Friday, October 24, 2008

You'd always be money ahead to just drive away.

My friend The King of NY Hacks made a comment that causes me to recall the first passenger who ever beat me out of a fare. I guess I'll try to balance things by also telling about the first person I ever had the cops come for too. It turns out that getting beat out of a fare happens sometimes. I'd like to think that I'm the most difficult of all cab drivers to beat out of a fare. After all, somebody has to keep it honest.

The first person who ever beat me out of a fare was a woman who went to a crappy apartment building on McCormick. She said she had to get the money, it was in the house, and she'd be right back. I said ok. I recall watching her run from the cab to the door. I guess she was inexperienced too. If she had experience, she would have known that the moment the stupid cab driver let her get out, without taking any collateral, she was home free. She could have walked slowly with her head high, she'd stolen money from me and I didn't even know it yet. It was a summer day, and she was blonde. That was around 20 years ago.

The first person I ever called the cops on was a guy named Larry Ford. He told me his name was Larry Foie, and it wasn't the ethnic accent that made it come out Foie. The woman he lived with later told me it was Ford. I remember her too. She was white, skinny, had the worst teeth you'd ever want to have pulled out, and looked like she was ancient beyond her years.

I picked this jerk up on the corner of Dickenson and Williamson. He'd used the pay phone in front of the hardware store to call the cab. It was around 3:45 am, and he was going to the Darbo neighborhood. Darbo is a crappy enough neighborhood that many cab drivers simply don't go there. Being a rookie, I had to learn all these things. It was winter, and it was really cold, at least -10. He was probably my first fare of the day, back in those days I started at 3:00 am. There was a lot of snow on the ground, at least 15".

When he got in the cab, he was a pretty obnoxious passenger. He kept spitting on the floor in the back seat of the cab. Being a rookie, I was reluctant to tell him to knock it off, I was still pretty inhibited about offending people.

When we got to Darbo, I asked him for the fare, which was $2.50 back then, $1.50 plus two zones at 50 cents a zone. Really cheap for a 2 mile ride, even 19 years ago. He told me he didn't pay cab drivers, and spit on the floor one last time. I said, ok, I'd call the cops on him. He got out and started to walk off into the park that is next to the welfare housing that is where he was really going to. Walk off? Yeah, he was experienced at ripping off cab drivers. He knew he didn't have to run. Well, he thought he knew.

I keyed the mike and said I needed the cops, and I was getting out of the cab and going after the guy. Little did I know, the dispatcher WOULD NOT call the cops for me. He looked over his shoulder at me, as I closed on him. He told me he'd kick my ass. "No you won't I said."
He kind of hopped around through the park for a while. I kept about 20 feet between me and him. A couple of times he stopped and turned and threatened me. I'd just tell him that eventually he'd have to go into an apartment, and when he did, I'd know where he was, and I'd call the cops. I told him that the cops were already on the way, which I thought was the case. Foolish cab driver. He didn't have much of a coat on, and he was drunk, so it didn't take long for him to decide to go into the apartment. A number of times while we were wading through the snow, he'd say in a combination of disgust and amazement, "You're doing this for $2.50? You're crazy!" I would come back with, "I'm from Detroit. It's the principle, not the amount."

After he went into an apartment, I went back to the car and pulled up to his front door. I asked dispatch when the cops were coming and they told me they hadn't called them. What???? I needed the cops, told you I needed the cops, and you didn't call them? Well, you have to stay there until the cops come, and that might be a while, so we figured you really wouldn't want to waste your time there. The truth is, when you get out of the cab and go after some guy, you're on your own. If you get killed, it's ok with dispatch. Who ever finds your body will call the cops in the morning.

Well, I really want the cops. The address is, and I gave it to them, and I'll wait here until spring for the cops. Now send them. So they said ok, and I picked up the newspaper and started waiting. After about 10 minutes, the woman with the rotten teeth came out and told me she had something like 80 cents she could give me. I told her that the cops were coming to arrest the guy, and if she didn't have what he owed me, I wasn't interested in talking to her. She shrugged and went back in.

Then the guy came out. He ordered me to take off. I told him he was going to jail. Little did I know, I was right about that. He went back inside and came out with a 16 gauge shotgun shell which he held up to the window between his thumb and forefinger. I acted like I just didn't care. If he'd had the gun, or even a zip gun, I would have cared a lot, but a little purple shot shell with no weapon to chamber it in, isn't very impressive.

The cops finally came and went to the door. The woman with the rotten teeth let them in, and a few minutes later they came out with the guy in handcuffs. No, I did not get paid. Yes, it did cost me almost 90 minutes.

I found out later that the guy spent the next 5 months in jail. He was never charged with beating me out of a fare, but he had a lot of paper out on him. Dispatch was right, I did waste 90 minutes of my time for no revenue. It cost me at least 20 bucks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another Halloween Story. Boo!

For many years, more than 30, there has been a big street party on Halloween. Now, it's only actually on Halloween if it falls on a Saturday. People will come to State street in costume on October 31st, reguardless of what day it falls on. The year I'm thinking of, it fell in the middle of the week, and it rained, making it the lamest excuse for Halloween on State street, I've ever seen.

