Saturday, December 20, 2008

What means, "Goddammit?"

Some passengers sort of become part of the cab family too. Such was the case with a Persian lady named Pari. Duane and I both worked on her house in Middleton one summer, and that was a nightmare.

She wanted the outside of this house painted. Ok, I'll do it for you, you rent the equipment and pay me so much for labor. It looked pretty shaggy, the paint was peeling off that house real bad. So we got a power washer and I scaled the paint with that. Her siding was shot, so I told her she needed to replace the siding, paint wasn't going to do the job. No, she wanted to sand the house. Clap board siding? Sand the house? Ah, no way. She figgured if she asked me to sand it enough times; and I said that my first no was final, second was final, and third was too. Ok I don't talk to you again and figgure you're ripping me off for not paying me. Sand the house, she says again.

Duane finally looked at it and I don't recall if the previous owner had painted oil over latex or latex over oil, but it was a fatal mistake and the siding was indeed shot. So she finally paid me, thanks Duane.

Then she got a learners permit and wanted people to go practice driving with her. Again, it was Duane and I. He and I had (he's dead, the wake is a previous post) distinctly different styles of taking her for practice driving. I said that if we went she had to actually learn how to drive. Ah, what does that mean? Well, it meant doing 55 on narrow county highways, up and down steep hills, and she was terrified most of the time. Why can't we just drive 25 in the residential neighborhood near both her apartment and the DOT test site? Does that constitute learning how to drive? Ah, no, so you do that with Duane, when you and I go, you will actually learn how to drive, which is what a learners permit is for.

So one Sunday she want's to take a break, we're out by East Town, let's get an orange juice at McDonalds, she says. Ok, park the car behind McDonalds. In the grass median that seperates the parking behind Mcdonalds is one of those big green utility enclosures that says do not touch. She hit it hard enough to move it 6". We're sitting there, and she says, "What shall I do?!?"

I said, "Put one foot on the break. Put the car in reverse. Let off on the break enough for the car to move back 1 foot, then press the break and stop."

She did this, and I reached over and shoved the shifter into park. "Now", I said, "we're going to go inside and have our orange juice just like nothing happened. Don't worry, it'll be fine, either the store will have no electricity in which case we complain and leave, or nothing happened, got it?"

We did this, and it was ok. Durring our orange juice break she asked me in that high sweet voice of her's, "What means goddammit?" I nearly fell off the seat laughing.

Last time I saw Pari was at a Bar Mitzva, just before she left town. She was so greatful that she could drive, she loved driving on the county highway through Westport every morning to go to work, rather than to fight the traffic through town. Where is she now? Los Angles, now she REALLY needs to know how to drive.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years

They were good holidays. It was cold and snowy. In other years, it's been mild weather and Thanksgiving and Christmas have sucked the fat off dead bears butts. I was a day driver back in those days, I started around 3 am.

When I went in to drive on that first New Years Day, I was amazed, Boomtown had actually brought the cab in on time. I didn't know that on special days they would say over the radio, "Everyone has a day jerk, you will bring your cab in on time."

I was fueled up and on the street in less than 15 minutes. My first run started at O'Cay's Corall, and ended south. There was about 4" fresh snow on the ground.

When the light changed at Blair and Willy, I carefully pulled up to O'Cay's. There were 5 or 6 pairs of guys rolling around in the snow. A fellow who had lost his shirt, jacket, coat, gloves, and hat if he'd had one, ran up to the cab, he wanted to go to State st. If that happened today, I would have told him to get in, knowing he'd be out before I'd need the seat, but I was green and I told him I couldn't help him. I was looking for a pair. The guy had obviously been in the fight too. The back of his white T-shirt was black from people walking on his back.

Pretty quick a woman, dressed to the 9's, and a fellow in a torn up powder blue tux came up to the cab. They were going to the right address. They got in the front seat and we were off. Her dress must have cost at least $300. The left arm of his tux was almost ripped off, only about 2" of stitching was left holding it. He had a bump on the back of his hand that was almost as large as a golf ball. She was consoling him, "Oh you poor baby, oh you poor baby."

