Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween - The best costume prize is.........

Before I forget, if you want to see what Halloween in Madison looks like this website has some nice photos and so on......

I was standing in a long line, and casually told the fellow in front of me that Halloween spending was down 15% this year over last year. I asked how many people he expected at his Halloween party. He had enough various bottles of booze in his cart to stock a bar that specialized in mixed drinks, and he had a few cases of beer too. He said he was making 18 gallons of wap. I guess wapatuli is one of the vilest forms of witches brew, so why not, a Halloween wap party sort of makes sense.

I replied that I once knew a priest named Father Wapatuli. He and his wife both giggled. This a description of a movie titled New Machine. I think the movie was a theater class project, but it doesn't matter why it was made. It should be a local cult classic. The new machine was an old candy vending machine that was purchased to replace the origional machine when it died. I won't disclose it's location, but 30 years ago those of us who knew it's location also knew that a joint cost $0.75. I went on to say that the guy who kept it stocked is now the president or CEO of a local high tech firm, which should raise no eyebrows in Madison, Wisconsin.

There were 3 knobs out of 8 that would lead to a joint. You deposited the first quarter, pulled the knob, and nothing came out. You deposited the second quarter, pulled the knob, and a strike anywhere kitchen match came out. You deposited the third quarter, pulled the knob, and a joint rolled the classical way about 2/3 the diameter of a lucky strike, came out.

In the movie, if memory serves, Father Wapatuli picks up the kitchen match and joint out of the candy machine tray, and lights and hits the joint. The dialog was something like, 'I remember these from college.' A couple of minutes later he is shown swaying back and forth, and it was perfictly played. It's hard to resist the impulse to name these people, but........... Anyhow, that's the enduring image I have of the fellow with the house over by Norris Court, and the enduring memory of New Machine.

The fellow who made the movie was a fellow many called Duckless. He got kicked out of more living situations than anyone I've ever known. If someone specifically asks, I'll offer more about this group of people from the past in more posts, I do see a story or 2 coming out of the group. Duckless wasn't that much a part of our crowd, he was a Leon Varjain hanger on. I was warned about helping Duckless out, but I took mercy on him when he was homeless yet again, in the fall of 1980. When I got crab lice because he sat on my bed when I wasn't home watching television, I gave him 48 hours to get rid of the crabs. He made a big joke out of it, and said he'd make a movie out of it. 48 hours came and went, I didn't have the time to confront him about it at precisely 48 hours. He took it as a victory, big mistake on his part. His fate was sealed when I saw a bottle of quell shampoo dispensed by health service to a Simon Rabinowitz. Simon was Kathy's boyfriend, but she played around with Duck, so they all had the crabs. He came home from a party on Sunday morning and all his stuff was in the street. Want to hear the whole sordid tale? I take requests.

And if you ever see a tall skinny 60ish guy in a priest costume at Freakfest, do ask him if he's the famous Father Wapatuli.

I've been asking people what costume I'm wearing. I've gotten really interesting responses. I'm only wearing my usual outfit, so what they're telling me is what they really see.

I've gotten, Indiana Jones, a guy leading a safari, and Neil Young so far. I guess they like my hat, I think that's mostly what they're seeing.

What costume am I wearing at work really? The one I wear 24/7 and it's a doozie.

My last passenger last night will probably get the prize for best costume this year. She said it was nothing specific, a silver mask, a wispy silver cape, and a shift of the same wispy silver fabric. Nope, she got 2nd.

The best costume of this years Freakfest to be seen by this cab driver was a buxom young woman in a fleece leopard costume. It was a great costume because it allowed her to wear long under ware too. Her companion was a girl I had in the cab on Friday night too. The companion girl told me someone had set her costume on fire, but they caught it quickly. Sure enough, when they got out, the fringes on the back of her costume were burned. And people wonder why they wind up in jail when they do stuff like that and get caught.

The all time best costume I've ever seen on State st. at Halloween? The dancing radio, which probably belonged to WORT. It was a round top radio, like they had in the '30's, made from cardboard or foam core, supported by shoulder straps. Who ever made it spent quite a bit of time on it, the artwork was very nice. It looked just like an old radio, the scale was right too. The person inside had on a black leotard with white gloves and white sneakers. She danced on the Library Mall for hours and will forever be a happy memory of Halloween in Madison.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The artistic inspiration for Jabba The Hut

If you come to State st. in the evening, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights, you'll see cab after cab cruising, pretty much like they do in big cities. Here we call it trolling for drunks. Years ago cabs stayed off of State st. until bar time. Curley and I changed all that.

