days, I started around 3 am.

When I went in to drive on that first New Years Day, I was amazed, Boomtown had actually brought the cab in on time. I didn't know that on special days they would say over the radio, "Everyone has a day jerk, you will bring your cab in on time."

I was fueled up and on the street in less than 15 minutes. My first run started at O'Cay's Corall, and ended south. There was about 4" fresh snow on the ground.

When the light changed at Blair and Willy, I carefully pulled up to O'Cay's. There were 5 or 6 pairs of guys rolling around in the snow. A fellow who had lost his shirt, jacket, coat, gloves, and hat if he'd had one, ran up to the cab, he wanted to go to State st. If that happened today, I would have told him to get in, knowing he'd be out before I'd need the seat, but I was green and I told him I couldn't help him. I was looking for a pair. The guy had obviously been in the fight too. The back of his white T-shirt was black from people walking on his back.

Pretty quick a woman, dressed to the 9's, and a fellow in a torn up powder blue tux came up to the cab. They were going to the right address. They got in the front seat and we were off. Her dress must have cost at least $300. The left arm of his tux was almost ripped off, only about 2" of stitching was left holding it. He had a bump on the back of his hand that was almost as large as a golf ball. She was consoling him, "Oh you poor baby, oh you poor baby."

"Yeah right," I said to myself. "That's why you spent $300 on that dress, so he could get in a bar fight in a dive like O'Cay's."

It was a real good shift, New Year's always is.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wow, I guess it has been a long time.

I see in other peoples blogs, mentions of the famous people they've had in their cabs. Out here in the middle of the Midwest, we don't get too many famous people, but I'll tell you about mine, modest though they are.

I've had 3, 2 famous jocks, and the chief justice of the state supreme court.

To most readers, the famous jocks would be more interesting, so I'll describe their ride first. Around bar time on the night they won the college championship, here on home ice, I had Chris Chellios and Mike Richter in the cab. For the benefit of the non sports fans out there, these guys play hockey. The NYC drivers will recognize Richter's name right away, he played for the Rangers and either is or will be in the NHL Hall of Fame. Chellios played most of his career in Chicago, but has played for Detroit for a number of years now. Detroit's a better place to play in my mind. The Joe is a great arena, and you've got to love those Hockey Town fans, donating fresh seafood to make the game more colorful on occasion. They played their college hockey in The Dane County Coliseum, back in the days before the Kohl Center. I don't remember where I took them, someplace over by the stadium, they went home from the bar. They got in at the KK, which has always been the place where the football players and hockey players drink. They had been celebrating, and on casual inspection, I was sure that they didn't need any more, and that they even might be talking to Ralph the porcelain god in the morning.

When I was watching a Red Wings game on TV the other night the announcer said he thought Chellios was the oldest player in the NHL. I guess I have been around for a while.

I don't count trips to Al Toon's house. He's a nice customer, but it's always parcel delivery's, so he only ever comes to the door and gives an autograph. In case anybody wonders what became of him, he's a banker.

The Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a nice lady named Shirley Abramson. I took her from the airport to pick up her car. She said she likes to do weddings, and will marry anybody in the chambers of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for free, all people need do is ask.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"You rule! That is so awesome!"

A line out of chapter 13 of HACK. Hmmmmm........... Did I ever get such praise in a similar situation? Well sort of.......

What's up for consideration here is, did I ever do something I should be denying that I did, and get applause for doing it from my passengers? The thing that always pops out in my mind happened on a chilly, rainy night. It was a Friday or Saturday night. I had a load going from the Regent st. neighborhood to State st. This is a short ride, about 12 blocks long.

What makes such a ride attractive is the charge for the extra passengers. The ride itself costs either $2.75 or $4.00 depending on exactly where they got in, the higher price is west of Orchard st. The $3.00 for the extra 3 people takes it up to $5.75 plus tippage, which isn't bad for a quick little 12 block ride. Do 7 or 8 of those rides in an hour and you can make out pretty good.

The route I like best is Spring to Park, Park to Dayton, Dayton to Lake or Francis (depending on exactly where the ride goes) and on to the destination. This mostly avoids corners where I may get stuck at a light. This route takes you under the Park st. viaduct.

The modern Park st. viaduct was built a few years ago and has a very nice, blemish free, concrete surface under it, for your driving pleasure. For most of my driving career, we had the old Park st. viaduct. It funnelled to a single lane in each direction, which caused accidents. It was a low bridge, so frequently trucks would get stuck under it. And finally, the pavement under it was a real mess, with a massive pot hole that would never hold cold patch on the northbound side.

On this particular night, since it had been raining, that pot hole was full of water. There were 2 girls walking right next to that huge puddle. This was back in the days when we had crank windows, so the kids in the cab had all the windows cranked down. When the cab hit that water puddle, a wall of water went up and over the 2 girls walking on the sidewalk. The let out a cry in unison, "Eeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww............................"

The kids in the cab went wild, "YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Sorry bout that. The tip was good.

Now, as I read on past the quote in the title, I guess I will share something about myself that you, the reader may wonder about or perhaps will wonder about. She describes flying into a rage and going off on some guy on the street, which culminates with her going and giving him not one, but 2 shoves from behind. I couldn't do that. She doesn't comprehend the consequences of winning. Most street fights don't involve the cops. Most street fights are 2 guys swinging like buzz saws, they land a couple of shots, one guy goes down perhaps, gets kicked a few times, and the winner takes off running. In order to do this, you have to be wild and crazy enough to risk serious jail time to win. Most people, like her, fly into a blind rage, and they don't think at all. If you engage someone like that and there is no one available to hold them after they've lost, they'll keep coming at you until you hurt them to keep them down, or the cops show up and take both of you to jail. It's a lose - lose situation.

Certainly, I do get bent out of shape on occasion, but be advised, that's disorderly behaviour and you can get hauled in for it.

When the situation goes to dire, I change, all of a sudden I'm perfictly calm. In the face of someone in a blind rage, this only fuels the rage more. I'm not sure how it comes off on the other side of it, perhaps as cowardice, perhaps as insult, I just don't know. I do know this, if you ever swing at someone 3 times and don't connect, the wisest course of action is to say, "Ah excuse me, I was just leaving", and slowly back away.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I offer advice to Mellissa Plaut

I notice a bunch of instances of people messing with you, and my readers should notice that recently I've said that the passenger never wins. A cab ride is a business transaction, it's not a game. If you allow some complete stranger to change it from a business transaction to some drunken game like playing quarters you're forgetting that when the bartender has chosen to 86 them, now you get them. Now they may want to make your cab their new play pen. If you let a drunk have control over the cab, it isn't your cab anymore, you can't do that, you are temporally responsible for that person's safety.