"Yeah right," I said to myself. "That's why you spent $300 on that dress, so he could get in a bar fight in a dive like O'Cay's."

It was a real good shift, New Year's always is.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wow, I guess it has been a long time.

I see in other peoples blogs, mentions of the famous people they've had in their cabs. Out here in the middle of the Midwest, we don't get too many famous people, but I'll tell you about mine, modest though they are.

I've had 3, 2 famous jocks, and the chief justice of the state supreme court.

To most readers, the famous jocks would be more interesting, so I'll describe their ride first. Around bar time on the night they won the college championship, here on home ice, I had Chris Chellios and Mike Richter in the cab. For the benefit of the non sports fans out there, these guys play hockey. The NYC drivers will recognize Richter's name right away, he played for the Rangers and either is or will be in the NHL Hall of Fame. Chellios played most of his career in Chicago, but has played for Detroit for a number of years now. Detroit's a better place to play in my mind. The Joe is a great arena, and you've got to love those Hockey Town fans, donating fresh seafood to make the game more colorful on occasion. They played their college hockey in The Dane County Coliseum, back in the days before the Kohl Center. I don't remember where I took them, someplace over by the stadium, they went home from the bar. They got in at the KK, which has always been the place where the football players and hockey players drink. They had been celebrating, and on casual inspection, I was sure that they didn't need any more, and that they even might be talking to Ralph the porcelain god in the morning.

When I was watching a Red Wings game on TV the other night the announcer said he thought Chellios was the oldest player in the NHL. I guess I have been around for a while.

I don't count trips to Al Toon's house. He's a nice customer, but it's always parcel delivery's, so he only ever comes to the door and gives an autograph. In case anybody wonders what became of him, he's a banker.

The Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is a nice lady named Shirley Abramson. I took her from the airport to pick up her car. She said she likes to do weddings, and will marry anybody in the chambers of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for free, all people need do is ask.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"You rule! That is so awesome!"

A line out of chapter 13 of HACK. Hmmmmm........... Did I ever get such praise in a similar situation? Well sort of.......

What's up for consideration here is, did I ever do something I should be denying that I did, and get applause for doing it from my passengers? The thing that always pops out in my mind happened on a chilly, rainy night. It was a Friday or Saturday night. I had a load going from the Regent st. neighborhood to State st. This is a short ride, about 12 blocks long.

What makes such a ride attractive is the charge for the extra passengers. The ride itself costs either $2.75 or $4.00 depending on exactly where they got in, the higher price is west of Orchard st. The $3.00 for the extra 3 people takes it up to $5.75 plus tippage, which isn't bad for a quick little 12 block ride. Do 7 or 8 of those rides in an hour and you can make out pretty good.

The route I like best is Spring to Park, Park to Dayton, Dayton to Lake or Francis (depending on exactly where the ride goes) and on to the destination. This mostly avoids corners where I may get stuck at a light. This route takes you under the Park st. viaduct.

The modern Park st. viaduct was built a few years ago and has a very nice, blemish free, concrete surface under it, for your driving pleasure. For most of my driving career, we had the old Park st. viaduct. It funnelled to a single lane in each direction, which caused accidents. It was a low bridge, so frequently trucks would get stuck under it. And finally, the pavement under it was a real mess, with a massive pot hole that would never hold cold patch on the northbound side.

On this particular night, since it had been raining, that pot hole was full of water. There were 2 girls walking right next to that huge puddle. This was back in the days when we had crank windows, so the kids in the cab had all the windows cranked down. When the cab hit that water puddle, a wall of water went up and over the 2 girls walking on the sidewalk. The let out a cry in unison, "Eeeeeewwwwwwwwwwwww............................"

The kids in the cab went wild, "YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Sorry bout that. The tip was good.