The cops were bored that night. It was so wet and so cold that by midnight, you could drive the entire length of State street. By bartime (1:30 am), most of the cabs had called it quits, and I was trolling for one last drunk before I checked it in. Standing in front of State Street Brats was a group of 5 waving for me to stop (the diplomats had bench seats, so 5 was legal back then). They got in and asked for Edgewood College, which is about 10 blocks out Monroe from Regent street. Cool, a nice short ride, full cab, as good a last fare as you could ask for.

We got to the 1200 block of Regent and the kid sitting next to the window said, "Hey, this is where we get out." So, I stopped. He and one of the kids in the back seat jumped out and started walking into the darkness down Orchard. Orchard is a one way and I couldn't follow them without driving down it the wrong way.

I immediately got the door open, stood up, and yelled over the cab, "Hey, you guys owe me", it was probably $3.25, but I don't recall what the price was at the time.

The kid from the front seat yelled back, "Our friends are going to pay for us." And they stepped up their pace a little.

I looked at the kid in the back seat who'd asked for the ride to Edgewood and asked him, "Are you going to pay for them?"

He replied, "No. I never saw those guys before. You're trying to rip me off, asking me to pay for people I've never seen before. I've got a good mind to not pay you, since you want to rip me off."

"Ok people, end of ride! 5 people from State street to here is $5.25. You said you were together when you got in the cab. You will pay the $5.25, or I will call the cops and you will be cited for refusing to pay me. The cops will make you pay me, and you'll get about a $100.00 fine."

The 2 in the back seat start getting out of the cab, on the passengers side. I go around the cab and say to the guy, "I'm not kidding. I will call the cops. They're pretty bored right now, so I'll get a cop right away. Edgewood is more than 10 blocks from here, I'll follow you, you will get caught. Why don't you just save yourself a lot of trouble, and pay me what you owe me."

He replied, "Why don't I just smash your face into that brick wall, grandpa?"

I took my glass's off and slipped them into my shirt pocket. I said, "Son, that isn't going to happen. Get into the cab! Do it now!!!!"

He looked kind of taken aback. I'd raised my voice a tad when I ordered him to get back into the cab. They got back in. While this eas going on, the 3rd kid had slid out the drivers door, and vanished into the darkness of S. Orchard. I told them I was going to take them back to State street and get one of those terribly bored cops to arrest them. We were off. I was trying really hard to go fast enough through the side streets, that he wouldn't jump out and take off on me. I shouldn't have cared, the girl wasn't going to run off, but all these little events are learning experiences, aren't they.

Both of them started telling me that their fathers were lawyers, and they were going to get me. Yeah, right. If I was a lawyer, and someone notified me that my kid had gotten caught trying to rip off a cab driver for 5 bucks, I'd be really proud of how that kid acted while away at college. I'm not sure if the behaviour would bother me more, or the fact that they got caught, but I know for sure that I would not be pleased. Such a thing might result in cancilation of Thanksgiving bonus, or at least a reduction in the amount.

I was rounding a corner when he made his break for it. True, I had to slow down for the corners, but he must have never taken physics, and never shot pool. If you're going to jump off a moving vehicle, you want the vehicle to be going straight. Why? Well, he has momentum, torque to be technical, that would spin him in the opposite direction. The cab was rounding a left hand corner, his body would want to spin to his right, and that's just what happened.

He opened the door and was going to try to run with the cab, and if it hadn't been for the spin he would have made it. I watched in the rear view mirror as he lost his footing and spun to his right. Down went his hand on the pavement, that didn't hold him, down went his seat on the pavement. 'Oooooo', I thought, 'that had to hurt!'

When we got back to State street, it was actually hard to find a cop. They'd all pretty much called it a night already. I looked at the girl, the only one of the 5 left, sitting in the front seat. She was almost ready to cry. She said, "Please don't let my parents find out about this."

The cop we did find said he was done for the night too, but he'd call us someone. About 10 minutes later, we got 2 squads with female cops. The one who was handling it asked me to give her an amount owed. She was real specific, she wanted me to itemize, and include everything. Ok. Well, let's see.......... 5 people from State street to Orchard and Regent. 1 person from Orchard and Regent to College and Brooks. 1 person from Orchard and Regent to State street. Waiting time on Regent street, 4 minutes. Waiting time on State street, 17 minutes so far. Will she be riding with me to Edgewood? She will. Ok, State street to Edgewood, 1 person. Waiting time at Edgewood will be, and I quoted the amount per minute.

The cop said ok, and talked to the girl for a while. They came back and she had the girl get in the back seat of the cab. The cop said that the girl had no money, so we would all go to Edgewood where the girl would write me a check. Would $35.00 cover it all? Sure, that will be enough. Off we went. We got to Edgewood and the girl accompanied by the 2 cops went into the first dorm on the left (I can't recall how to spell Doreachi), it took about 10 minutes more and the cop returned and gave me a check for $35.00. The check was good, it didn't bounce.

