Friday, November 7, 2008


When he started, he was a frat boy from Acacia. 2 of them started together, he and Chris. Chris graduated and found himself a real job. Hammer hung around like so many of us and drove cab. Like a number of people, he wanted to be one of the office types, he wanted that real bad. It's easy to see why people want to be dispatchers, there aren't enough good days to compensate for the bad days, compounded by the common American inability to save and manage money. This is probably why, when Bobby trained me, he said that in general people who couldn't drive became dispatchers. Hammer the driver, was pretty bland.

I remember his first ever shift dispatching. He screwed up a Friday rush hour worse than any I've ever seen before or since. He was working with T-fuss, and Big T is a pretty easy going guy, so what probably happened was he announced that he was going to take the radio from 3 until 7, and T let him. He of course knew how he was going to change the system. He'd already picked out his own nickname. He was Hammer, and he was going to hammer out those calls. What did he do? He put all the calls out on an oldest first basis. He wouldn't give out any fresh calls until the old ones were gone. It was a fall day, and it was spitting snow, and he was giving out runs of passenger calls that were all 45 minutes old. If you didn't take them, and try to load them, you got nothing. From 3:30 until 5:00 I did nothing but drive around, wait for 5 minutes, get no passenger, drive to the next one, and so on.

Back then, I was even a highly cooperative driver. I pretty much did what a dispatcher wanted. Try striking out for 90 minutes straight when it's insanely busy, and you know theres one simple reason for the problem, the dispatcher. If you think about it, it's bad for business too. The people who'd called an hour ago didn't get service, nobody got service, and none of the drivers made any money. I finally keyed the mike and told him he was the worst dispatcher I'd ever heard, and it was the truth, on that afternoon he was the worst, in his own league. This started a problem between me and him that lasted for over 10 years.

My thinking has long been that everyone gets treated the same. Rich passengers, poor passengers, flags, and people who called on the phone, all want to go somewhere and pay me for taking them there. The people in the office frequently don't see it that way. People who called on the phone are our customers, they deserve rides, and only if there's nothing else to do does anybody else deserve a ride.

The height of the rift between Hammer and I happeened around bar time one terribly busy weekend night, back before Hammer got married. I heard the call on the board before I saw him, it was State and Gilman going to 800 S. Brooks. I was working flags as I usually did, and I just couldn't resist, stopping and saying hi. I rolled up to him in the intersection, and he said, "You better be here to take my call."

I said, "I'd like to help you but I can't because you called for a ride over the phone." Then I drove a car lenght or 2 away and loaded up with flags, and was off on my way. The driver who did take him home said that he was pretty agitated all the way home, saying he was going to screw me over for the rest of my life. He was already doing that anyway, so I didn't see it making any difference.

This went on for a few years and then they made him the general manager of the company, answering only to Roy Boy and the owner. I was sure he'd get rid of me, Roy always said he wouldn't, and he did mellow with age finally. I was actually sorry to see him leave in 2006 when he wangled himself a pretty nice position with a large public agency. He came back and did a cameo appearance, dispatching for the Penn State game a few weeks ago. He hadn't been on the air for 2 minutes and he was yelling at people, I keyed the mike and said, "It's good to hear your voice Hammer. I've missed you." With that, I loaded up with flags and drove them home.

1 comment:

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