Friday, October 31, 2008

The all time, scariest passenger, I ever had.

I don't recall if it was Halloween or New Years Eve, both nights are frequently out of control. It doesn't matter, I remember him, and I remember the ride.

He was standing near the corner of Lake and University, on Lake, waving for a cab. When I pulled over to pick him up, I saw that he was a mess. There was a lot of blood on him, it probably came from the cut on his face. It looked like someone had busted him in the chops and one of his canines cut through from the inside to the outside, the cut was perhaps 1/4" long. One of his hands, his right if memory serves, was swelled to twice it's normal size. He must have taken a swing at someone, missed, and hit a brick wall. His clothes had blood on them, he wasn't bleeding from his face or hand anymore, but it was pretty obvious that he had bled quite a bit.

He was a good sized man, around 6'2, perhaps 200 pounds. Other than the blood and being tore up from being in a fight, there wasn't anything memorable about the clothes he was wearing. He said he wanted to go to Post road, which is off Fish Hatchery.

I've never had anything particularly against people who have been in a fight. It happens. He was lucky about it, he wasn't in jail. There wasn't any reason to think there was anything weird about him. He wasn't still bleeding so it wasn't like he was going to bleed all over my cab. He wasn't swaying, he didn't slur badly when he talked. I was driving toward his destination, daydreaming as one often does when you're driving, when he got really weird. We were around Park and Emerald when he started muttering, in a low threatening voice, "You drove past my stop."

"Ah, no sir, Post road is out Fish Hatchery, we haven't even reached Fish Hatchery yet."

"You drove past my stop."

This was scary. The guys big, he's not inhibited about being in a fight, and he's sitting behind me. Other cab drivers will know without explanation, all the details of why this is so dangerous, but for the rest of you, allow me to explain. If this idiot were to grab me and try to drag me over the front seat, into the back, with the intent of beating me up, the cab might find an on coming car, or a phone pole, or who knows what. We went through a few iterations of him telling me I drove past his stop, there was no reasoning with him, he was completely out of it. AND, there are people out there who think every cab driver is a crook, who is out to rip them off, it was pretty obvious that this guy was one of them.

So, what do you do? Pull over and try to get the guy out? You might get beat up doing that, because if he doesn't see his house when he gets out, he could go psycho. Do you keep driving and try to keep him calm, and hope he doesn't get any weirder? That's about all you can do. Do you ask for the cops on the radio? No, for a few reasons which include, they won't be there in time to do you any good, and he may go psycho when he hears you ask for them. All I could do was hope that he wouldn't do anything weirder than keep mumbling, "You drove past my stop."

Post road, from Park and Emerald is around 4 minutes on an empty night time road. It was a VERY long 4 minutes. I was very scared. And there's absolutely nothing you can do, except sit there and drive, scared out of your mind.

We got to his destination and he got out and paid me.

Happy Halloween, boo!


I just tried to link to and blogger wouldn't let me do it. Said they couldn't detect a feed or some such thing. So, I'll do it this way.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

About cab windows.......

In the previous post, I described an arguement with passengers over rolling down the windows. Many years ago, I decided that the only way I could function with passengers was to treat everyone the same. Young old, black white, male female, everyone gets treated exactly the same way.

The passengers in the previous post wanted to hang out the windows. Once you roll that window down, it's down. If they want to hang out of the window, there isn't anything you can do to stop them. If some bozo who's chewing tobacco decides to spit out the window, guess what, he will. In fact, he may even put in a chew just because he has a place to spit. Same goes for smoking. A lot of people think that the minute they have the window open, it's ok to smoke, well it isn't. Ever had a pedestrian try to put an empty beer bottle through your window, just for sport? Or a snow ball?

When Hozer started driving, I saw him with what we call, 'a heavy load', heading down East Washington, on his way to a gentlemans club (titty bar). If memory serves, he even made it there. Many times, passengers will ask a driver if they can get a return ride, and Hozer has a cell phone, so he agreed to do that return ride. On the way out, I'd seen one of his passengers sitting on the widow ledge, with his hands on the roof of the cab, riding in the wind. I'm thinking there were around 8 guys in the cab. Well, on the way back, they got the WRONG kind of attention. Hozer was not compensated for the $400-$500 in tickets, not to mention the points.

Bottom line is, it's much safer to keep the windows rolled up, no matter what any passenger thinks, than it is to have one or 2 morons in a years time, do something weird. And yes, passengers do weird stuff, very weird stuff sometimes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 4 subpoena Halloween

It was around midnight. Halloween on State street starts to wind down at midnight. There will be people out until 2:30 when the bars have to close, but people start heading home at midnight.