Every time I've thought about it, it amazes me how expensive it was for that moron who bailed out of the cab. He probably never got any from that girl again, and she was pretty nice. The jeans were at least $15.00, and the skin off the palm of his hand, priceless. What an idiot.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Halloween story

I have many Halloween story's. I've driven most of the last 20, at night. A couple of years ago, I missed seeing a guy in a little 2 seater Mercedes smoke a phone pole by less than 2 minutes. That he walked away from it, is a real tribute to German engineering. What happened was.....

It was about bar time (2:30 am, is mandatory out of the bar time here), and I had a load to pick up, Club 5 going to Seminole and the Belt. Nice short ride, pays nice, wonderful if they're ready to go. They were in fact, ready to go too! 4 lesbians, a load, as we say. I recall the costumes of one couple, a pirate with a princess. How could I tell they were lesbians? Well, the 2 couples were doing some pretty heavy necking, and pawing, and professing love, and all that sort of drunken stuff. And yeah, the Club is a gay bar.

It's a quick ride. Jump on the belt line, run about a mile and a half west, drop them off quick and head downtown. Shouldn't take more than 10 minutes total. All was going according to plan, until I got to the top of the ramp at Seminole Hwy. There's this guy who's a little unsteady on his feet, waving, he wants a ride. What's he doing here, more or less in the the middle of nowhere, at bar time trying to flag a cab? I rolled down the window and said, "Sorry, I'm full."
Looking past him, to the south side of the bridge, I saw why he was flagging a cab. There was a wooden phone pole, about 15" in diameter, splintered and listing over top of a little 2 seater sports car. The phone pole wasn't broken off, but it was definitely shot. The little sports car was definitely totalled. How could this guy have walked away from that, I wondered.

The thing that comes natural to a cab driver is to pick up the mike and say, "I need the cops at Seminole and the Belt. I need an ambulance. I'm not involved. Single car accident, I have the car and driver in sight." Dispatch told me to stand by.

The guy who'd been driving the car saw me using the radio. He was wearing a cheap Halloween costume, it looked kind of like a gunny sac with a picture of Yogi the Bear on it. He started trotting off down Seminole in the direction of downtown, which is also down a really long hill.

Dispatch came back and asked for details. They do this when they are on the phone with the cops. What does he look like? Which direction is he going? Can you keep him in sight. Try to keep him in sight. All that sort of stuff.

I told my passengers that this was only going to take a few minutes. Sorry ladies. Being a shared ride, zone cab, there is no meter to worry about turning off. The fare is based on where they got in, where they're going, and how many people in their party, not on the route taken, or little side adventures like Yogi Bear smoking a phone pole. One of them says, she bets she'll be out replacing that phone pole tomorrow, she works for Madison Gas & Electric. The phone pole was indeed replaced the next day.

As Yogi trots, we follow. He's in a bad neighborhood to try and hide in. Ahead of him, about 3 miles away, is downtown. To his right is the arboretum, a thick forest environment, really dark at night. To his left is a nice little neighborhood of small homes, but it's bounded by a limited access highway, and a major boulevard, so it's more or less a blind alley that will trap him. I'm behind him. He has no choice but to head down the hill. He heads up a small street that is a dead end, quickly realizes it's a trap, and starts doubling back, trying to get past us, using the back yards. He goes through a couple of peoples back yards and comes out behind us, but we see him and again are following him. The drunken condition isn't conducive to running, but he was doing a hell of a job, considering he had just been in a car accident that should have killed him.

The ladies are beginning to tire of this adventure. A couple of them had their blood up for some touch, and they'd put that on hold for 5 minutes, and who cares if Yogi gets away or not? The wanted to be home in a nice warm bed or hot tub or what ever they did. "Ah, maam you don't understand. Once the cops are called, I'm on the hook to hang around until they come." The cops were definitely coming too. It was Halloween night, so most of the cops were downtown, but a bent phone pole and a totaled car with the guy who did it in somebodies sight is definitely something they want to respond to quickly.

Yogi was doing a pretty good job of sneaking in and out of back yards, but it was really tough. He was drunk. Getting hit with all those air bags is like being in a fist fight, ask anybody who has been saved by them in an accident, you'll feel it for a few days, you'll see stars when they deploy. He wasn't dressed for the cold. It was chilly, low 40's, and all he had for a coat was a gunny sac, no hat, no gloves. A 3 mile walk to downtown will take an hour if he makes it, and it will be a very cold, miserable hour.

Finally, the first squad car found us, we were about 4 blocks from the exit ramp. We'd last seen Yogi about 90 seconds ago, and pointed to a couple of houses, where he'd ducked into the back yards. The cop said there were a couple of more units on the way, that they had what they needed, so we were free to go.

We got back up to the beltline, and crossed to the south side. One of the ladies asked if we could stop for a second and look at the car, I said sure. It still had steam rising from it. The splinted phone pole was broken at an angle of about 45 degrees. All the air bags were blown. The drivers door was hanging open. It was truly amazing that somebody could walk away from that. He'd hit that phone pole dead on.

The ladies went to a home about 5 blocks further on, got out and paid me. They even tipped generously, which considering the delay was mighty generous of them.

My bar rush was shot for that night. It was time to take the car back to the office and check it in.