Now, as I read on past the quote in the title, I guess I will share something about myself that you, the reader may wonder about or perhaps will wonder about. She describes flying into a rage and going off on some guy on the street, which culminates with her going and giving him not one, but 2 shoves from behind. I couldn't do that. She doesn't comprehend the consequences of winning. Most street fights don't involve the cops. Most street fights are 2 guys swinging like buzz saws, they land a couple of shots, one guy goes down perhaps, gets kicked a few times, and the winner takes off running. In order to do this, you have to be wild and crazy enough to risk serious jail time to win. Most people, like her, fly into a blind rage, and they don't think at all. If you engage someone like that and there is no one available to hold them after they've lost, they'll keep coming at you until you hurt them to keep them down, or the cops show up and take both of you to jail. It's a lose - lose situation.

Certainly, I do get bent out of shape on occasion, but be advised, that's disorderly behaviour and you can get hauled in for it.

When the situation goes to dire, I change, all of a sudden I'm perfictly calm. In the face of someone in a blind rage, this only fuels the rage more. I'm not sure how it comes off on the other side of it, perhaps as cowardice, perhaps as insult, I just don't know. I do know this, if you ever swing at someone 3 times and don't connect, the wisest course of action is to say, "Ah excuse me, I was just leaving", and slowly back away.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I offer advice to Mellissa Plaut

I notice a bunch of instances of people messing with you, and my readers should notice that recently I've said that the passenger never wins. A cab ride is a business transaction, it's not a game. If you allow some complete stranger to change it from a business transaction to some drunken game like playing quarters you're forgetting that when the bartender has chosen to 86 them, now you get them. Now they may want to make your cab their new play pen. If you let a drunk have control over the cab, it isn't your cab anymore, you can't do that, you are temporally responsible for that person's safety.

When I pull up to a flag and ask where they want to go, unless it's someplace I REALLY WANT TO GO, if they don't tell me, if they're cute about it, coy, say they'll show me perhaps, I say, "That's not an address, I can't take you."

An address is of the form, 5810 Raymond rd.

This includes replies to my question like, 'the west side', 'Fitchburg', 'Will you take me to the west side', and so on. The next thing that's apt to come out of their mouth is an exasperated address, but you already said you weren't going to take them. When you tell someone you can't take them, it's end of transaction, no second chance, because if you do back off and take them, they'll be ugly all the way to the destination. Pull away, they'll forget you and put their arm up and wave for another cab. They probably won't mess with the next driver. The next driver is their hero, they won't remember your number, won't write it down, and everyone is safe and happy. This also applies to people who jump in and insist on a ride because they've captured the cab. The cab isn't subject to capture, it's my cab and it's not in the interest of my safety to let anybody capture it.

This also goes for phone calls. I don't answer phones often but sometimes for 10 or 15 minutes I will sit in if I'm taking a break at the office. The classic call I remember was a request for a car load of people from someplace in the country out the other side of Verona on a very busy weekend night. The person placing the call said they wanted to go to where ever, and there were 4 of them (5 if it was back when we drove Diplomats), gave me the phone number, and I said "So where are you?" Lady said she wasn't sure what the address was, but she'd get the guy who owned the house who was throwing the party. I waited for 3 or 4 minutes, and this bozo came on and said hello. I only gave him one chance, "What is your address sir?"

He came back with, "So where are you coming from?"

I hung up and answered the next line. It quite possibly took them 15 minutes of trying to get through a second time, and I'll bet the guy had a chip on his shoulder by then but that's not my problem. If I want directions, I will ask for directions.

Tell me where you are, where you're going, how many people in your party, and that you're ready to go, don't lie to me. If you asked for a cab for 3 people and it's only one person, I know what's going on, you didn't want to share a ride, so you lied about the number of people, but what are you also lying about? Perhaps that you want to rob me? I'm not going to find out. When you call back for a ride, tell the truth about how may people in your party.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A few accidents

There are so many learning experiences that can't be learned any other way than to be there. I think most of the traffic accidents have been learning experiences, a few haven't, but the overall effect of the non learning experiences is to make you drive slower and leave more room, which is just what the driving authorities say.