Curley was the artistic inspiration for Jabba The Hut. He was fat and claimed he wanted to eat until he exploded. He had an artificial hip and walked with a profound limp. He had a single functioning kidney that was origionally his sisters (she's a nice lady). He had reddish hair and a face that resembled a pepperoni pizza. He is mostly famous for all the little things he introduced into the jargon of dispatching. When he cleared the board, he'd say, "I win", these days when the board is cleared they often say Curley wins or they'll say it's a Curley board.

When I started driving, Curley was just another night driver. I don't recall when he started dispatching, it was before I ever became a night driver. At first he was a rookie dispatcher who started during the tail end of some of my day shifts, I didn't know him well, he was ok for a rookie. His shift was 3:00 pm - 11:00 pm, and that never varied. Before he really graduated from being a rookie, I started driving nights. In a way, we were rookies together, he a dispatcher, I a night driver. At first we got along pretty good.

The time was 3 or 4 years into my cab driving career, I was pretty generous back in those days. Back then it was normal for all the drivers to tip the dispatchers if we had good days. Say to yourself, 30 drivers times 5 bucks divided by 2 dispatchers. Not bad at all, considering it was undeclared and the company pays them pretty well in the first place. Curley cured me of that. Ask any dispatcher if I tip, they will say once in a blue moon, or more likely, never.

I don't recall what started it. Very likely it started out that Curley was fighting Piggies battle with me for him. Recall that Piggie and I had issues over yards runs cheating. Curley idolized Piggie. The model of how Piggie figgured the night shift at Badger Cab should work would be most accurately described as the way a cell block runs in prison. One prisioner is the boss, he has friends who get special treatment and are henchmen for him, and Piggie saw himself as the boss. I suppose he was very impressionable when he got tossed into Waupon for U&P (want the details, ask and I'll post them).

Curley told me in no uncertain terms that he would screw me over and I'd quit because I wouldn't make any money. Only, by this time I was a pretty experienced cab driver, I had 3 or 4 years of driving experience. If it's busy enough, you can't screw over the drivers, you need them, and screwing over a driver is ALSO screwing over a customer most of the time. If it's not busy, it becomes obvious to all the drivers you're screwing over a particular driver, and nobody likes to see that kind of thing as stardard operating procedure. But between Curley and I it was SOP because I didn't take that kind of crap off anybody, and he didn't take that kind of lack of respect for authority.

Thus was cruising State st., born. It would be absolutely dead, nobody doing anything, and all of a sudden, I'd get a couple of flags on State st., and poof I'd have a $50 hour. $50 hours are still big hours. Other drivers would give me shit, tell me I should be ticketed, and I'd ask them why they were waiting, get me ticketed if you can.

The last time I saw Curley or worked with him, I was doing 48 states in a semi truck most of the year, so I didn't drive cab a lot. I came in to drive a couple of shifts and Schnidley said Curley had passed away, died in his sleep, of natural causes. Poppy cock!!!! I was told it was a cocaine overdose by someone who isn't as smooth a lier as Schnidley. I'll hold the details of how the person who told me about it knew, lets just say, somethings go undisclosed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hog huntin

I had 4 guys from Campbellsport in the cab last night. Their pilgrimage to Madison for Halloween is very important to them, the year just wouldn't be complete with out it. Here for a really long weekend, Halloween in Madison is more important to them than deer season. They'd taken in a concert at the Barrymore and were heading back down town to get to the serious part of the evening, hog huntin.

I only got 2 of their names, the one in the front seat was named Pete and one in the back seat was named Mike. All 3 fellows in back were egging Pete on to best his record.

"Record?", I asked.

"Oh yeah! Petie's got the state record! Don't you Petie? The Wisconsin hog huntin crown!!"

I glanced at the fellow beside me in the passenger seat.

Pete grinned broadly and explained his record, "We were in Oshkosh. We went into this run down little country western place just out side of town and there she was. She was at least a 3 pointer. I was out for a record that night. She was about 4'10" and weighed at least 350 pounds. Her thighs were about this big (he held his hands apart describing a circle about 15" in diameter). She was wearing a really cheesy country outfit. I asked her to dance and we danced for a while. She was really hot to take me home with her, and she was record material, so I went for it. When I woke up the next morning she was still asleep. As I was dressing I pulled a drawer open in her dresser and pissed in it."

"Know what?", he chuckled, "About 2 weeks later she actually called me up and asked me out for a second date."

At this point all 4 of them were roaring, and I was just pulling off the square onto State st. One of the guys in the back seat said, "Oh man, who dropped his ass?!?"