When I pull up to a flag and ask where they want to go, unless it's someplace I REALLY WANT TO GO, if they don't tell me, if they're cute about it, coy, say they'll show me perhaps, I say, "That's not an address, I can't take you."

An address is of the form, 5810 Raymond rd.

This includes replies to my question like, 'the west side', 'Fitchburg', 'Will you take me to the west side', and so on. The next thing that's apt to come out of their mouth is an exasperated address, but you already said you weren't going to take them. When you tell someone you can't take them, it's end of transaction, no second chance, because if you do back off and take them, they'll be ugly all the way to the destination. Pull away, they'll forget you and put their arm up and wave for another cab. They probably won't mess with the next driver. The next driver is their hero, they won't remember your number, won't write it down, and everyone is safe and happy. This also applies to people who jump in and insist on a ride because they've captured the cab. The cab isn't subject to capture, it's my cab and it's not in the interest of my safety to let anybody capture it.

This also goes for phone calls. I don't answer phones often but sometimes for 10 or 15 minutes I will sit in if I'm taking a break at the office. The classic call I remember was a request for a car load of people from someplace in the country out the other side of Verona on a very busy weekend night. The person placing the call said they wanted to go to where ever, and there were 4 of them (5 if it was back when we drove Diplomats), gave me the phone number, and I said "So where are you?" Lady said she wasn't sure what the address was, but she'd get the guy who owned the house who was throwing the party. I waited for 3 or 4 minutes, and this bozo came on and said hello. I only gave him one chance, "What is your address sir?"

He came back with, "So where are you coming from?"

I hung up and answered the next line. It quite possibly took them 15 minutes of trying to get through a second time, and I'll bet the guy had a chip on his shoulder by then but that's not my problem. If I want directions, I will ask for directions.

Tell me where you are, where you're going, how many people in your party, and that you're ready to go, don't lie to me. If you asked for a cab for 3 people and it's only one person, I know what's going on, you didn't want to share a ride, so you lied about the number of people, but what are you also lying about? Perhaps that you want to rob me? I'm not going to find out. When you call back for a ride, tell the truth about how may people in your party.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A few accidents

There are so many learning experiences that can't be learned any other way than to be there. I think most of the traffic accidents have been learning experiences, a few haven't, but the overall effect of the non learning experiences is to make you drive slower and leave more room, which is just what the driving authorities say.

Ever hear stories of people running to get on a wreaked bus in a big city? There is no doubt in my mind that happens. I had 2 poor underpriviledged minority youth sitting in the back seat and an old lady who was a charge to the city sitting in the front seat when I got bumped by the car behind me while waiting to make a left turn. Under other circumstances I would have ignored it, but rides that are charges to the city or county get treated differently, one takes no liability risks with these rides. I asked the dispatcher to get the police for me.

The 2 kids in the back seat were rather dismayed, they didn't want to wait, they didn't want to have the cops involved. I told them I was sorry about the situation, but it was out of my control. This went on for about 5 minutes, then the mouthy one started saying, "My arm hurts, when does I get paid?" I said to him that the guy in the ratty old car behind us who had carelessly bumped us probably was uninsured, and would get his drivers license revolked if he persisted with this he was injured nonsense The black 12 year old had no mercy for the black man with 2 children and their mother in the ratty car behind us. That poor man did lose his driving priviledges to the young gang banger.

When the cops got there they checked out the 2 kids pretty closely. The lady in the front seat said she was ok for the record. The lady cop who did the paperwork expressed her amazement at how reasonable, composed, and even tempered I was. We'd crossed path's before. I asked her why she expected any other behaviour. She let it drop, she had been wrong on that other occasion in the past and she knew it. After the paperwork was finished, I went to drop my 2 fares, and when I got empty I played a hunch, I swung into the garage and pulled the back seat out. Sure enough, there was a little brown wax covered cube about 3/4" on a side lying there under where the seat had been. Delivery boys, they were only afraid until they figgured they could stand the shakedown, and the cops did indeed shake them down. Next time I will pull the rear out if the cops don't. I'm pretty sure it was T-fus who pulled that little cube out of the trash barrel in the garage, I know someone certainly did.

I think the first accident I ever got in was in a blizzard. It was at the bottom of the hill in the northbound lane of Park, 1800 block, if memory serves. I was waiting for a passenger to come out and she was taking her time. There was a black lady sitting in the back seat. It was about 10 days before Christmas, just exactly this time of year. I watched a car crest the hill behind me in the rear view mirror, and start coming down the hill.

I asked myself, why doesn't he change lanes? It was a long hill, he had pleanty of time to change lanes, why isn't he changing lanes? Why???? Because he was a complete moron! He was a PhD student in electrical engineering from Taiwan, who had absolutely no clue what snow was, much less what it was like to drive on it, and was incapable of saying to himself that he might be too clueless to drive in a blizzard. It turns out that he locked up his brakes at the top of the hill and slid all the way down. All this idiot would have had to have done would have been to take his foot off the brake and change lanes and coast by me. But no, when he was too close to change lanes, I braced myself for the impact, and realized that I was stupid too. I'd let this fool hit me. CRASH..............

The black lady in the back seat started saying, "Oh, I hurt my arm. No, it's my shoulder. No, it's my neck."

"Merry Christmas ma'am!", I said, "Merry Christmas."

They tell me the idiot Chinaman got more than $10,000. And people wonder why I'm an isolationist.

The most spectacular accident I've ever seen happened on Stoughton rd. It was in the southbound lane just north of Buckeye rd. I had a passenger in, all of a sudden about 100 meters ahead of me a car started to spin, debris flew up in the air, then the whole group of 6 or 7 cars started spinning and crashing into each other. This chaos created a huge cloud of dust almost immediately, and I couldn't see into it. I slowed to about 10 miles per hour and creapt up on the carnage. The dust started to clear before I reached the crash, and by the time I slowly picked my way past the broken cars and the trash lying on the pavement. It was just like watching one of those most spectacular videos you see on TV, a 7 car pile up.

The most memorable accident I never actually saw. It happened on a New Year's Eve (day), at around 3:30 am. It was a really memorable holiday shift in general too. That was the night the cops locked King James out of his cab, but that's another cutsie story for another time. I was sitting in front of the Pizza Pit on University. Across the street was an entire block parking lot. The Black Bear Lounge was shooing their customers out, I'd picked up a passenger there a few minutes earlier and I will never forget the blond girl in the biker jacket who was missing her 2 front teeth, otherwise she was real pretty. The Bear was 90 degrees away from where I was sitting, also across the street from the huge parking lot. Sitting in a car, you can only see the front row of cars parked in the lot, so I could only hear what was about to happen.