I picked up a trio who wanted to go to a motel out by East Towne. They were from Milwaukee, and they didn't need any more to drink. We immediately had problems. "Hey! Turn off the child lock on the windows! I need to roll my window down."

I told them the windows didn't work. They weren't buying any of that. I started hearing the this is my cab crap that many passengers come up with. Ah, no, it's not your cab, it's MY cab and if you don't like riding in my cab you are free to find another cab you like better. No, they didn't like that idea, it was their cab and they'd do what ever they wanted, and if I didn't like it they'd have me fired first thing Monday morning. Roll down the windows immediately and we won't have you fired, otherwise we will have you fired.

The woman in the back seat behind me was slurring her words. She slurred out that they were going to yell stuff at people. For the time they were in the cab they owned it, and their idea of a good time was to hang out the window and yell stuff at the pedestrians we were passing. I again told them they could get out and find a cab they liked better, they again went through the I'd be fired by 9 am on Monday morning. In fact, now, because I was being such an a** hole, they'd have me fired either way. By 9 am Monday morning Mr. Cabdriver, you will be fired.

Again, I tell them they can find another cab they like better, if they wish, and yes they will in fact pay for the ride even if they are not allowed to hang out the windows and the cops will take them to jail if they refuse to pay. No ifs ands or buts about that. Traffic is moving real slow, we did about 10 minutes of this from Lake and University, down to Park, over to Langdon, up Langdon to Henry, down Henry to Gilman, and argh.......... GRIDLOCK. Dead in the water, for who knows how long.

The guy in the front seat with the blue face, he was Brave Heart. He said, "I think there's a fight going on up ahead, I'm going to go and straighten it out." With that he got out of the cab and started walking the 2 blocks up to Wisconsin Ave., which is where traffic was stopped at. Wonderful, I thought. That's 1. Now if I can only get rid of the other 2. I tried to get the other 2 to follow their friend, no dice. What they did do however was a really big mistake, they opened the doors and stood on the pavement with their hands on the roof of the cab and the top of the doors. I'm sure the reasoning was, they were hanging on to the cab, and it is true that if they'd walked away, I'd have closed the doors and locked them.

There had been no traffic in the oncoming lane all this time for some reason. I'm guessing that the fight the guy in the front seat thought he saw really was a fight, and the car in the oncoming lane was involved, so traffic in the oncoming lane was stopped 2 blocks up. For some reason, that cleared, and the first car coming up the street toward us was a ratty blue midsized American car. It was coming real slow, about 5 mph.

When that ratty blue car was about 10 feet in front of my bumper, the woman who'd been sitting in the back seat behind me slurred out, "You're a bitch."

SCREACH!!!!! The blue car slammed to a stop and a black kid, about 6'6" with a mouth full of gold, jumped out and shreaked, "Bitch????? I ain't no bitch!!!! You a bitch!!!!" And in the time it took him to say this he had her blouse in his left hand, and he jerked her away from the cab. Then, with her blouse in his left hand, he started slamming her in the face with his right fist. There had been 6 poor under priviledged minority youth in the car, and they all came out, ready to fight. The girls boyfriend who'd been sitting on the passenger's side ran around the cab, I suppose to attempt to pull the big black kid off his girfriend.

At this point, I was pulling the cab doors closed and locking them. Once I had the cab locked down, I laid down in the front seat, and started asking dispatch for the cops. I had visions of a brick going through the window, and me being pulled out and pounded, well if I keep down, maybe they'll think it's just an empty cab. Dispatch said that the cops were on the way. I holstered the mike and hugged the seat, waiting for the fracas to end.

After a while, I heard this faint tapping on the passenger side in the rear. I looked back and it was the guy and the girl, he wasn't beat up too bad, but she had gotten beat up really badly. They were begging in really quiet voices, "Please let us in." I hit the door lock button and unlocked all the car doors. I sat up and the ratty blue car was gone, traffic was moving past us, and I could see that traffic was starting to move, we'd be able to move on in a minute.

I keyed the mike and told dispatch that I couldn't stay at the corner of Henry and Gilman and block traffic, that I'd take Gilman to Wisconsin, Wisconisn to Johnson, and wait somewhere around here if there was a place to wait without tying up traffic. About this time, Brave Heart showed up and got back in the cab. He hadn't gotten beat up at all.

I didn't even make it a block down Wisconsin and there was a cop with his lights on behind me. I stopped and he pulled up along side. He rolled down the window and said, "We've got them, follow me." Wow, I thought, the cops found a way through that gridlocked traffic and caught those guys. I'm amazed.