Almost immediately all 4 of them were making gagging sounds, laughing their ass's off, and making all the crude comments you hear when someone deliberately farts in a cab with all the windows rolled up. I rolled all the windows down and resisted the temptation to strangle one or more of them, it was only about a minute until we'd reach Brat's and I'd be rid of them. The last 2 blocks down State the 2 in the window seats in the back were hanging out the windows shouting cat calls at all the women we passed. True to form, no tip. Real class guys, on a quest. Hog huntin.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Fuzz

To the best of my knowledge we've had a couple of drivers become cops, and we had one who claimed he was a former cop. The guy who claimed to be a former cop, I'll call him WF, he never had anything like a nickname and without his written permission I wouldn't use his name here.

It's my understanding that Mario is a cop up north somewhere. Sheriff's deputy or something like that. Mario was one of my night drivers when I first started driving. Like all the night drivers back then he figured he owned the car until he was tired of driving. If it stayed busy late, he just wouldn't bring the cab in, and the five bucks for every fifteen minutes late, you are kidding right? Mario pay me for being late? Roy Boy would tell me it was the dispatchers job to kick Mario off the road, the dispatcher was usually Louie, and he would NOT kick Mario off the road. Dave, where ever you are, DO NOT come back. Mario did other cute stuff, now that I think of it, he was fond of doing doughnuts on fresh snow, for ten dollar bills, and he bragged about it. Doughnuts? Spinning the cab 360 degrees in the middle of the street.

Gwench is a sheriffs deputy locally. She was a good dispatcher, there was a piercing quality to her voice, and you could hear her perfectly at 60 mph with all the windows down. She once told me she either wanted to be a cop or a lawyer, or was it cop or a judge, now that I think of it I don't recall, but judges are lawyers. Her long time boyfriend, Jumbo, is a lawyer I'm told. We all liked her, she was good people, and to her credit she never came back and applied being a cop to anybody in the cab business. As Sandy Van Sycle once wryly said, "Everybody's doing something, all the time." And of course, legally, some of it is kind of sketchy.

Back to WF............. I'm not sure when he left, I only know he's not around now. This leads me to believe more confidently that he was never a former cop at all, he was current, and what ever he was supposed to be researching was found to be insufficient to justify him being here. He always had one of those blue tooth ear pieces going and he made a lot of phone calls while he was driving. When I found out he was a cop, I asked him why somebody with a generous pension would go out and try to get himself killed 4 or 5 nights a week. His reply lead me to believe he carried a gun. He said something about it being very unlikely someone would survive trying to rob him. How does that work? He went on to explain he was entitled to defend himself. Yeah right. If I punched the ticket of some poor under priviledged minority youth who was trying to rob me, I KNOW I'd be given the burden of proving he was trying to rob me. I'd need a bullet hole or a serious knife wound in me to keep from going to jail. Ah, he said, it was a question of credibility. Yeah, he'd pull out a badge, show it to the cops that came to the scene, end of story.

The most

The company is real picky about overloading these days, but it wasn't always that way. Years ago, the dispatcher would over load a cab, and the way that worked was you went to the address with 4 or 5 people in the cab who would agree to scrunch up, and ask the other folks if they wanted to scrunch or wait. They would usually, but not always, say they wanted to go now and they'd scrunch. Thus, most of us have personal records for most people in the cab. My records come in categories.

My record for most adults in a cab at one time was Perkins on U to the SAE house. The abbreviation for Perkins on University for the dispatch staff is P on U, I'm told. I went out there at about 4 am and the guys were all still drunk and they'd just gotten done pigging out after closing the bars at 2:30 am. One guy said when's the next cab coming? I said it would probably be me because not too many people were working at the moment. It was Sunday morning and most of the night guys check it in at 3:00 or so after the bar rush.

They'd planned on 2 cabs, 6 in one, and 7 in the other. We had bench seats in those days, 5 was a load, 6 was a heavy load, and 7 was a real heavy load, but dispatchers would do it back then. About the 3rd kid asked how many I'd take at once. I told him I didn't care, as many as wanted to go in this group. He looked at the kid behind him and said, "We can do this!!!" The other kid said, "Yeah!!!!!" With that they started piling in. All of them piled in. About a mile down the road the guys on the bottom started groaning and whining. The guys on the top were laughing their ass's off. When we got to the SAE house (Lake st. and the lake), they all piled out and paid me.