Ever hear stories of people running to get on a wreaked bus in a big city? There is no doubt in my mind that happens. I had 2 poor underpriviledged minority youth sitting in the back seat and an old lady who was a charge to the city sitting in the front seat when I got bumped by the car behind me while waiting to make a left turn. Under other circumstances I would have ignored it, but rides that are charges to the city or county get treated differently, one takes no liability risks with these rides. I asked the dispatcher to get the police for me.

The 2 kids in the back seat were rather dismayed, they didn't want to wait, they didn't want to have the cops involved. I told them I was sorry about the situation, but it was out of my control. This went on for about 5 minutes, then the mouthy one started saying, "My arm hurts, when does I get paid?" I said to him that the guy in the ratty old car behind us who had carelessly bumped us probably was uninsured, and would get his drivers license revolked if he persisted with this he was injured nonsense The black 12 year old had no mercy for the black man with 2 children and their mother in the ratty car behind us. That poor man did lose his driving priviledges to the young gang banger.

When the cops got there they checked out the 2 kids pretty closely. The lady in the front seat said she was ok for the record. The lady cop who did the paperwork expressed her amazement at how reasonable, composed, and even tempered I was. We'd crossed path's before. I asked her why she expected any other behaviour. She let it drop, she had been wrong on that other occasion in the past and she knew it. After the paperwork was finished, I went to drop my 2 fares, and when I got empty I played a hunch, I swung into the garage and pulled the back seat out. Sure enough, there was a little brown wax covered cube about 3/4" on a side lying there under where the seat had been. Delivery boys, they were only afraid until they figgured they could stand the shakedown, and the cops did indeed shake them down. Next time I will pull the rear out if the cops don't. I'm pretty sure it was T-fus who pulled that little cube out of the trash barrel in the garage, I know someone certainly did.

I think the first accident I ever got in was in a blizzard. It was at the bottom of the hill in the northbound lane of Park, 1800 block, if memory serves. I was waiting for a passenger to come out and she was taking her time. There was a black lady sitting in the back seat. It was about 10 days before Christmas, just exactly this time of year. I watched a car crest the hill behind me in the rear view mirror, and start coming down the hill.

I asked myself, why doesn't he change lanes? It was a long hill, he had pleanty of time to change lanes, why isn't he changing lanes? Why???? Because he was a complete moron! He was a PhD student in electrical engineering from Taiwan, who had absolutely no clue what snow was, much less what it was like to drive on it, and was incapable of saying to himself that he might be too clueless to drive in a blizzard. It turns out that he locked up his brakes at the top of the hill and slid all the way down. All this idiot would have had to have done would have been to take his foot off the brake and change lanes and coast by me. But no, when he was too close to change lanes, I braced myself for the impact, and realized that I was stupid too. I'd let this fool hit me. CRASH..............

The black lady in the back seat started saying, "Oh, I hurt my arm. No, it's my shoulder. No, it's my neck."

"Merry Christmas ma'am!", I said, "Merry Christmas."

They tell me the idiot Chinaman got more than $10,000. And people wonder why I'm an isolationist.

The most spectacular accident I've ever seen happened on Stoughton rd. It was in the southbound lane just north of Buckeye rd. I had a passenger in, all of a sudden about 100 meters ahead of me a car started to spin, debris flew up in the air, then the whole group of 6 or 7 cars started spinning and crashing into each other. This chaos created a huge cloud of dust almost immediately, and I couldn't see into it. I slowed to about 10 miles per hour and creapt up on the carnage. The dust started to clear before I reached the crash, and by the time I slowly picked my way past the broken cars and the trash lying on the pavement. It was just like watching one of those most spectacular videos you see on TV, a 7 car pile up.

