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.