All of a sudden from the middle of the parking lot I heard car tires screaching, then crash! Tires screach again, crash! Tires screach again, crash! Tires screach again, crash! It was pretty obvious what was going on, somebody was flooring it and crashing into a car foreward, then putting it into reverse and flooring it and crashing, and just going back and forth like that. It's something that you just listen to with an odd fascination and say to yourself, wow. I was just putting the cab into gear so I could go over to the entrance of the lot and perhaps see what was going on, when I heard, tires screach - crash, "You son of a bitch!!!!!! That's my car!!!!!!", tires screach crash.

When I was aproaching the entrance of the lot I saw a car that was very tore up come flying out of the lot southbound on Lake. I was just turning on to lake. A squad flew around the corner off Johnson, he was headed into that lot, and with his lights on, he also blocked me from following them lunatic in the demolition derby car. I stopped him at the entrance to the parking lot and told him he'd just passed the guy he was after, when he turned onto Lake off Johnson, the guy he was after turned onto Johnson and was headed east. The cop immediately pulled around and took off down Johnson st. I doubt he ever caught up to the guy, but perhaps the guy who watched his car get smashed got a plate number.

Why do people do things like this? Most people think that alcohol is to blame. I disagree, alcohol only enhances the fundamental poison which is the root of the problem. What?? No, I'm not talking about what most people think of when they say, 'drugs' either. Ok, what then? Testosterone poisoning of course. My theory is, the moron in that car bought drinks for some whore for hours and figgured he was going to get some. Then when closing time came and she said some polite variant of, 'No,I let you buy me drinks, chump, and I do not go home with chumps', he kind of lost it. Poor guy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What do people do to cab drivers anyway?

I never thought of myself as innocent when I started driving cab. You see and experience it all eventually. The human capacity for being petty, self centered, dishonest, and generally disgusting never ceases to amaze me.

Example one:

I get a ride to pick up at a church out on Dempsey rd. It's a Sunday morning, about 6:00, and I'm supposed to go into the church. I get inside and there is this 40ish guy with a parson, it's sounding like this guys mother is dead. The parson gives me 5 bucks and tells me to take the guy to Methodist Hospital, he thanks the parson, and we go out and get in the cab.

The guy isn't very impressive. He's bigger than I am, but he's got a big gut on him. He's shabbily dressed. As soon as I pull out of the lot, he says, "Take me to the Tip Top, that's a $2.00 fare, he gave you a nickle, I want the change."

I told him I'd take him to the Tip Top but I wasn't giving him any money. He looks at me with a very serious look on his face and says he was in Vietnam, as if that's supposed, to make him some kind of scary guy. I immediately came back with, "82nd Airborne, Grenada. You planning on taking that change from me?" I was lying of course, my dad was 82nd, I never served. If he really was in Vietnam he probably knew better than to mess with paratroops. I really didn't want to go a round with this guy but there was no doubt in my mind who'd lose.

We got to the Tip Top and it wasn't open. If I was experienced, I would have kicked him out of the cab right there. Since I was green, I took him to the Shoe instead.

Example 2:

I'm working calls off the radio, it's around bar time on a Saturday night, and the dispatcher stuffs me a call at the Concourse Hotel going to Simpson st. I don't ever want to go to Simpson st. unless the ride is a charge to an account, and I REALLY don't want to go there at night.

Sure enough, it's a scruffy looking black woman. She gets in and tells me the address she's going to, then she says the magic words, "My sister is paying for me when we get there."

I'm not supposed to ask for payment up front, and I'm not supposed to ask to see money, because it's demeaning to the passenger. I didn't ask, she volunteered that information. If she doesn't have cash on her, I don't have to take her. So I tell her that I'm sorry but I can't take her if she doesn't have money on her. This turns ugly immediately, she's not going to get out of the cab, I have to take her, her ass is sitting on my seat and she's not going to get out of the cab until I take her to Simpson st. A number of people try this ploy, they are in the cab and they won't get out. I NEVER allow people get away with this ploy, no matter what it costs. It's much easier to remedy this problem before the ride than at the destination.

I ask for the cops, over the radio. Dispatch doesn't want to do it, but they call the cops for me. We all wait, 15 or 20 minutes, then the cops get there. I get out of the cab and explain to the officer what the deal is, so she asks the woman to get out and asks her what the deal is. I'd turned my back to her and the cop and was about to sit back down in the cab. She roared with great rage, "That honkey mother fucker won't take me because I'm black!!!!" Then she honked up a louie and spit on the middle of the back of my down vest.

The cop asked me what I wanted to do. Well, she got a freebie. I told the cop that I didn't care what she did with the woman, she was out of my cab and I wanted to go on my way. If it ever comes up again, I will pursue the max penalty, and because of the racial stuff, I'd insist it be pursued as a hate crime. We have that in this state. If I can't use the N word, she can't call me a honkey. I've found over the years that no matter what it costs at the moment, after the fact, pursuing it is always the right thing to do.

Example 3:

I'm picking a metro (city charge ride) at Oakwood that goes to the VA hospital. It's close to 9:30 am., and I have to have the cab in by 10:00. The woman I'm supposed to take is there, ready to go, but she has a friend with her who wants to go to a different destination. The radio is crazy, it's as busy as a morning rush hour ever gets. The retired Air Force major gets in the front seat and she's telling me she's certain that I must have her friend too, they're going to very close destinations. I can't get through to see if we have an add on code for the second woman. The major keeps slamming the door and opening the door. When she feels she has won she slams the door, when I say no she opens the door and says if her friend doesn't go she doesn't go. She's threatening to not take the ride, that's supposed to impress me.

I was too green to know how to handle this. I was about to generate my first insurance claim. This was to be one of the defining incidents in my early career. A retired Air Force major and a retired school teacher, who both have generous pensions, are bent on stealing from me, taking advantage of my innocence and inexperience.

Finally I say ok, I don't have time to argue anymore. If the friend ends up getting a free ride, I can't help it, I've got to go. I say ok, I'll take her.

The experienced cab driver in me knows what the major's next move would have been in this little chess game. If I'd said ok, don't take the ride, she would have refused to get out. What would happen today is, I'd get the police IMMEDIATELY. Get this woman out of the cab. I'd pay the penalty for returning the cab late, and I'd get both of them kicked off metro. No more cheapo rides for the rest of the year ladies. You NEVER give a second chance, you NEVER allow a passenger to win.