We followed the squad up Wisconsin to Langdon and down Langdon to the Memorial Union parking lot. The ratty blue car was pulled almost to the end of the lot. If he'd gone 50 feet further, he'd have put his car into the lake. They only had 1 guy. The guy they had was 5'10", I said, "That ain't the guy, he's way too short." They had all of us look at this guy anyway. There were dozens of black kids, mostly girls, with their hands and faces pressed against the glass, watching all of this from the safety of the second floor of the Memorial Union. After the guy and the girl looked at the guy the cops had, we waited for another 30 mintues while the cops did their paper work. For you non cab drivers, next time you see a nice fresh copy of the New York Times on the front seat and ask yourself, when would a cab driver have time to read it, well, you just never know.

Finally the cops said we could go, and we started off to East Towne. I looked at the girl, her face showed a beating. I asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital. I told her that she was beat up pretty bad and she really ought to go the hospital. Since there was no blood, the cops had let her get back in the cab. She didn't want the hospital, she just wanted that bed in the hotel room. You're sure? Yeah, she was sure. Well, folks, now you know why I don't let people hang out the windows and yell stuff at people. They didn't say much to that, they didn't want to yell stuff at anybody anymore.

I let them off, only charged them for the ride, although they probably cost me 30 or 40 bucks in lost prime time, and headed back down town. When I told Roy Boy about it on Monday morning, I said, "You know, every time someone has called and complained about me not letting them roll down the windows, you always say, why didn't I just give them their way. Now you know why. I assume we'll never have a discussion about rolling down the windows again." He conceeded that I was right, and finally it made sense to him, that keeping the windows rolled up was persuant to passenger safety. Then everybody forgot about it for around 5 months.

In the spring, I got a call from these guys at the law school. They asked me if I was the cab driver who, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, that was me. Ok. And I didn't hear any more of it for a while.

Then the prosecuters office calls and this obnoxiously smiley voice tells me I will be served with a subpoena. By mail or in person? I'm told it's easier if I accept it by mail. Mail. So, I schedule a vacation day from my real job. 3 pm on the day before the court date, the same smiley voice calls and says it's posponed 30 days, and I'll get another subpoena. 30 days later, they postpone it 30 days again. The smiley voice can't understand why I'm not amused. I only get 10 vacation days a year lady!!!!! 30 days later, I get 2 subpoena's, both the prosecution and the defense subpoena me this time. This is now, 4 subpoena's. Hence, a 4 subpoena Halloween. How did it turn out? The public defender told me it was settled out of court in a plea bargain. I never did actually have to appear in court. Yeah, the kid they had went to prison.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Most of us have seen something like this on TV

I'm guessing this happened around 15 years ago, I'm not sure exactly. It was fall, people were wearing coats, and it was a Friday or Saturday night. It was the same period of time when a teen gang rented an old frat house on Langdon, and basically hung out at the arcade on State street.

Yes, a teen gang rented a house on Langdon street. It was on the odd side of the street, at the curve. They had a couple of old black men who lived there, these guys nominally rented the house I'm sure, but it was absolutely obvious they worked for the teenagers. All these people were black. I was always pretty sure that one particular girl was the big boss, she always seemed to be in charge. They were trying to control the turf that included State street, and they hung out at Spaceport, the video arcade which used to be in the 600 block of State.

The old black men were regular passengers. They made beer runs to Midnight Eggs. Midnight Eggs? Well, you're not supposed to talk about beer on the radio, so when the dispatcher wanted someone to pick him up a 6 or 12 pack, he'd ask for a 1/2 or a dozen eggs. There's this place at Sherman and Commercial which isn't part of Madison, it's in a tiny island of Burke Township that was never brought into the city, that can sell beer until midnight, we call that place midnight eggs. So, I was actually in that run down old frat house once or twice to get paid for one or 2 of those egg runs. When it came down to getting paid, that one girl who was in charge would see to it that the cab driver got paid. That house has long since been niced up, and is once again student housing. Anyway........

I turned into the 400 block of West Gilman, which is a one way and at the end of the block is State st. About 1/3 of the way down the block there is this white college student lying in the middle of the street, and as many kids as can reach one guy where beating on him. The rest of them were standing around watching. There were perhaps 25 of them total. These were the kids who hung at Spaceport, and had the clubhouse on Langdon. Even if they hadn't been blocking the street, I would have asked for the cops, but this was completely blocking the street and I couldn't get past.

