Friday, January 2, 2009

The kid with the bike who broadsided the cab

Official company policy is that every accident be reported and fully documented. Reality is different. For one reason or another, many accidents do not get reported and are only informally documented. 2 immediately come to mind.

The first one was a guy who was absolutely intent on racing past me on the right and passing me. You know the type, every traffic light is the Christmas tree at a drag strip for them. I don't approve of this kind of thing, the street may be their playground, but it's where I work, and it's dangerous enough without that kind of thing. The guy was in a right turn lane, that vanished into a row of parked cars along the curb on the other side of the intersection. I had 2 or 3 people in the back seat. When the light changed, he floored it. I went through the intersection, and almost immediately it was obvious that if I didn't slam on the brakes and/or change lanes to let him swerve in front of me, he was going to rear end the first parked car, and/or hit me in the process. While I was giving this a moments thought, he swung his car into the cab, just like they do in stock car races. I couldn't believe it! He hit me on purpose. Now I was definitely going to let him by, because I was going to get the cops and needed to keep him in sight. He pulled over almost immediately, jumped out of the car, and started screaming that I'd sideswiped him and I was at fault.

Ah, we need to get the cops for this. He's screaming that this car belongs to a dealership, and it is indeed wearing a dealers tag, and he's a car salesman. Right, and the only good thing about a car salesman is he's not on welfare. I take a look at both cars, and I can't find any damage. How did that happen? I consult with the passengers in the back seat and we vote for telling this idiot that since there is no damage we are willing to let the issue drop, if he is. He agrees, but I do get his name, and the license number, and the names and phone numbers of the passengers, just in case. Yes, people really do such silly ass shit. Of course, the names and numbers are always given to Roy Boy, and he's always agreed with my judgement that it was better to not call the cops that time, what ever time it was.

The second time was a bit more serious. It was a foot ball Saturday night, and I had a load of drunk football fans in the cab. The intersection of Randall and University has always had a light, and everybody turns there, but a slick cab driver will go straight through that intersection and turn on Lorch which is only 80 feet up the street, without waiting behind 6 or 8 civilians who are turning on to Randall. One then turns left on Campus, and right on Randall, no waiting. There is an eastbound bike lane along the left side of University. University a westbound one way street. On the left side of University is an oncoming, or eastbound, bike lane that's seperated from street by a largish curb that's about 10 inches wide. Just as I was turning across the bike lane at Lorch, into the head lights came a student on a bike who was doing at least 20 mph. There was no way he'd stop, I was already in front of him, he was boxed by the curbs on both sides of him in the bike lane, and my only prayer was to floor it and try to clear the bike lane before he got there. I didn't make it. He hit the rear quarter panel on the passenger side right behind the rear axle and flew over the trunk lid, landing on the pavement on the drivers side of the cab. I stopped immediately of course.

The kid with the bike, who was of course unhurt, was hopping mad. I pulled in front of him he said, it was my fault he said, what was I going to do about his bike!!!!!!! His bike looked pretty bad, he was for sure losing the front tire, and front fork. It also looked like a very expensive bike, I never found out if it was or not.

It was true that I pulled in front of him. In the dark, it was impossible to see him in that bike lane. He had no head lamp of any kind. I pointed up at the bike lane yield sign and said, "That yield sign is there for your safety, you ignored it. You have no light on your bike. Would you like me to call the police?" I held the mike for the radio up for him to see, and continued, "If the police come and determine that you're at fault you will be required to pay for the damage to the cab. Do you have insurance like that?"

We bickered for a few minutes, mostly him grumbling. He knew he would be found at fault if the cops came and got involved. I took his name, he did not take mine. Then he stalked off into the night, carrying his twisted bike over his head. I got the names and phone numbers of all 4 drunks in the cab, a bunch of good old boys from northern Wisconsin, down in Madison to whoop it up for the weekend.

Again, Roy Boy agreed with my judgement that any kind of accident with a bike, was something that should be avoided if possible. He took the list of names and numbers, the body shop repaired the quarter panel, the kid probably got his bike replaced at Christmas, and life went on. I don't know about happily ever after, but life went on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why do I have to get involved in something like this?

I'm not a social worker. I don't work in a hospital. I'm not a cop. Getting involved in some woman losing her child shouldn't be part of my job. Unfortunately, it has been part of my job, more than once.

I pulled up in front of a really sleazy dive at Union Corners, to pick up somebody going to Hilldale. The woman going to Hilldale was really drunk, and she had a little girl with her. The kid was 5 perhaps. There was also another woman with her who wanted to go first to a liquer store near by, and then to her apartment which was also close by. In my mind, the second woman was the worst kind of predator, but many people would dismiss what she did as minor.

Someone, probably the bar tender, had given the really drunk woman enough money to pay for a cab home. The second woman, took the money from the really drunk woman and bought beer and a ride to her own place with it, leaving the really drunk woman with the little kid about 2 bucks, when she got out of the cab. I don't recall how it came up, but after the predator got out, the subject of money came up, and I found out that the really drunk woman in the cab no longer had the cash to pay for the ride. She was a happy drunk. One of those people with an innocent drunken smile, and a mostly nice disposition, inspite of being too drunk to walk more than 50 feet at a time.

I don't like getting beat out of a ride for any reason, and I'm not a charity. I told her I wasn't going to kick her out of the cab, but I fully intended to give her a piece of my mind. She told me to shut up, she didn't have to listen to my crap. "Yes lady, you do have to listen to my crap, you don't have the money to pay for the ride, so you will listen to my crap."