The most I ever had who weren't all in the same group came during the spring tournaments, the wrestling tournment to be precise. There were 2 groups of 5 at Jingles, if memory serves. It's not called Jingles anymore. Jingles O'Brian retired, I think. Anyhow, I pulled up front and they started arguing back and forth that group A called the cab, no group B called the cab, no group A, get the idea? So I asked if they wanted to scrunch, they said they did, and they piled in. 10 mom's and dad's of high school wrestlers who didn't have their spouse along with. You want to talk about a lot of giggling, and other little woopie kind of comments, they were all goosing each other until the first group got out at the Inn Towner. I wish everybody was that happy and fun to chauffer around.

The most I ever had in more than 2 groups was 3 groups of 3 but I don't recall the details.

The most the dispatcher ever gave me was 2 groups of 5 coming from the skirts to down town on a new years eve, the details I don't recall.

And finally (drum roll.....), the most I ever almost got caught with. 11 going from the Essen Haus to what is now Rams Head. It was warm weather, and the dodge diplomats usually had crank windows, so all the windows were cranked down. The last 2 laid across the rest of the people in the back seat and let their feet hang out the window. I'd gotten someone in the front seat to pay me durring the ride, so when we passed a cop going in the opposite direction in front of the Orphiem, the only thing I needed to do was get around the next corner on to Henry st., and get them out of the cab. I watched the cop make a U turn in the rear view window, and the cab driving gods were looking over me that night, the light at my end of the block was green. I whipped around the corner, jumped out the door, ran around the cab opening the doors and pulling people out. The cab was empty, the doors were closed, and the last guy was going through the door into the bar when the squad car pulled up behind me with his cherries on. The cop jumped out of the squad and rushed up to me, ticket book in hand, and demanded, "How many people did you have in that cab?"

"A few", I answered. He demanded that I tell him how many numerous times, and each time I told him I wasn't sure, a few was as specific as I'd be. I've never had a cop madder at me while driving cab. After about 10 minutes of yelling at me he finally gave up, got back in the squad, and pulled away. To my utter amazement, he didn't write me a ticket.

These days, per company policy, I only take as many as I have seat belts for, which is 4 passengers, 3 in the back, and 1 in the front. The old days were more fun, for a lot of reasons.

Perfesser Neilboy and the good old days....

Back when I started driving, there was no drunk bus. Drunk bus? Yeah. At bar time, we'd load up and haul students to the lakeshore dorms by the carload, and it was profitable. Then along came Donna Shalala who created the drunk bus. Most people in the university didn't care for her, and I can assure you the cab drivers didn't. She said that it was too dangerous for the students to find their own way home from the State st., Langdon area at bar time (I mean after all, they might step in a puddle of vomit and twist their ankle, right?), so the university had an obligation to provide bus service to the lakeshore dorms. And poof, just like that, every night driver made $50-$100 less on Friday and Saturday nights. The loss of revenue was a seven day a week thing, but on the other nights of the week it was less money.

As it stands, and has stood for a long time, if you can stumble on to a bus, the bus is free, and it will take you to the lakeshore dorms. They also have a program called Saferide, which they can use twice a month, which is basically a free cab ride, paid for by the university. Thank god we don't do those rides, I really can't stomach listening to a kid mouthing the lies about it being dangerous to walk around downtown. Send your kid here, if they don't know how to lie, we'll teach them. Where was I............., oh yeah, Neil.

Neil is called Perfesser Neilboy because he finally fucked up and graduated. Making him a PhD. He was a grad student when I started driving, which is an honorable excuse to be a cab driver. I've always liked the guy, really have, one of my favorite family members. He's really a bright fellow. Grey now, from NYC I believe, perhaps even Brooklyn, and when he talks, I'm reminded of an old TV show and a character called Gunther Tutti accent wise. He left Badger over a snit about a special needs passenger, and now drives a cab painted yellow. He claims it's the best thing that ever happened to him, and he's right. He's called Neilboy because he used to call Louie, John Boy. Louie was a nickname of a dispatcher who long ago left the business to become a realtor. His first name was John, hence John Boy. Neil was the only person who called him that. John Boy was the dispatching on my first ever day shift during the week, back when I didn't have a handle on bidding properly.