I look down at the slip I'm writing the teachers name on, so that I can get the code back at the office, destination, time, and source of ride too. The major opens and slams the door a couple more times, the last of which I took to be the door in the back seat slamming. I put the cab in gear and started to move the cab, the teacher howled, she wasn't properly seated and she was now on the pavement claiming that it was my fault, I'd made her fall. I helped her get up and got her into the cab and shut the door myself this time. Yes, she did indeed sue, and took the greenmail. Oh, yeah, she got the ride she was stealing too.

I was told later that she'd been scheduled on a bus an hour earlier and she'd missed it. The guy at metro chuckled when he said, "Seniors from hell."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I don't offer too many free rides

It was a New Years Eve, or day actually since it was around 2:00 am. I'd dropped a fare out around Williamsburg and Prairie, and was heading back down town. There was about 4" of fresh snow on the ground, and there were no tire tracks in the snow ahead of me.

I was on Raymond rd. which is a boulevard, and coming toward me was a car going the wrong way on my side of the road. What I normally do when facing a car coming toward me on a one way street is crowd the left side of the street. This has always worked well, the on coming car always gets the idea right away, and corrects, you're welcome who ever you are. Well, it didn't work this time.

The on coming car climbed over the curb and wasn't going to stop or hit the trees in the median, so I gave just enough room for it to get past. As it passed, it's outside mirror ticked my outside mirror. I couldn't believe it! So, I turned around at the next gap in the median and followed. The car turned south on Prairie, and I passed it and started slowing down in front of it. What was going on was obvious, the lady driving that car was pretty drunk. I cornered her in the first cul de sac she came to, which she turned into to avoid stopping.

I got out of the cab and went over to her window. I motioned her to roll the window down. When she rolled the window down a couple of inches, I said "You're drunk. You can't drive like this. I will give you a free ride home and you can get your car tomorrow. Give me your keys and let me drive you home, otherwise I will be forced to have you arrested for drunk driving."

She said she couldn't do that. I said she had to, otherwise she'd go to jail. She said she couldn't do it. This went back and forth for about 4 rounds, so I said, "Last chance, you will go to jail, you're sure you want to do that?"

Then I went over to the cab, keyed the mike and said I needed the cops for a drunk driver who sideswiped the cab. The cops got there pretty quick. She'd left a little rub of yellow paint on the underside of the mirror housing, which was all the cops needed to charge her with fleeing the scene of an accident, in addition to drunk driving.

My actions may seem kind of harsh, but I work out there. Some day a drunk driver may kill me. I did offer her a free ride home. It wasn't free for me either. In addition to sacrificing an hour of very prime time, I have an accident noted on my driving abstract that night. I'd do it again too.

My favorite horse thief

My all time favorite horse thief was Finnigan. Most drivers hated him, but I liked him, he was a funny guy. He mostly worked the airport, and he'd try to load up as heavy as possible every time he was there. Thing was, if you were on good terms with him, he'd share pretty even. Since most people didn't like him, he'd load up multiple fares right in front of them, and just ignore the screaming. Or he'd look inside, then pull around to the end of the line and let the other couple of cabs in the cab stand get the first no luggage people, then he'd load up as the only cab in the place. The almighty liked him too, he died of a heart attack, suddenly, a clean death.

I'd great him by saying, "How's my favorite horse thief today?"

With a wistful look on his face, and tone of voice he'd reply, "You know, they've been scarce lately." The best Finnigan memory of all was his description of picking up a dozen scientists at the physical science lab in Stoughton, and charging each one of them full meter fare, taking them to the airport. When he finished the story he said, "Them Canadians tip good too."
There are other horse thieves, of course.

Who is my favorite horse thief these days? It's close between Blondie and Charlie, they'd both rob you blind in a heartbeat, and I like both of them.

Friday, December 12, 2008

El Dougaie's favorite R.C. story

A long time ago, perhaps 20 years ago, I was in the drivers room at the old old office doing my envelope, and El Dougaie asked me for the key. Oh, yeah, sure, but hey wait a minute, I got to get something out of the trunk. I always forget stuff in the trunk, to this day I do.

So we go out in the lot, start the engine, press the button that pops the trunk, and I reach in and pull out a dead grey squirrel. "Dinner", I said.

The Brick was standing a few feet away with his mouth hanging open. El Dougaie said, "Aw look, it's even got a nut in it's mouth."

I looked at the dead squirrel a little closer and said, "No, that's not a nut. That is a piece of a snickers bar."

I handed El Dougaie the key and tossed dinner on the seat of my pickup. Then The Brick came over and started telling me that I couldn't eat that squirrel, it could have who knows what diseases and parasites and cooties in general. I looked at him like he was teatched, there wasn't anything wrong with the squirrel, which I intended broiling, except it would be a little messy to dress out, it was even fall, right time of year. That squirrel wasn't even stiff when I picked it up, it was very fresh. So I told him he was out of his mind, and went back into the drivers room to finish my envelope.

This incident had tremendous impact on both of them. The Brick never let it go because I could die from doing stuff like this, and he had a PhD in some biology discipline so he knew all about those microbial cooties. El Dougaie always chuckles when he tells the story, and he still tells it. "No", he'll say, "that's not a nut, that's a piece of a snickers bar." heh heh heh

Which reminds me, when I get this cast off, I think I'm going to get the game warden to tag me a deer that has died of highway disease. Going deer hunting is way too much work, and a venison rib roast sounds pretty tasty. Free for the taking here, all you have to do is call the sheriff's office, get a list to look at, drive around and find one that isn't too tore up. Then you get it tagged, take it home and cut it up and wrap it. Bingo, full freezer and the dog loves it as much as I do.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm reading HACK

Nice kid. So far she kind of reminds me of a couple of drivers I've known from the past, and no not one of The Wood Brothers, nor Gwench, nor The Wombat, nor Wicked Wanda. Actually I think she most reminds me of Tiberious, Roy Boy's boy, and in an odd way Lucky Pierre now that I think of him.

This is not to say that she comes off as being excessively masculine. She isn't.

I used to tease Tiberious by saying to him, "Who the HELL, wants a good boy anyway?"

Tiberious would always reply, "My parents were blessed with one." Which was true, he was the ultimate good kid, good manners, good student, nice guy. He's a lot like his dad. Now what ever possessed Roy to let his son drive a cab at night? You can get killed or maimed, it's not something I'd recommend to a friend. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive, I only ever suggested to one friend that driving a cab was a cool job. My best friend got murdered by a passenger in April of '92, less than a year later. Tiberious, has a good job these days, and a nice family, in addition to being a good boy, he's been lucky in life.

