Monthly Archives: October 2012

Pissy Drunk

We all know that there are different degrees of drunkeness. It usually starts with just a slightly buzzed feeling after a couple of drinks. It can then proceed to slurred speech, staggering gate and talking about dumb and inappropriate things. After this stage comes complete incoherence of speech, inability to recall simple things like one’s name or address and finally unconsciousness. My customer on this day was at this last stage, just before unconsciousness.

It was a beautiful spring day and there was a beer festival going on at Sloss Furnaces. Sloss is an old steel mill near downtown Birmingham that stopped making steel in 1971. It has since been converted into a museum of sorts. The blast furnace and most of the other steel making machinery has been preserved and on most days it’s open for the public to tour. On some days it’s used as an event venue. There are weddings, concerts, festivals and even a haunted house in the weeks preceeding Halloween. It’s said that the old mill is home to the ghosts of some of the workers who died there over the years that it was in operation.

Just a few years ago, Alabama finally repealed an archaic law that didn’t allow beer containing more than 6% alcohol to be sold in the state. Since the law’s repeal, somewhat of a craft beer culture has emerged, at least in the larger cities. The festival going on at Sloss allowed the public to purchase a ticket and then walk through the festival sampling different craft beers from around the world. Needless to say it’s a very popular festival! I had made 3 or 4 trips to the festival to pick up the beer lovers. Most of them were just at the slightly tipsy stage, some were slurring but all were able to get around OK and communicate with me. When I dropped off a group in the Southside my dispatch computer immediately offered me a trip in the same zone. I accepted it, not thinking anything would be out of the ordinary. It was daytime, probably about 3:30 in the afternoon. The call was to a popular sports bar in the Lakeview entertainment district. When I drove up in the parking lot I could see a young man who apperaed to be very drunk leaning against a car with another young man who appeared to be sober standing beside him. The sober one was the bartender who had called the cab for the drunk guy. Apparently the two were aquaintances and the bartender handed me a twenty dollar bill and asked me to take him home. “I’ve never been to his house, but he said he lives near the peacock on the mountain”.Alabama court 024

I assumed he was talking about the NBC sign in front of T.V. station channel 13, the NBC affiliate located atop Red Mountain. One thing I’ve learned as a driver is that when you have a customer who is at the incoherent stage of drunkeness and there’s no one else along for the ride with them, it never ends well. I don’t know if this guy had been to the festival or not, he couldn’t communicate well enough to tell me. One thing I did know for sure was that he had been doing some serious drinking somewhere.

At first I thought he may have been talking about the old brick apartments on both sides of Valley Avenue on the backside of the mountain and the T.V. stations. Do you live here, in these apartments? I asked him. He looked around a bit and made negaitve gestures. I then drove up the hill next to channel 13 but there were no houses or apartments there. Then I thought, he must be talking about the front side of the mountain. There are many houses, apartment complexes, and old houses broken up into apartments along 16th, 17th, and 18th avenues, it has to be in that area. You can see the NBC peacock sign from there. I asked him, is this your neighborhood? Do you live on this street? He didn’t recognize any of these houses as home. After a while I had driven over almost every street on the Southside side of the mountain and he never recognized the place he wanted to go. I decided I’d just take him back to where I picked him up, after all I couldn’t ride him around with me the rest of the day, I had to make money. When I got to the main intersection in Five Points South, 11th avenue and 20th street, I had to stop at a red light with three cars in front of me, I couldn’t go anywhere. Five Points South is a popular cultural area with many restaurants, bars, shops, a Starbucks and an area where people congregate to play music, do artwork ect… this area usually draws a crowd of everything from homeless people and freight train hopping hobos to UAB students, faculty and business people.

There were many people enoying their beverages at the tables on the street in front of Starbucks, many people at the gathering area, and several people standing in front of the Thai restaurant and the BBQ restaurant across the street. Five Points was bustling on this bright spring day. While sitting at the light I heard my back door open. When I looked around my customer was standing in the street in front of God and everybody, with his pants unzipped taking a leak. Before I could say anything I heard the whoop whoop of a police car siren that was waiting at the same light a few cars back. When my customer finished peeing and got back in the car he was able to say “take me to the Courtyard”. The Courtyard is a bar around the corner on Highland Avenue.

When I pulled up in front of the Courtyard with the police car close behind, my customer jumped out immediately and staggered toward the door. I could see that the shorts he was wearing were soaking wet from the crotch down, I guess he had a really bad aim. I looked around at my seat; yep it was wet too. Thank God it was faux leather and not cloth. The cop caught him before he made it to the door. What the cop did next astonished me. Instead of hand cuffing the guy and arresting him for public intoxication or indecent exposure, he took the drunk guy’s cell phone and found his father’s number in the contacts. He called the guy’s father, who lived in Gardendale, a suburb a few miles north of the city. He said “your son is here in Southside and he’s very drunk. I don’t want to take him to jail, if you’ll come pick him up I’ll let him go with you”. I guess it was the drunk guy’s lucky day. I drove up to the Chevron on the corner, bought some cleaning supplies and started to clean and disinfect my back seat.

copyright 2012 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.