It was kind of interesting to watch. We've all seen news footage of some guy getting beat up by a gang in Los Angles I think. It was just like that. There were 2 or 3 guys who were doing most of the beating, keeping the guy down. Then the people from the ring of gang members watching would run in, take a couple of swings, and run back to the ring of spectators.

There was never any question in my mind about staying in the cab. I'm not sure if I could have pulled the kids doing the beating off. In a perfect world, I would have tried. We don't live in a perfect world. Had I called for the cops, and then gotten out and tried to pull the people holding that poor guy off of him, the cops would have come and said to me I was in the fight and they would have taken me to jail, absolutely sure thing. So, all I could do was sit there behind the wheel and watch.

After what seemed like a terribly long time, about 3 squads turned off State and started coming up Gilman the wrong way. 3 more squads pulled onto Gilman off of University and started coming down Gilman the right way. The kids in the crowd saw this of course, and the ones holding the guy down got off of him. The guy who was getting beaten got to his feet and ran down Gilman street toward State and vanished into the night.

The main players in the beating started exchanging coats and hats with other people in the crowd. It was instructive to watch this. They knew exactly what they were doing. If you're wearing different clothes, you probably won't get identified. I jumped out of the cab and pointed at 2 of them, and yelled to the cops, "That one, and, that one." Both of those guys had changed their coats. They were the ones who had constantly held and beaten the guy on the ground.

The cops got a grip on both of them. I told the cops what had happened. What they really wanted to do was tell the gang of kids to take off, and let it go at that. I couldn't believe it. If I'd been beating some guy on the ground in the middle of the street, I'd still be in jail. I insisted that the 2 they had were the ones who'd done the most pounding on the victim. Reluctantly, the cops took those 2 kids downtown. All this took at least 30 minutes.

When the cops finally left the block, all the kids got in an informal line and started filing past the cab. They'd look at the number, look at the cab, and then raise their eyes and look me right in the eye. When about 10 had filed past, I leaned out the window, just about like in the little picture of me, and pointed at the number on the fender. I yelled out, "This is cab 171. I drive this cab EVERY Friday night and EVERY Saturday night from 3 pm until 3 am."

I never heard any more about it. No teen gang members ever messed with any of our drivers that I know of. I stopped one of the cops who had been involved in the fracas a couple of hours later and asked him how it was resolved. He said that they'd taken the kids downtown and then let them go. Let them go? Yeah, let them go. The turf thing on Landon and State only lasted for about 1 school year. Spaceport eventually became a bagel place, which it is to this day. Do we still call Midnight Eggs, Midnight Eggs? You don't hear it much, I'll have to bid on a call and use that as a location sometime to see if one of the young dispatchers asks me where that is, or simply takes the bid. Inferno, would be more au currant.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A thin homecoming

Well, Bucky won. So, last night we had happy badgers. Somebody said the coach muttered something about castration with a dull spoon if they lost again, I wonder if that was true. Thu, Fri, and Sat were the weakest homecoming I've ever seen money wise. People just aren't spending.

This goes on in the daytime too. So what happens is, we get people like Bullfrog driving Saturday nights. Every cab in the fleet is out on the street.

When you don't make enough money in 5 days, you add a 6th, and perhaps 7th. Years ago, Boomtown told me that he made more in 4 days than he did if he worked 5. I tried this out, and it seemed to be good advice, but it doesn't apply these days. About 6 years ago, I sold out for some pension money and health insurance, and got a real job. No, I won't disclose what I normally do, 5 days a week, but I'm not proud of it. Now, I drive weekends and days I take off as vacation days, so this week I took 2 vacation days. I really want to call it quits on this "real job" of mine and get back in a cab full time, but I'm kind of afraid to do it. My plan is to retire (you can retire with 5 years if you're old enough) in mid winter and return to cab driving, but the economy is sooooooo bad. They tell me I can get on the default schedule for Monday and Tuesday day shifts easy enough, getting on Friday and Saturday 3p-3a default will take waiting through summer, when it's really dead, basicly working about a dozen weekends for pretty much no money, just to lock down the shifts. So, if I start now, I can be where I want to be in September of 2009. Woo hoo.

Now it's Sunday morning, I feel like s$#t, I've worked the last 6 days in a row, and I'm tired. The dog just told me I'm crazy,

and I should remember to take his advice and smell the phone poles before I fall over and die without knowing what the other neighborhood dogs have been eating. He's right, as always. The dog hates riding in the car, he gets panic attacks and shakes. This is due to getting rear ended by a kid with no brakes a year and a half ago. We're an odd couple, the dog and I. I'm a type T personality, and he's the laid back, let me relax and take it easy type. He's smarter than I am.