Disappearing Act

I’ve been “stiffed” probably about ten times since I started driving taxis. That’s the slang that’s used in the industry when you don’t get paid for the trip. A customer who stiffs a cab driver can be charged with Theft of Service, a misdemeanor. Of course this almost never happens because the “customer” will be long gone before the police ever arrive. When you are first hired as a driver, most companies show an orientation film which includes several scenerios that you should expect to happen eventually. One part of the film shows the cab stopping at the destination and then the passenger bolts from the cab and runs like hell. I’ve never had that happen. Most times that I’ve been stiffed involved either  declined debit or credit cards or sometimes the customer just admitting that they didn’t have any money when we arrived at our destination. I’ve also had two that have gone into houses and never returned. Once, my fare depended on a woman being able to get a loan at Easy Money; it didn’t happen. A few nights ago I had something happen that was similar to what happened in the film, but with a twist.

I was driving down Richard Arrington Blvd toward downtown when I saw a young man with his hand high in the air flagging for a ride. It was at the intersection near the Stillwater Pub so I assumed that it was someone who had been hanging out there. He was a young white man in his early twenties with a very short haircut, like a crewcut. When he got in I could tell by his speech and mannerisms that he wasn’t the type of person who usually hangs out at Stillwater. He mumbled something about Findley. There is both a Findley Blvd and a Findley Avenue in North Birmingham. The area is very industrial, with warehouses, distributing companies, trucking companies and the like. There’s not a lot of residential areas, what few there are are almost entirely African American. There IS a halfway house. A place where many men live when they are transistioning from prison life to life in the world. I figured it was a good bet that that’s where this guy was going.

He asked that I stop at a gas station on Findley Blvd so he get could get a pack of smokes, when he got out I finally got a good look at his face. He didn’t look like the stereotypical halfway house resident. He was actually quite good looking but as I mentioned earlier, his speech and mannerisms didn’t quite match his looks. I didn’t trust him, not at all. He never actually said that he was going to the halfway house but when we got on pitch dark Findley Avenue he was suddenly sick and had to pull over. “Please pull over now, I’ve got to throw up”. You don’t want me throwing up in your cab do you”? I pulled over and said no, please don’t. We were close to the halfway house and I could sense that he was up to something. He gagged a few times and said “just give me a few minutes and I’ll be OK”. After not hearing him say anything or make any sounds for about ten seconds, I looked around and my gut feeling was confirmed, he was gone. The meter was sitting at $12.50. For some reason I didn’t even get upset, I guess I expected it deep down. I drove away and headed back to Southside. There were other people needing rides.

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.

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