I wonder what ever happened to Lucky. He used to come down to the office and sit around the dispatch office, any evening he wasn't working. Of all the drivers I've ever met who loved everything taxicab, Lucky loved it the most. If memory serves, he got washed out when he lost his driver's license. The way that happened was he got a speeding ticket which isn't that big a deal, then he got a silly ticket which I don't recall the specifics of, then finally he got a ticket on his moped for riding it on a lettered county highway, poof 90 day suspension. It was Lucky who told me that The Hog turned to him one night and said, "R. C.'s a real cream puffer." The highest praise of driving ability I've ever gotten.

The Wood Brothers were also called The Woods of the 90's. Husband and wife, I think they drove 191 & 192 five nights a week from 10:00 pm. to 6:00 am. when I started. I'm pretty sure he's dead, I don't recall what became of her. I wonder if she kept his glass eye as a keepsake.

The Wombat and Qwench will get their own posts.

Monday, December 8, 2008

a royal purple cast

saw the hand specialist today. he thinks i broke a couple wrist bones, but it won't show up in an xray for a couple of weeks, so i have to go back just before x-mas for reexamination. talked to the cab company's insurance adjuster, she's right on everything, woo hooo.

fast eddie took the knuckle heads (his dogs, gus & sam) and gromit to the dog park, and reminded me of "paper", while we chatted when he picked up gromit. one of the bad things about being a 20 year driver is losing friends. i think pat powers was the first one to go, he might have out lived jim englekey, but it was back in that period of time. powers was a day driver back when i started, he drove 162, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, m - f, and did a little part time dispatching, averaged 1 shift a week, weekend evenings. one night he had a splitting head ache, went to the VA hospital, and was dead the next day. god must have liked him as much as we did. anyway......................... about paper

if you ran out of money at the drivers poker game, it was acceptable to write say, "fast eddie owes $20.00" on a piece of paper, toss it in the pot, and take out twenty bucks to continue playing with. since anybody who needs to do this is probably a deadbeat, paper was hard to collect on. powers was always willing buy paper for 50% of face value. then he'd wait for an opportunity to dispatch when somebody who owed him money was driving. if a good shift was worth $100.00, and driver x owed him $25.00, he'd make it clear to the driver that he'd make at least $125.00, but powers got the first $25.00 right away. then powers would stuff the guy calls for his entire dispatching shift.

the other thing i recall about powers was the concensous opinion that if you were going to get in a bar fight, and you could only take one friend along with, powers was the guy you wanted to be out drinking with. his watering hole was the psha, which was the perfered watering hole for all the ball players. i never got invited to play ball.

is the fix still in? the more it changes, the more it stays the same, they say. Sandy Van Scycle once wryly made the observation that, "every body is doing something all of the time."

this has caused me to recall knutson, and yard runs, and my $3 bike, but those are to be seperate posts

powers had a real deep voice, i will never forget the voice or the man.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

i got hurt at work

typing with 1 hand, the wrong hand, is a royal pain

thus, no new posts for a couple weeks, and if i need hand surgery, longer

fell on the ice in the parking lot at the cab company

can't walk yet either

Friday, November 28, 2008

Junior, aka The Minus

I had fun with The Minus when I ran into him at a wedding a couple of years ago. He got banished from cab driving for failing to pay his cab rent many years ago, but aside from being grayer, he looked like the same old Minus. So, I walked up to him, threw my arms around him like a long lost friend, and exclaimed "Minus!!"

He looked at me puzzled, and said, "Yeah, I know, I've got one tattooed on my forehead. Who the hell are you anyway?"

I smiled and said, "You haven't changed much, it's good to see you." Then I went on my way. He spent the rest of the afternoon asking people who I was, and of course nobody remembered what my name was when he knew me and I do look a little different, it just made no sense what so ever to him.

I will always remember him as he was one night with Pin Head, they were both trashed and he was kind of singing, "A Minus and a Pin."

His official nickname at the cab company was Junior. He's Fast Eddies little brother, so Fast Eddie got called Senior, and Minus got called Junior, over the radio.

The absolute, classic, Minus antic dote happened one Sunday morning at The Union House. A bunch of drivers went for a few after work beverages, and he was sifting through his cash and saying, "This one's for me, this ones for THM, this one's for me....." And finally said, "The hell with THM.", and bought the house a round of drinks. According to Fast Eddie, he hadn't even made check in that day.

My classic Minus memory was a call at the bus. I was in the back lot, he was next to the window, we were both standing next to the dispatcher in the office when the call came in. The back lot smoked the window by 50 yards, so I knew I was up, he was closer to his cab, but running through the shop doesn't take much time. Dispatcher asked me where I was, Ingersol and Wash, asked Junior and he said his cab was broke down. What he'd done was floor it backing out of the lot, and thrown it into drive with it floored, which is a really good way to spread pieces of transmission all over the pavement under the car, which is precisely what happened.

But he is definitely part of the family. How could a guy who talked of spanking dead presidents (laying a bill down on the bar), and cold cracklers (bottles of beer for after work), not be loved by all, even if he couldn't drive a cab?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My favorite Christmas

My cousin, upon hearing this story asked, what did I get. I got the memory.

I used to have this personal some people called The Eel Man. Weird guy, he'd come to town and pay me to let him ride around in the cab while I ran other rides. For some reason, he always wanted to tip the dispatchers too. Usually it was 1/2 gallon of vodka for Big T, and a case of bergie bocks for Curley. The other posts that refer to him, are the first 2 rides I ever did for him, and he was never less than weird, be it good or bad. I think he was a con artist, but I never asked.

He was The Eel Man because when we'd dine in the sushi place, he'd throw down $60-$70 bucks worth of eel. For those of you who never had sushi, eel is cooked, tastes just like walleye, and is usually one of the most expensive items on the menu. I was kind of partial to the spicy tuna which is raw, and the steak in a sushi place is really good. Of course when we ate out, it was his treat.

I had a weird SO back then who had a son who didn't like me. The first time he brought Glow over with him I thought, wow, she fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. I was told they really loved each other and she was real good for him, which is true, they're still together, and their son is in high school.