The most memorable accident I never actually saw. It happened on a New Year's Eve (day), at around 3:30 am. It was a really memorable holiday shift in general too. That was the night the cops locked King James out of his cab, but that's another cutsie story for another time. I was sitting in front of the Pizza Pit on University. Across the street was an entire block parking lot. The Black Bear Lounge was shooing their customers out, I'd picked up a passenger there a few minutes earlier and I will never forget the blond girl in the biker jacket who was missing her 2 front teeth, otherwise she was real pretty. The Bear was 90 degrees away from where I was sitting, also across the street from the huge parking lot. Sitting in a car, you can only see the front row of cars parked in the lot, so I could only hear what was about to happen.

All of a sudden from the middle of the parking lot I heard car tires screaching, then crash! Tires screach again, crash! Tires screach again, crash! Tires screach again, crash! It was pretty obvious what was going on, somebody was flooring it and crashing into a car foreward, then putting it into reverse and flooring it and crashing, and just going back and forth like that. It's something that you just listen to with an odd fascination and say to yourself, wow. I was just putting the cab into gear so I could go over to the entrance of the lot and perhaps see what was going on, when I heard, tires screach - crash, "You son of a bitch!!!!!! That's my car!!!!!!", tires screach crash.

When I was aproaching the entrance of the lot I saw a car that was very tore up come flying out of the lot southbound on Lake. I was just turning on to lake. A squad flew around the corner off Johnson, he was headed into that lot, and with his lights on, he also blocked me from following them lunatic in the demolition derby car. I stopped him at the entrance to the parking lot and told him he'd just passed the guy he was after, when he turned onto Lake off Johnson, the guy he was after turned onto Johnson and was headed east. The cop immediately pulled around and took off down Johnson st. I doubt he ever caught up to the guy, but perhaps the guy who watched his car get smashed got a plate number.

Why do people do things like this? Most people think that alcohol is to blame. I disagree, alcohol only enhances the fundamental poison which is the root of the problem. What?? No, I'm not talking about what most people think of when they say, 'drugs' either. Ok, what then? Testosterone poisoning of course. My theory is, the moron in that car bought drinks for some whore for hours and figgured he was going to get some. Then when closing time came and she said some polite variant of, 'No,I let you buy me drinks, chump, and I do not go home with chumps', he kind of lost it. Poor guy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What do people do to cab drivers anyway?

I never thought of myself as innocent when I started driving cab. You see and experience it all eventually. The human capacity for being petty, self centered, dishonest, and generally disgusting never ceases to amaze me.

Example one:

I get a ride to pick up at a church out on Dempsey rd. It's a Sunday morning, about 6:00, and I'm supposed to go into the church. I get inside and there is this 40ish guy with a parson, it's sounding like this guys mother is dead. The parson gives me 5 bucks and tells me to take the guy to Methodist Hospital, he thanks the parson, and we go out and get in the cab.

The guy isn't very impressive. He's bigger than I am, but he's got a big gut on him. He's shabbily dressed. As soon as I pull out of the lot, he says, "Take me to the Tip Top, that's a $2.00 fare, he gave you a nickle, I want the change."

I told him I'd take him to the Tip Top but I wasn't giving him any money. He looks at me with a very serious look on his face and says he was in Vietnam, as if that's supposed, to make him some kind of scary guy. I immediately came back with, "82nd Airborne, Grenada. You planning on taking that change from me?" I was lying of course, my dad was 82nd, I never served. If he really was in Vietnam he probably knew better than to mess with paratroops. I really didn't want to go a round with this guy but there was no doubt in my mind who'd lose.

We got to the Tip Top and it wasn't open. If I was experienced, I would have kicked him out of the cab right there. Since I was green, I took him to the Shoe instead.

