Wednesday, January 14, 2009

forced off the beltline

I remember so many of these rookie moments with a small smile and say to myself that the other guy was really lucky I was a green horn.

It was just before sunrise on the south beltline. I was westbound, and I'm thinking it was somewhere around John Nolan Drive. I had no one in the cab, and I don't recall if I was going to get a call or not, it doesn't matter anyway.

A guy started honking his horn behind me. I changed lanes, and he changed lanes, he stayed right behind me no matter what I did, flashing his head lights and blasting his horn. Finally, I pulled over on the median to see what his problem was. This little black guy wearing pajama's got out of his car and started screaming at me. He screamed that I'd cut him off or something, and since there was almost no traffic on the highway, I couldn't figgure out for the life of me what he was talking about.

In his screaming, he screamed that I was lucky he didn't get his gun out of his glove box and shoot me. That was the freebie he got from me. If it ever came up again, I'd have the cops involved immediately. The guy claims he's got a gun and ammunition in his glove compartment, uncased undoubtedly. A bad day almost beyond his wildest dreams. I don't give out to many freebies anymore.

It may be obvious that I haven't been posting much lately. I'm back to driving 5 days a week. I've retired from the University, recovered from the injury I had at the beginning of December, and I'm glad to be back driving. I've been driving a couple of day shifts and 3 or 4 night shifts a week, the odd combination of hours is hard. Why? I need to get my edge back for the city, 24 hours a day. I'd like to drive days for about 8 weeks sometime say in April and May, but if I don't know what's going on, I'd be showing up for little or no money. Stone-Eye was in the drivers room at 3:30 am on a Sunday morning. Stone-Eye!?!?? In over 20 years that I've known the guy, he's never driven a Sunday before (he's a day guy, starts at 3 or 4). Needless to say, it's bad for everyone driving a cab, probably everywhere, people just aren't spending and going out. Driving when the money's poor takes more out of you than driving when it's good. I just haven't felt like writing after work like I did.

I did figgure out how I'll compose the first chapter of the actual book. Part of it is sitting on my desktop, it's carefully complying with the guidelines set down by the authors I'm reading who teach writing. It includes my best friend getting murdered by a fare in April of '92, they say gore sells well, I know Jim would want me to sell the book. The part of it that will be submitted to agents will live on a web site, and I'll put a single link to that website in a post as soon as Chapter 1 is finished and polished. The actual book chapters will live on the web until I am able to sell the book.


The last time I worked a Thanksgiving, I worked a day shift. I think I have worked a Thanksgiving night shift once, and decided that I'd never do it again, no business. Inspite of being mostly a night driver for the last few years, the last time I drove a Thanksgiving it was a day shift, and it was terrible because it was a nice balmy fall day with sunshine.

Toward the end of my shift, I got a pair going from Balsam to UW Hospital. 2 black ladies, one in her 40's or 50's, one in her 20's. Of course, they weren't ready to go. Usually I wait for 3-5 minutes and take off, and refuse to go back, it's part of my style, however it had been such a dismal day, and there was NOTHING else to do, with no prospects for the next hour, I decided to wait. I waited for probably 15 minutes before they came out.

One was young, around 20, the other was around 45. The young one was wearing a brand new winter coat. There are people here who collect coats for the poor and give them out in a similar fashon to a food pantry. The problem with this is, I don't want a brand new winter coat in leu of a cab fare, and if you have a coat that cost you nothing which you don't really like that much after you get it home, well why not stiff that stupid cab driver and give him that ugly coat? Anyway....... The young one starts this fake wailing immediately, "Oh, my baby. Oh, my baby. Oh......."

We get to the hospital, and the young one announces that the ride will be paid with a voucher that she has to go inside to get. I immediately ask for the cops and then follow her inside. Close inside there is a woman behind a desk who recognizes her, and greets her by saying they already discussed a voucher over the phone, and the hospital isn't giving her one. This same lady looks at me and asks who I am. I tell her I'm a cab driver. She immediately tells me she'll call the cops on me, I tell her I'd like that just fine, I've called the cops myself. I also tell her that since she obviously recognizes the young woman with the new coat, she'll be able to provide the cops with her name so thay can cite her for refusing to pay. When I get back to the cab, a cop is waiting, the mother is looking around like she's wondering where she can dissappear but it's to nice a neighborhood for her to vanish in, she'd look out of place.