The second time they visited they disclosed that Glow was pregnant, and she told me she was going to go down and get on ADFC in a few days. "Ah, wait a second. Are you sure you want to do that? If you get on ADFC, your kid isn't your kid anymore, but rather a ward of the court, and if you wanted to visit a friend in Chicago, legally, you'd need to get someone to give you permission in writing to leave the state." What I really didn't want to see happen was for ADFC to screw up the fathers life, which it would have, and the out come of that be that instead of a happy family of three living in a little house in the woods and racing go carts on the weekend, the kid would have no father today. Glow was kind of taken aback, and asked where she was supposed to get the funds to have a baby. "Gee, Glow, you're Ms. Natural anyway right? Why don't you have a midwife do it, and have the baby in your own apartment?" She'd never considered that but she liked the idea, did I know where she could find one. Turns out a couple of drivers used them, Hammer's wife to be, and a really fine lady named Nora. I got Nora's phone number for her, and that's the way little Joe came into the world.

Since I had an opportunity to have a real family Christmas, I told Glow that I'd buy a tree, and decorations, if she'd be willing to have it at her place. I told her she got to keep the decorations, which were mostly quantity 1 fancy ornaments, which came from a trendy little shop on Monroe st. I like Christmas trees a lot. The tree came from a cut your own place in Middleton, a perfect Frazier Fir. Phil's gift was to be a CD player, boom box, what 18 year old can go with out his tunes? Glow's gift was a really nice pair of hiking boots, which she said were the best Christmas gift she'd ever gotten, they were waterproof, light and well insulated.

When we had Christmas at Phil and Glow's it was perfect. The tree was perfect, the gifts were perfect, it was simply the best ever Christmas of my life. The greatest gift I gave that Christmas was to the unborn baby, I gave him a really happy family to grow up in, just blind luck.

So how does the Eel Man come into this story? He came to town one night in December, and after we'd dined at the sushi place, he told me to come shopping with him. He was paying me by the hour, so what the hell. We went into a music store, and he said that if I wanted anything to put it in the basket. I got kind of embarrassed at around $125.00, and said we had enough CD's. The CD's were mostly chosen by one of the kids who worked in the store. I told him they were to be the first CD's for Phil's new CD boom box, Phil agreed with his taste, said they were great.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

An ok weekend

Considering how bad it's been lately, this weekend wasn't half bad.

Nobody told me they were going to kill me, or something graphic like grinding all the skin off my face on the sidewalk. Nobody tried to beat me out of a fare. The money was ok, relatively speaking. A hotel employee from a far west side hotel told me they had 30% occupancy on Friday night. 30%??????? On a football weekend???????? Yeah, I will count my blessings, I did much better than they did.

I told a passenger 2 of the knife stories, she was entranced. I told another group three of them, they wanted to get a ride back to the hotel at bar time to hear the rest of them. All in all, except for the snafu at St. Mary's, it was a really laid back, enjoyable shift last night. I had fun. It's supposed to be fun. It's not supposed to be pain, or terror, I didn't have to show anybody the Hyde who lives in side me.

My return to being a full time driver is set for mid January. I can't wait!!!!!!!! I will drive on Thursday, I need to spend this holiday with my family. Never before in my life have I known how much I love them all, even the ones I can't stand. Everyone should spend the holiday with loved ones.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The happiest cab

In the photo, the cab I'm sitting in is a Dodge Diplomat. It was the only new cab I was ever given. I drove the first ever shift in that cab. It was 171 if memory serves. It was the happiest cab in the fleet, and there has never been a happier cab since. How so?

I was working State st. at around 10:00 pm the night of that first shift. A couple asked me for a ride to Monona, I said sure. They got in. On the ride they were doing a bit of necking, a loving couple, all couples should love each other. I was getting off the beltline at South Towne, and the lady asked me if I minded if they had sex in the back seat.

"Lady, as long as you're willing to pay the fare, I don't care what you do."

She said to drive them somewhere, anywhere, and she'd tell me when they were done. I got back on the beltline westbound, and we started driving toward the west side and Middleton if it took that long. It would be a good fare. The guy was sitting in the middle of the seat. She took her panties off and hiked up her dress a little and let herself down on him. She told me they were finished when I got to about Parmenter, so I turned around again and headed back to Monona.

When we got to their house, they paid me and tipped generously. She kind of danced from the cab to the door of the house. The guy was sitting there with what could be described as a shit eating grin, he was a tad slow to get up and follow. It was the right way to christen the only new cab of my life, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The 5th stage of tequila

Why can I drive on State st.? This cab is the 5th stage of tequila and it's invisible.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ways to entertain a passenger

I think we all have standard jokes we tell, I certainly do. Over the years, I've discovered that passengers usually like to be entertained, good stories are always good. I've also found that stories like Fish, Boomtown, and Mario, I can't tell. The anger never leaves some stories, so if there's question in my mind, I ask for a critique from a few passengers, and if they tell me I still sound like I'm mad about it, I can't tell that story.

I have a dirtiest joke. It's too X rated for here, inspite of the fact that there is only 1 four letter word in it, and that word is only shit. The girl who told it to me as a dorm resident from Ogg hall, she told me it was the dirtiest, and she was right.

I have a most told joke. Why do they make 3 different size packages of condoms? The 3 packs are for HS students, 1 for Friday, 1 for Saturday, 1 for Sunday. The 6 packs are for college students, 2 for Friday, 2 for Saturday.... The 12 packs are for married people, 1 for January, 1 for.....

When I was recovering from the event described in the post titled Wild Ride, I had to tell the story over and over. The guy I talk to once a month, who tells me I'm not a lunatic, says that's a highly recommended therapy for a really traumatic event. I'd always claimed that no one had ever robbed me, never even tried before. Then as I told the story over and over, I came to recall that not only had someone attempted to rob me at knifepoint before, it as the third time. Further reflection caused me to recall 2 more confrontations where a knife was pulled, and all of a sudden I had 5 knife stories. I got good at telling the 5 knife stories, and people tip really well after hearing them. I have had a few people accuse me of being brave, nope, I'm a coward, I tell them courage isn't part of the equation. Courage is something I've never had. At the end of my last ride of the weekend, 2 fares had listened to the first 4 knife stories, and tips were close to $15.00 for the stories. A little secret: If I can see the knife, I say to myself, "If the guy was going to cut me, I'd already be cut, he wouldn't be showing me his knife."

Something I'd never noticed in all these years is, college kids like wise cracks. Seems kind of obvious doesn't it? Perhaps, I've simply always assumed that everyone has heard all the standard wise cracks. When the fourth girl from 1 group got in, I said, "We're off like a herd of turtles." God, they loved that and asked if I had more. I couldn't think of any off the top of my head, but given the right prompting, it's amazing what you think of to say. I had these 4 people get in at a million dollar house in The Bluff, rich people. The fat cat in the front seat constantly messed with me, all the way downtown. When I turned onto Hamilton, and the capital came in view, he seriously confided to me, "Oh, by the way, your company is paying for this ride." I'd had about enough of him all ready, and normally I wouldn't say something like this to a passenger, but I told him he was as full of bull shit as a Christmas goose. He loved it. The girls from Friday night would have loved it too. It just made it into my act.