Birmingham

A view of the city from The Club, atop Red Mountain.

A few scenes from around town:

CIMG6785Stan the muffler man.

 

 

 

 

Note the shower cap on the diver on this old motel sign in Eastern Birmingham.                             CIMG6828

Birming-images 009

 

 

 

 

Another view of the city.

 

 

 

 

 

WBRC, channel 6 atop Red Mountain                       CIMG6911

 

 

 

 

 

 

A long time staple on Greensprings Highway.

Copyright 2012 R.W. Walker        CIMG6809

Jesus Huffin’ Christ

I cringed a little when I saw that the call I had just accepted in the 100 zone was to the Tourway Inn. The Tourway is an old motel on the edge of downtown next to the interstate. It’s common to pick up hookers, stippers, junkies, drunks and other assorted weirdos here and in other motels like this. Sometimes you get people who are totally normal but that’s the exception, not the rule. This time was no exception.

The young man was sitting on a curb in front of the motel when I pulled up. He was wearing a hoodie over his head but I could clearly see his face. He had a round face with a thin scraggly beard and shoulder length dirty hair. He looked a little like Jesus I guess, maybe after he had been hanging on the cross for a while. When he got in the car his mental issues or drug issues or both, became apparent.

At first he couldn’t decide where he wanted to go. It was after midnight and it had to be some place open 24 hours. It was either going to be Walmart on Lakeshore or CVS on Greensprings Highway. After a minute of hemming and hawing a clear preferance for Walmart emerged. We left the motel but as soon as we were on the ramp to I-65 his indecision about his destination returned. This time it was all about money, all about the fare. He wanted estimates for both places. I told him that it would cost 3 or 4 dollars more to go to Walmart. That sealed it, we were going to CVS.

Not long into the ride he started trying to negotiate a round trip price. He said “I only have $15 for the round trip”, I told him that wasn’t enough. “I guess I’ll just have to walk back. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my back and I’ve been in trouble. Homewood hates me, the 5-0 won’t leave me alone. I’ve got a big blister on my heel that hurts like hell but I guess I can walk back”. I wasn’t born yesterday, I could easily tell that he was trying to manipulate me with his poor me stories. For some reason I felt a little sorry for him and I said OK, as long as you don’t stay in the store too long I’ll do the round trip for $15. The meter was sitting at $10 dollars when we pulled into the parking lot. By the meter the round trip would have cost him $20 or so.

True to his word, he came out of the store in less than 5 minutes carrying something in a bag. I thought, Ok this won’t be bad, I’ll take him back to the motel and make about 5 bucks less than I could have but no big deal. Before we were halfway down Red Mountain I heard the sound of an aerosol can spraying. It was a deep sound, much more like the sound of fix a flat than the sound of deodorant or air freshener. When I looked around he was lying on my backseat with his eyes rolled back in his head. He looked like a person that was dying. I screamed WHAT THE FUCK? but he was out of it. By the time I could get pulled over at the closed Chevron station he was coming around.

Suddenly, his arms were flailing about as he screamed jibberish that made absolutely no sense. I took out my phone and started to call for help. When he saw this he jumped out of the car and started yelling “really? are you really gonna call the 5-0 on me? Really? I said I thought you were dying or losing your mind. Are you OK now? He started pacing around ranting about how the 5-0 was out to get him. “They hate me. “Every time the 5-0 sees me they fuck with me, I’m always in trouble with the 5-0!” I said well, maybe if you’d quit doing crazy shit they’d leave you alone.

After stomping around a little more he got back into the back seat and immediately took out his spray can and took another big huff. Once again he was lying on my back seat looking dead. I got out of the car, walked to the edge of the parking lot and called dispatch, who then called the cops. When the cop got there the first thing he did was to make him pay me. I said I’ll settle for $10 dollars but I’m not taking you anywhere else. He had $8 and that was all. I wouldn’t have gotten my $15 if we had completed the trip. I was glad to get any money but even more than that I was glad to get this nutcase out of my car. As I drove away slowly I could see him in my rearview; being questioned by the 5-0.

copyright 2012 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.

Hello world!

I’m a part time cab driver in Birmingham, Alabama. I will be recording some of the more interesting stories about my customers and places that I go. We cab drivers get a view of society that most people do not. I’ll be dispelling some myths and stereotypes and confirming others. We’ll talk about what it’s really like in some neighborhoods in which many fear to tread. We’ll talk about whores and drug dealers as well as preachers and CEOs . We’ll talk about the fabric of society of Birmingham as well as the perceptions of visitors to the city. Can’t wait to get started!

copyright 2012 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.