Drunks don't usually change their mind when it comes to criticism. Even a sweet drunk will turn ugly if they don't want to hear something, and you insist on telling that something anyway. She started getting nasty. I told her that if she wanted to get nasty, I'd kick her out of the cab. She told me that she'd get as nasty as it took to shut me up. What was I telling her? I was telling her she was an unfit mother. I finally put her and the child out of the cab at the corner of First and Johnson. She sat down on the curb, and the little girl tried to take care of her. I had no choice, I had to call the cops. She went to Detox, I'm not sure what the cops did with the little girl.

Why didn't I just shut up? I'm supposed to silently smile as I give a free ride to a woman who is too drunk to take care of herself, and was too drunk to keep the fat pig who was on the bar stool next to her from stealing her money? Why didn't she shut up? She was too drunk to know any better? Still, why do I have to get involved in this kind of thing? Simple, I'm a cab driver.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Little Hip

Her name is Lisa. She was called Little Hip, because she lived with Hippy. Last I heard, Little Hip was teaching Math at NW Louisiana. When she got her PhD, it was time to leave town and pursue a real career. Being a cab drivers squeeze wasn't her vision of the future. She was only referred to as Little Hip by other cab drivers, and only out of her earshot, in person she was Lisa. She was a pretty nice person, in spite of her questionable taste in boyfriends. Hippy has always described her as a typical native of up north, a hard drinking blond with a Norwegian heritage.

When I met her I was a student, and life was good, too good in fact. It would be a number of years before I would discover that anyone who lives from paycheck to paycheck can't afford that life style, I certainly paid dearly for learning that lesson. She was a math grad student. It would be a few years before she'd get her PhD. It would be a couple of years before I would graduate and a couple more years after that before I'd become a cab driver.

I was having a few drinks in one of the Shenk's Corner's bars, I don't recall which one, probably Mel & Tony's. She was about my age, and I probably bought her a drink. How had I spent my day? Wading in Black Earth Creek, catching brown trout. She wanted to hear all about trout fishing. She said she and her boyfriend were out drinking after playing volleyball. Boyfriend? I didn't see any boyfriend.

Trout fishing? Pick up a girl in a bar talking about trout fishing? Since when were women interested in going fishing? That just doesn't happen, right?

I offered to take her fishing if she'd like to go. She really wanted to go. Ok, I suppose. I thought about it for a minute, and described a couple of places I could take her. When I take someone fishing, there is always the guarantee of catching fish. I suggested a beautiful spot north of Richland Center, and a not so beautiful spot north of Black Earth. About this time a pompous little man with shoulder length hair sat down and announced, "I'm Hip."

She introduced this character as Gary, and said that they'd been playing volleyball together. It turns out that Gary, AKA Hippie, was a ball player, and she'd been playing volleyball with a bunch of cab drivers. This was before I'd had any contact with the world of cab driving, so I just shrugged and said I liked to play volleyball too. For the record, I was never accepted as a ball player, and never invited to play on any of the their teams. This guy Gary said he was a night dispatcher at Badger Cab, like that was really important. Well, that's nice Gary, I don't think it'll ever matter to me. He told me that he was a big cheese, and I should care about him being a big cheese.

When I took her trout fishing, I chose a little trout stream that runs north and south, north of Black Earth. There are a few patches of DNR land, and we fished one of them, a really small one. It wasn't elegant fishing. I put a night crawler on a size 10 hook, and lobbed it in front of a tangle of brush, right where the current would sweep it into the hole under the tangle. I then handed her the rod and told her to carefully watch the line, it will move smoothly. If it twitches suddenly, or does anything else that indicates it has stopped being carried by the current, that probably means a fish has picked it up. When that happens, pick up the slack in the line, and give a slight little jerk when you've taken up all the slack. If you have a fish on, you'll know it right away. Her brown trout was about 12" long, she was ecstatic!! Could she keep it? Of course, it's yours, you did buy a license, didn't you?

I woke up on the floor of Lisa and Hippy's apartment with a roaring hang over. When we got there after fishing, I dressed her trout out, and we had a couple of beers. A couple? It was just fishing, I'm certainly not the first fisherman who woke up on the floor of the other fisherman's place.

I never dreamed that about 3 years later, I'd find out about driving a cab. Of course, Hippy never forgot. So, one of my first exposures to a dispatcher was this little jerk with the shoulder length hair, who'd told me how important he was. What a way to kick off what would become my most stable line of work, in working career that has so far spanned 44 years of paying social security, and over 20 years of driving a cab.

Hippy no longer drives or dispatches. He's in the US these days, he has a nice wife he met in the Congo, last time he was in Africa. She's very attractive, speaks good English, French of course, and they have a nice little boy who's around 3. Now the light black kid with the blond curly hair is Little Hip. But I kind of doubt he'll ever be called Little Hip around his dad.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The holidays alone at home

Unfortunately, this year, I spent the holidays home alone. My doctor didn't think I was ready to go back to work. I got hurt on December first, and haven't worked since. It's ok though, the insurance company is taking good care of me.

I've missed holidays with the family before, this isn't the first time. It's true I could have gone over to the office and hung around, but the new office is a kind of antiseptic place that doesn't lend itself to that sort of thing, at least in my mind. Imagine it if you will, a building, and specifically a dispatch office, designed by an architect, to be the best it could be. Sigh..........