The kid from Ann Arbor, and the psycho

Near the start of Fridays shift, I had a couple of Michigan students in the cab. I was telling them the verbose version of the retarded dwarf story when we rolled into East Towne and loaded a black woman who works for the mall. I continuted the story a little, and of course the black woman hadn't heard the prelude, I was describing the stench, and she got real animated in her commentary, things like I ought to toss someone out who even farts in the cab. It was hysterical, the 3 of us laughed and laughed until she got to where she was going and got out.

I decided that I was going to try and make as many people laugh as I could. Most of the passengers anyhow. Fast Eddie once cautioned me about making people laugh too much, he once got somebody laughing so hard she crapped her pants. Just before they got out, the guy said, perhaps he should write a book out of my material here. I kind of wondered about that, and I'd thought of it before that. I asked him what his major was, English he said.

Around 10 pm., I had a well dressed young woman going to the Memorial Union, she said she was going to a dance for senior med and law students. Really? I asked if she was going to chase ambulences or staff them. Chase. Really? Tell me, how would it work if someone else wrote a book out of my material? She said it's my intelectual property. Cool beans!

Unfortunately, every squirrill in the midwest was running around down town over the weekend too. What do squirrills do? The mild stuff is, a couple of guys will come up to a cab while you're loading 4 girls, and try to sit on the girls laps who are in the window seats. Or some grinning jack ass will come up to the cab while I'm loading people on State street and order order me to get out of the cab, so he can get in and drive it, then he hangs his chin on the window and won't move.

The prize jack ass of Saturday night was the guy who was calling me a nazi because I wouldn't let the whole party of 8 pile into the cab. The second time I heard nazi, I pulled over and told them to get out, we'd only gone about a block. The woman in the front seat tried to talk me out of it. One thing I've learned by hard experience over the years is, once you tell someone to get out, they get out. NO second chances. When she finally got out, the guy with the mouth came over and tried to shatter the window by slamming the door as hard as was physically possible. I started to get out of the cab, and he went even further psycho describing in great detail how he was going to break me into little pieces. There are times when it's seriously tempting to carry a cattle prod. Imagine having that guy sitting behind you for 10 minutes. Shortly after that, a passenger told me that all the cops and ambulence in the middle of that block were for someone who had been randomly attacked as he exited a bar. Some psycho total stranger had wound up and hit the guy in the face and run off. I wonder if it was the same guy.

Fish, Boomtown, and Mario

I did a bad thing yesterday. My day driver brought the cab in a couple of minutes late, and I went off on him. When I looked at the schedule, it looked like he was done at 2, he was really done at 3, and at around 2:50, I asked the dispatcher to see what he was doing. He said he was down by the stadium. I won't tell you how you'd have to drive to get it back in 10 minutes from where he was, but think in terms of low flying jet, in broad daylight. He pulled it up to the pumps, I was less than personable, and he compensated me double the going rate. At that point I proceded to tell him that him hanging around at the PSHA back in the early 80's with the in crowd didn't cut any ice. This guy is a returning driver, very experienced, a REAL cab driver, inspite of the fact that most of the people who'd known him back then have died or retired. He'd left before I started back in Oct. '88. I think I'll leave him an envelope with his 10 bucks in it and a note of apologie in it. He did however, cause me to remember something I need, and put the first chapter material into my head.

He said he'd been talking to Fish on the phone a few minutes before, and Fish said...... Fish and I don't like each other and Fish has been making noises about coming back too. I told him about my relationship with Fish, and his eyes got big, and he said, "It's you", with a look of almost astonishment. Yeah, I definately want to excuse myself, and give him his money back. What I remembered was my complete schedule, and who my day and night drivers were back then, and what the status quo was back then. Back then, my schedule was MWF - 2am to 10am, and Sat and Sun 3am to 3pm. I also had a 'real job' from 10-6 M-F, cooking in a sorority.

I'd get up at 2am on Sat and Sun, go in, and there wouldn't be a cab on the lot to drive, much less the one I was assigned to drive. None of those jerks would bring the cab in until 4am or later. It was too good to quit, too fat, they were making too much money. They were stealing that money from me, of course, because I was paying the cab rent on that cab from 3am. I'd ask the dispatcher to chase them off the road, he'd just lock the door of the dispatch office and tell me to screw myself, after all, I was a day jerk, and a rookie. What right did I have to try to take a seasoned veteran driver off the street that he needed until the bar rush was over? And people wonder why I'm, ah, the way I am. They wonder why I have enemies. If someone is ripping you off constantly, it is bound to get under your skin, it certainly got under my skin. They used to call it, 'Using and abusing rookies.' There arn't many of us around who remember how hot it would be from 2am to 4am in the pre drunk bus days, but it would be absolutely hoppin.
My relationship with Fish, was established one Sunday morning at 4am, the day after a football Saturday. Fish was a day driver, who'd get on the schedule to drive a night shift after a football game. Bull Frog does the same thing, he was out there last night. So, Fish not only brings the cab in an hour late, he then lays down in the back seat to take a little nap. I ripped the door open and said, "Get out!" He looked up at me and said something about just working a 13 hour shift, and I gave him a piece of my mind about stealing an hour of my time. He didn't like that, I didn't like it, and that set the stage for the next 20 or more years. Fish became a professional landlord around 10 years ago.

Mario and I never got into it much, he was a college age driver, and he just did what he wanted and screw anybody else. He was around when I moved to nights, so I knew the guy a little. He used to brag about spinning a cab full of passengers on fresh snow to get tips for doing donuts. The me of today would have ratted him out to the company, but I was nicer back then.

Boomtown and I had a grudge going until a couple of years ago. He didn't carry the grudge, I did. Why? There isn't a nicer guy at the company, ah, well until there's a dollar sign on something he's a nice guy. At 3:00 am when he was supposed to bring the cab in, he'd help the dispatcher. The way he'd help the dispatcher was to take a 4 way split as far out to the west side as he could get, and then of course they'd give him stuff to bring him back in to the office. Every time, he'd do this. He tried to reason with me, the dispatcher needed his help, I told him he was a common thief, and I didn't give a damn how nicey nice he was about it. One morning in frustration, he said, "You know, you could solve a lot of problems by just coming in at 5:00 am." 5:00 am.? My shift started at 3. For the last 16 - 17 years I've driven weekend night shifts along side of him, and his reward for saying that was that I would NEVER back off from a call that fit with what he was doing, ever. What changed? Fast Eddie and I used to ride to work with him, until he bent too many cabs and attributed it to difficulty seeing in the dark. How mad can you stay at somebody you ride to work with? Now he's a day jerk.