I remember it well...... I was about Park and Emerald, and some micky mouse little call popped like 600 W. Main to the square. I was on my way to the office to check in, which would have made it around 9:15 am. At 9:15 am on a Monday, that call is VERY hard to move. I, innocent that I was, simply wanted the last $1.50 of the morning (that was the fare in those days). So I started trying to bid for it. Every time I bid, Louie would answer, "Six Oh that isn't how we bid for that." So I'd try something else. When I got to Five Points (Park and W. Washington), I gave up and drove past the call back to 12 (the old old office). When I walked into the office to check in, Roy Boy was waiting and he apologised for Louie. I recall telling him I could make money in spite of Louie. He didn't need to apologize to me, it was the customer he needed to apologize to. The customer didn't get a ride. Was I bidding for it wrong? Sure, it was my second or third ever shift, but is that a good excuse to deny service to a customer? Louie was a jerk, and the tradition of jerks answering the phone and dispatching continues to this day, people complain to drivers about it all the time.

Neilboys latest sin was showing off a photo copy of a ticket Roy Boy got in Fondy not long ago. He was down at the green and white drinking, and he showed this photo copy to Ham Dinger and Dickdro. Dickdro went balistic, but he's that way, the ultimate company man, his license plate is a vanity plate that is KSA-768. Neilboys joke was that Roy Boy ought to pay $2.00/shift he works penalty for having that ticket. If we get a ticket our checkin goes up supposedly to cover the increased insurance costs.

To this day, I'd like to see Louie behind the barn, with a release saying that I couldn't be held responsible criminally or financially for the results.

My favorite thought about Neilboy is a ride I was doing short east at bar time one cold winter night. I had 3 guys in the back seat and I was passing him on Johnson st., just a little before Tenny Park. I pointed at the other red and white cab and said, "That's Perfesser Neilboy gentlemen, you may moon him if you wish." About 30 seconds later the kid immediately behind me shuddered out, "God damn, that glass is cold!!" And no, I did not take time out to wash the window.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Your office an empty cab.

That used to mean a yards run. You still hear it rarely, and it always means money, but I don't think we do yards runs any more.

A yards run was taking a train crew, 1-5 guys, from one rail road yard to another. Say, Janesville to Rock Springs. It usually meant you'd make a lot of money that day, hundreds of dollars.

When I started driving, the Hog was in France. He had a degree in French, and was qualified to teach French, but where an ex-con, covered with tattoos, would get a job teaching 7th graders French, isn't quite clear to me. I'm sure that like so many of us with dreams of escaping, he was combining a long vacation with a skills upgrade, and considered the trip an investment in his future. When he came back he was fluent in spoken French, though I think Du's skill's were always superior. As long as the Hog was in France, yards runs went out fairly.

It's always been the case that cheating causes hard feelings. I mean, after all, we're playing keepsies, when the supposed randomness of the business mix is tampered with there is sure to be someone who will be offended. It's not dollaroids you're stealing from someone else, the cash is real. It's never mattered who's doing it or which call(s), and I'm not the only none who gets offended. The company has always taken the line that they don't condone cheating and take steps to prevent it. Horse Pucky, I say. They have always looked the other way. Which is probably why, in the end, that we lost that account.

When the Hog came back, his expectation was that he'd dust off the throne which had been empty for a year, and resume being king of the night time dispatchers. I'd been driving about a year when this moment came. It would be a number of years before I'd become a night driver, so I only viewed this Bozo as another driver. He viewed himself as an authority figure and how dare some rookie driver with only one year challenge him or anything he did. Well, I've felt the same way when all of them came back, and they/we all come back (my longest pure absence was around 5 months). My attitude has always been, who the hell do you think you are?

The Hog did give me at least one chance to realize my mistake, and give him the proper level of respect, and ignore his cheating. He didn't much like the who the hell are you attitude.

How Piggie (the nickname he liked) cheated was inside information. Piggie loved to play pool. He wasn't very good at it, but he loved the pool hall and the game almost as much as he loved Badger Cab. It turns out that some number of Chi-Nor employees also frequented the pool hall. They'd tell Piggie when the yards runs were going to happen a day or 2 in advance. Then about 30 minutes before the call would go out, he'd wander over to the office and wait for the call to go out over the air. He was always first up. The other drivers in the fleet tolerated this because they knew the system and protesting it was a waste of time, or because they didn't know the system and didn't notice it going on (ROOKIES), but I didn't like it and said so. It wasn't until years later when Crawdaddy started driving cab that anyone found out how the Hog was cheating. Crawdaddy is also a serious pool player, also knew the Chi-Nor guys and disclosed the Hog's secret. Even after this disclosure, the company denied it and allowed this practice to continue until we lost the account.

The Hog would go on to mess with me until he was too old and sick to be a driver or dispatcher anymore. He also got Curley to pursue his vendetta's for him. This was the beginning of my years long conflict with Curley. Curley worshiped the ground the Hog walked on. If I had it to do over again, I'd act the same.