You have to love hospital and hotel people. They're such nicey nice (explicitive, explicitive)'s. They would call the cops in a heart beat if someone tried to rip them off, but if they can protect their patient or guest from an evil cab driver who is trying to collect a fare, they aid and abet the act of refusing to pay, agressively, every time.

The cop tells me that they're trying to take the lady's kid away from her. He didn't say what pretext, drugs or unfit mother I suppose. What's really most disgusting about this who deal is why the kid even exists. The grandmother who was trying to wander off, but couldn't probably had the young woman so she could get paid for being a mother. She probably didn't care who the father was, and didn't even care about the kid, she didn't want to get a job and having a kid would pay the bills, so she had one with the intent of a career on welfare, then when the kid became an adult, well she'd change diapers as her own mother probably had, and live off the kid and grandkid. The young woman was following her own mothers career path, and why not, who'd want to get a job?

From listening to the conversation about the baby in the cab, I think I know what the problem was. I had a dog who had seizures for 1/2 his life which I believe were caused by the bug killer the land lord used to get rid of roach's. I'll bet that baby got seizures from the bug killer in that rat trap apartment on Balsam, and there was nothing particularly wrong with the parenting. I could have told that lady that, but since she ripped me off, why would I want to? The fare she ripped me off for would have raised my income for that 8 hour shift from around 25 bucks to around 40. Is it any wonder why I'd refuse to drive subsequent Thanksgivings?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Playing chicken

It's amazing, how may psycho's are running around out there. I should talk? Years ago, my friend Big Al Schouldenrien told me that if I lived in New York City where he came from somebody would kill me. Perhaps I was that bad, but nobody ever remembers their youth that way.

Here, where we sometimes have a lot of snow, as we do this year, the side streets get really narrow. A small percentage of agressive drivers charge through a single lane wide passage between park cars challenging any oncoming car to hit them. I don't approve of driving like that, it would be dangerous on clean pavement, but on snow, it's really dangerous. The idea is that agressive driver is going to force the on coming car to pull over and give him the whole street. My reaction to this kind of thing is usually to leave them room to get by, but not much more than the minimum amount of room.

The guy did stop, he wanted the whole street, not just enough to get by. He flipped the back of his hand dismissively, about 4 flips worth. I returned the gesture, and waited for him to pull by. We waited for a few minutes. All of a sudden his passenger got out and started walking, I should have read that as trouble. Since the guy wasn't moving, I picked up the paper and started to read it. About this time, another car pulled up right behind him. After about 5 minutes he got out and came over to the cab and started screaming at me, saying I was supposed to pull over like I was parked so he could get by. I pointed at the passage next to the cab and told him he had enough room to get by, and that he should get back in his car and do just that, pull by. He went psycho. He had a car key in his fingers and swung through the window a couple of times, making me duck back into the center of the front seat. I don't know that he would have cut my face with that key, but when people go crazy like that, who know's what they're going to do. I was asking the dispatcher to get the cops for me, and he broke off the attack and got in his car and drove past me, vanishing into the day's traffic.

The next car's driver did the same dismissive hand wave, I returned it. He drove through without incident. Then I drove down the street.

Why did I do this? I could have just parked and watched this crazy man drive by without ever discovering that he was crazy. If I'd known he was crazy, I probably would have done just that, but we all assume that the other people on the street are more or less normal. His passenger got out and walked, he knew there was trouble about to happen and he didn't want to be there to see it.

The normal way the majority of us handle streets like this is to slowly pull through, both directions, until it gets tight, and who ever is there second normally stops at a wide place and lets the other car come past. I do that all the time. I realized while thinking about it afterward that the guy was playing chicken. Chicken is a classic teenage game, usually played by boys. The absolute classic version of the game is played on a dark highway at night. 2 boys in cars will drive toward each other, toward a certain head on collision. The boy who at the last minute decides he doesn't want to find out what happens in a head on collision pulls to the side, is declaired chicken, and is of course the loser. What that fool was doing, and the small group of other drivers like him, was playing chicken in broad daylight on a slick snow surface. The streets are where I work, that kind of play makes my workplace much more dangerous than it needs to be.