Example 2:

I'm working calls off the radio, it's around bar time on a Saturday night, and the dispatcher stuffs me a call at the Concourse Hotel going to Simpson st. I don't ever want to go to Simpson st. unless the ride is a charge to an account, and I REALLY don't want to go there at night.

Sure enough, it's a scruffy looking black woman. She gets in and tells me the address she's going to, then she says the magic words, "My sister is paying for me when we get there."

I'm not supposed to ask for payment up front, and I'm not supposed to ask to see money, because it's demeaning to the passenger. I didn't ask, she volunteered that information. If she doesn't have cash on her, I don't have to take her. So I tell her that I'm sorry but I can't take her if she doesn't have money on her. This turns ugly immediately, she's not going to get out of the cab, I have to take her, her ass is sitting on my seat and she's not going to get out of the cab until I take her to Simpson st. A number of people try this ploy, they are in the cab and they won't get out. I NEVER allow people get away with this ploy, no matter what it costs. It's much easier to remedy this problem before the ride than at the destination.

I ask for the cops, over the radio. Dispatch doesn't want to do it, but they call the cops for me. We all wait, 15 or 20 minutes, then the cops get there. I get out of the cab and explain to the officer what the deal is, so she asks the woman to get out and asks her what the deal is. I'd turned my back to her and the cop and was about to sit back down in the cab. She roared with great rage, "That honkey mother fucker won't take me because I'm black!!!!" Then she honked up a louie and spit on the middle of the back of my down vest.

The cop asked me what I wanted to do. Well, she got a freebie. I told the cop that I didn't care what she did with the woman, she was out of my cab and I wanted to go on my way. If it ever comes up again, I will pursue the max penalty, and because of the racial stuff, I'd insist it be pursued as a hate crime. We have that in this state. If I can't use the N word, she can't call me a honkey. I've found over the years that no matter what it costs at the moment, after the fact, pursuing it is always the right thing to do.

Example 3:

I'm picking a metro (city charge ride) at Oakwood that goes to the VA hospital. It's close to 9:30 am., and I have to have the cab in by 10:00. The woman I'm supposed to take is there, ready to go, but she has a friend with her who wants to go to a different destination. The radio is crazy, it's as busy as a morning rush hour ever gets. The retired Air Force major gets in the front seat and she's telling me she's certain that I must have her friend too, they're going to very close destinations. I can't get through to see if we have an add on code for the second woman. The major keeps slamming the door and opening the door. When she feels she has won she slams the door, when I say no she opens the door and says if her friend doesn't go she doesn't go. She's threatening to not take the ride, that's supposed to impress me.

I was too green to know how to handle this. I was about to generate my first insurance claim. This was to be one of the defining incidents in my early career. A retired Air Force major and a retired school teacher, who both have generous pensions, are bent on stealing from me, taking advantage of my innocence and inexperience.

Finally I say ok, I don't have time to argue anymore. If the friend ends up getting a free ride, I can't help it, I've got to go. I say ok, I'll take her.

The experienced cab driver in me knows what the major's next move would have been in this little chess game. If I'd said ok, don't take the ride, she would have refused to get out. What would happen today is, I'd get the police IMMEDIATELY. Get this woman out of the cab. I'd pay the penalty for returning the cab late, and I'd get both of them kicked off metro. No more cheapo rides for the rest of the year ladies. You NEVER give a second chance, you NEVER allow a passenger to win.

I look down at the slip I'm writing the teachers name on, so that I can get the code back at the office, destination, time, and source of ride too. The major opens and slams the door a couple more times, the last of which I took to be the door in the back seat slamming. I put the cab in gear and started to move the cab, the teacher howled, she wasn't properly seated and she was now on the pavement claiming that it was my fault, I'd made her fall. I helped her get up and got her into the cab and shut the door myself this time. Yes, she did indeed sue, and took the greenmail. Oh, yeah, she got the ride she was stealing too.

I was told later that she'd been scheduled on a bus an hour earlier and she'd missed it. The guy at metro chuckled when he said, "Seniors from hell."