You're right, I've just let my hair down. I'm not the smiling cab driver in the picture. I'm really me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Clam is back in Paris. He got involved with this woman who wanted to live there, moved there, and only came back once. He was back for a year or 2, a few years back. Back long enough to paint some Madison landscapes, one of which graces the wall in Roy Boy's office.

When I first started driving, I didn't understand the nick name thing. The reason we have nick names is because you're not supposed to address people with their actual name over the radio. Thus it's ok to address Clam as what ever number he's driving, or as Clam, but not as Tom. Like all rules, there are some exceptions, and some of those exceptions are all the time, but the way you're supposed to do it is stick a nick name on that driver. Over 20 years ago, Clam was the lead singer in a group called the Clams. It was J. Crudley Do-Right who explained to me about nick names and Clam's nick name in particular. I wonder what J. Crudley is doing these days........

When Clam was doing his cameo driving I was telling him about the little war I have going with the guy who is argueably the sleazist driver of all time. The first time I ever met that driver, I'd been away driving truck for a couple of years, and he didn't know who I was. Mr. Sleaze, HEY that's his new name!!!! I can put him in the blog now!!!! Mr. Sleaze and I had this little conflict going, which had been on going for years. He was actually mad enough that he came up to my cab at the end of a shift and kicked it in the back lot once. None of us like Mr. Sleaze. I asked Clam for suggestions as to how to raise Mr. Sleaze's blood pressure and get him as angry as possible. Clam said, "Try blowing him a kiss."

It had been about a year when I finally got the chance to blow Mr. Sleaze a kiss. We were on Observatory, we both had to stop at the 4 way stop at Elm and Observatory. As we started up and passed each other, I was west bound, he east, I blew Mr. Sleaze a kiss in the middle of the intersection. He had deliverys in, and a delivery to pick east of where he was, but he did a U turn in the middle of the street and started following me. I'd watch him in the rear view mirror, and he was constantly motioning me with the index finger on his right hand to come to him. He wanted me to pull over so we could get into a fist fight. He's done crazy stuff like that before. I had a delivery to pick out by Hilldale. I let him follow me to about Farley and University.

At this point, I keyed the mike and said to the diapatcher, "Hey, J. D. Guess what Mr. Sleaze is doing?"

J. D. came back with, "Do tell, what is he doing?"

"Well, he's following me, trying to motion me to pull over. I think he wants to kill me, but you'll have to ask him what his intentions are. I have a call to pick by Hilldale, and he has deliverys in and a call to pick east of here, but he's westbound on University now, following me."

Over the radio came J. D.'s voice, "Ah, Mr. Sleaze, you're where do what?"

A minute later, "Mr. Sleaze, I'm told you're westbound on University with calls to get right now. As I pick through the delivery stack, I find that to be true. I strongly suggest you get about your business, or I'm going to take your calls back." At this point, Mr. Sleaze broke off from following me, and I assume he continued his day.

A dispatcher I'm going to call Turd (I'll tell that story later, it's cute), later told me that he was in the office when Roy Boy called in Mr. Sleaze and asked him to explain himself. Mr. Sleaze, who is a grand master of lying, was stammering and trying to lie to Roy Boy and tell him that he was never on my tail, west bound on University with calls going east bound to get. Turd said it was absolutely hysterical. Roy of course, had checked back through the stacks so he knew what I was doing, supposed to do, what Sleaze was doing, what he was supposed to do, and he was really making the guy grovel, while everyone in the office, and everyone coming and going was guffawing out loud.

I was proud of the fact that Sleaze hated me so much. I wonder if he still has me at the top of his list of people he'd like to kill. There are just some people you simply MUST piss off, gotta do it, it's the way the cosmos works.


Buck was one of the greatest dispatchers we ever had on the day shift. He was even tempered, could handle a huge board, and had a great sense of humor. I can't recall him ever getting angry with anyone. It's my understanding that his wife got a good job in California, they moved there, and are living happily ever after. I certainly hope so Buck.

I think my finest memory of Buck on the radio came after a rotund fellow who, still works for the company, was going off on Bullfrog. That fellow gets so wound that sometimes he can't continue, so there would be a silence of say 90 seconds, and a new voice would come on. He hasn't dispatched in years. Such was the case that morning, he said, "And I don't stay mad for just a day or two, Bullfrog. I stay mad for a whole month!!!!!"

I couldn't resist. I waited for a pause of about 15 seconds, which would insure that my wise acre comment would get in, and said, "So does that mean that you hate all of us, all the time?" There was a silence of at least 2 minutes after that crack.

Then Buck's calm, unflappable voice came on, and he said, "Ah, yeah 60, I think that's what that means. He's mad at all of you, all the time." There was a little hint of a snicker in his voice, apparantly as the rotund guy was shaking with anger, Buck had chuckled out loud.

Another cute memory of Buck was when Bubba washed out of teaching school. When any of us wash out of anything, we always come back. Cab driving is forever for most of us. Bubba had confided to me that the second graders used to call him Grover in class, after the children's TV show character. So, I keyed the mike and said, "Al, you know what the kids used to call Bubba?" He said he didn't, so I said, "They used to call him Grover."

Buck thought about it for a minute, and then, just like on the TV, just like you'd call a child from the back yard, "Grover. Oh, Grover." That went on for a couple of weeks. It still amazes me that Bubba would ever let anybody find out about that.

My final memory of Buck on the radio was one early September morning when I had a kid who was about 10 years old in the cab. I was taking him home from school at about 10:00 am on the first day of school. We were about 1/2 there when he said brightly, "Know why they sent me home from school?" I said I didn't, so tell me why. He said, "I've got lice."

There is a former pharmacist in the office, so I keyed the mike and said, "Ah, Buck, this kid in the cab has lice. Ask T.H.M. if he has any suggestions on how to handle that." There was a long silence.

After about 5 minutes Bucks chuckling voice came back with, "Well, you might want to wipe down the seat, don't you think? And, you might want to avoid rubbing heads with him too." I dropped the kid near the office, so I went straight to the garage. I've never cleaned a seat cleaner. I cleaned it much cleaner that I did after the dwarf.