Monday, September 22, 2008

The Eel Man

Some passengers have nicknames too, one real character was The Eel Man.

I first met the Eel Man on a Sunday, during my first year driving, back in 1989. He was a con man. The ride was Hayes rd. to the bus, it was around noon on a typically slow Sunday. I was still a rookie, I had a lot to learn about the business. We've always been a shared ride service, but we've always offered people with charge accounts direct rides for an increased charge. A lot of people get in and demand a direct ride. My own personal policy is, if they ordered the ride with a phone call, they get shared ride service, it says shared ride service right on the door, but I was a rookie and still didn't know better.

I pulled up under the awning of this motel on Hayes rd. and the guy came right out. He had no luggage which was unusual, but common enough. He got into the back seat, passenger side and said he needed to get to the bus. I started driving and he right away said that he needed to be there in 30 minutes or he'd miss his bus. The only way to get him there in 30 minutes was a direct ride, so I said I could give him a direct ride but he'd have to pay the premium for it that we charge people with charge accounts. He said he wouldn't pay it but he'd give me a big tip. How big a tip, I asked. A buck he said.

I told him that if he was unwilling to pay for what he wanted, then I couldn't take him, and I'd have to take him back to the motel, no charge. Ok, he said, back to the motel, no charge. So, I turned around and drove back to the motel. When I pulled up under the awning, his door opened up and he sort of fell on the pavement. Sort of fell? It was the clumbsiest sort of fell I'd ever seen. After rewinding that mental video tape we call memory, and reviewing the scene 100's of times since, what he really did was put his hands together like you would if you were diving into a swimming pool, and dove out of the back seat onto the pavement. Then he got up cursing, and stomped into the lobby. I reached over the seat, swung the door closed, and started heading back toward downtown or the airport or anyplace but Hayes rd. on a slow Sunday.

I got about 2 miles away and his ride came back on the radio. This time the dispatcher was asking who could do it right away and get him there in time to make this bus he wanted to catch. So, I bid on the call, I was up too. The dispatcher said, "Anybody but you 71, anybody but you. Now who can do it?"

Turns out that Fred was in Sun Prairie, so Fred got the ride. I later asked Fred if the guy was trouble, Fred said no, he was an ok passenger. I didn't think so, what a wierdo. He looked wierd, pretty fat and sloppy looking. He sounded wierd, he had this distinctive gravely voice, that you'd remember. And he was the clumbsiest guy I'd ever seen.

When I checked in at 3 pm, I asked the dispatcher what the story was. He told me that I'd probably get fired for tossing a retarded man on his nose on the pavement. Excuse me? What are you talking about? That guy at that motel, going to the bus was retarded, and when you took him back to the motel and threw him on the ground on his nose, his brother and the bellman and 3 other witness's watched you do it. I did no such thing! Well, you can straighten it out with Roy tomorrow, but that's why you couldn't have the 2nd call to take him to the bus. His brother called and was outraged!! He said he's going to sue. The manager of the motel called to complain, he said he'd never give out our phone number again. Good job.

There were more calls later in the day from Chicago, from a variety of people. A call from a doctor who said he'd examined this guy. A call from a lawyer who said he'd been retained to represent this guy. And calls from, I don't recall anymore who all. The calls started again on Monday morning, and I was indeed called into the office to talk to Roy. I tried the truth, telling him I'd done no such thing. He didn't have quite enough to pull me off the road for it yet, but as soon as he'd verified some of the details, I was going to be history.

Nice day. Nice company. Nice boss. Well, I was looking for a job when I came here. This is the most outragious bunch of bull I've ever heard.

Back then, I had Tuesdays and Thursdays off, so I didn't get into the office again until Wed. I went to Roy's desk and wanted to know what the score was, am I fired or what? Well, he said, ah, well, ah........ Well, he didn't think I was fired, but the company lawyers still had to take it seriously, and had to check it out.

And people wonder why cab drivers think passengers are, well, passengers. The guy had a distinctive voice, very distinctive. The same guy who was dispatching on Sunday had taken about a half dozen complaints from doctors, lawyers, and who knows who all else, and it finally dawned on him that they all had the same voice. This was back before caller ID. He told the guy claiming to be the injured persons doctor, that he had the same voice as the guys lawyer, and the phone went dead. Not one call since. But the company lawyers had to take this very seriously, and it would be a while before it would be officially declaired to be a complete lie somebody was making up, with the intention of shaking down Badger for money. Well, thanks a lot boss.

End of Eel man adventure number 1, thank god.

There will be, I think, at least 4 Eel man adventures, all true.... perhaps 5 or 6, including a couple (perhaps more) of non cab driving stories, including a story about the best christmas, and best gifts of my lifetime.

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