Monthly Archives: January 2013

Brotherly Love

It was about 3:00 am on a Friday night/Saturday morning. I was calling it a night. I had made some decent money taking the drunk, over-the-mountain kids home from Lakeview. I stopped by the little 24 hour grocery store on Highland Avenue to get a few things we needed at home. I saw a kind of odd looking couple standing outside near the door, one of them approached the car. He was very clean-cut, a little nerdy looking, kind of geeky. He wasn’t one that would set off my gaydar. His companion was a drag queen. Obviously male but adorned with lipstick, make-up and feminine jewelry. Her bleached blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail. She wasn’t wearing a dress but her tight fitting jeans gave way to a pair of women’s pumps which exposed her red painted toenails. I assumed the two were lovers. The straight looking one said “we’re stranded, can you take us home?” I told him that I had a few items to get first but I could then take them home.

They told me to go toward Eastwood Walmart on Montclair Road. They said they live a little beyond there. They fretted about money throughout the entire trip. They were both going through their pockets collecting and counting money. When we got just beyond the Walmart the straight looking one said “OK, put us out”. I pulled over and asked if we were near where they lived. The drag queen said ” it’s another couple of miles but we can walk”. The other one said “thirteen dollars is all we have.” I looked at the meter and it was sitting on $13. I told them not to worry about it. I said just pay me what you have and I’ll get you home. I wouldn’t do this for anybody but these guys hadn’t been any trouble and they hadn’t tried to take advantage of me. They gave me directions to the very same extended stay inn where my wife and I had lived when we first moved to Birmingham. The straight acting one made a phone call just as we pulled up in front of the room to let their mother know that he and his brother were home.

copyright 2013 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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Rick James

It was early in the evening, but it was winter and very dark. I had picked up a woman from her job at one of the hospitals and taken her to her home in North Birmingham, the 500 zone. As soon as I dropped her off, my computer booked me into that zone. I immediately heard the long beep, a trip was being offered. This is one of the zones where I don’t usually pick up customers after dark because of the high crime rate. I thought to myself well, it’s dark but it’s still really early, I decided to break my self imposed prohibition. I accepted the call.

I recognized the address as being in the Collegeville neighborhood. Collegeville is an industrial wasteland surrounded on all sides by railroad tracks. There was a big news story a couple of years ago when some people died in a house fire because the fire engines and ambulances were stopped by the train and there was no alternative route. There have also been recent issues with contaminated soil. When the new elementary school was completed, all kinds of cancer causing chemicals were found in the soil on which it was built. Even though the area had been home to many iron and steel related industries spewing all kinds of crap for a century, no one thought to do a soil test before building the school.

There’s a big public housing project in Collegeville but this address was a few blocks outside of it. A few of the old smokestack industries are still in operation. The largest is a plant that turns raw coal CIMG6788into coke, a product used in steel making. Patti LaBelle was crooning “If only you knew” on the radio when I saw the big orange flare from the plant dancing in the black sky. It was an old house fairly high off the ground, the kind of house that dogs often sleep underneath. There were several people on the front porch. The person who lived there was a small dark skinned African American man I would judge to be about 70. He wasn’t the customer. He had called for one of his relatives who had been visiting and apparently, drinking all day. 

The man of the house told me that he had been a cab driver back in the day. He talked, as I have heard many talk, about Mr. Strickland who had owned the company before the current owner bought it. My customer came out of the house with the glow of drunkenness on his face. He said he needed to go to Hueytown and wanted to know how much it would cost. I did the math and told him probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $30-35. He said ” I ain’t got nothing but twenty.” I said that’s not enough. The older man chimed in on his behalf. “He’s a good man. Let him ride up front with you and he’ll give you $25.” I agreed and he paid me up front.

“They call me Rick James“, he said as he stuck out his hand. I shook it and told him my name. Of course I recognized Rick James as the name of the late R&B/Funk icon from the 70’s and 80’s. He was thin, fairly dark skinned and probably in his 40’s or early 50’s. He was stinking of booze. We got along fine but he became really annoying really fast. He seemed to be obsessed with race and went into this routine about black folks do this and white folks do that. “Y’all white folk be eatin’ pussy don’t chall?” I’ve learned over the years to never argue with drunks. My responses consisted of head nods, um hmms and yeah, you right. “Black folk don’t eat no pussy” he said. “And y’all be kissin’ y’all dawgs.” Yeah, you right, I said. 

After a few minutes of his diatribe he wanted to use my phone. He needed to call his sister whose house I was taking him to. I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I heard loud, angry sounding talking coming through the phone from the passenger side. There was no doubt of trouble when I heard the words “hell naw” come from the phone. Plan B, he calls his other sister. There’s no answer here so he decides that’s where he’s going. First he has to stop at a gas station to pee. It was one of those old fashioned stations with the bathrooms on the outside around back. The door was locked and Rick didn’t bother to go ask the attendant for the key. He just whips it out right there and pees on the ground. I see him staggering all around peeing on the walls of the station, on a dumpster and everywhere else.

We’re not far from Hueytown at this point. We found his sister’s house, the one that didn’t answer the phone, pretty easily. The meter is sitting at $32. I’ve screwed myself out of $7 by making this deal with him. When he gets out and stands up, I can see that the entire front of his pants is wet from the crazy peeing that he did back at the station. I looked over at the seat, of course, it’s wet too. Unlike the similar situation that happend in “Pissy Drunk”, Rick was sitting on the front seat which was covered with cloth. This would make cleaning much more difficult. He wanted my card in case his sister wouldn’t let him in. There was a car in the driveway and a light on in the house. As much as I didn’t want him calling me, I wanted to get the hell out of there before his sister even realized he was there. I gave him my card and simply turned my phone off. I was out of there in a heartbeat.

I stopped at the first gas station I came to and bought a roll of paper towels, a can of Lysol and one of those huge 4X long T-shirts favored by the heavyweight dudes in the hood. I soaked the pee up as much as possible with the paper towels, sprayed it down good with Lysol and folded the big shirt and placed it over the wet spot. I was praying that I wouldn’t get a full car load and no one else would ride in the front seat that night. It did happen eventually. “Why is this shirt covering the seat?” the young, bar bound college boy asked. Oh, someone spilled their drink.

copyright 2013 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.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

When picking up at large chain restaurants your customers are usually employees of the restaurant, tourists, or business travelers who have flown in and are staying in a nearby hotel. When I arrived at the large restaurant at the Summit Mall I was surprised at what I encountered. My customer didn’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. He wasn’t even a customer at the restaurant. The young, clean cut, white man looked like a deer in headlights. He was sweating and seemed agitated and confused. He had given the address of the restaurant just because it was the closest landmark to where he was. He wanted to go to a nearby apartment complex, on the way there I discovered the reason for his abnormal appearance and behavior.

It was still early in 2011, before the official end of the Iraq war. “Just got home today” he said. ” I just spent three years in Iraq. When I got to my sweetheart’s apartment, I caught her fucking somebody else.” All I could think of to say was Oh man, I’m sorry, that sucks! It was hard to listen to this macho military man’s voice crack as he described all the sweetheart letters and emails he had received while at war for the past 3 years. I could see him brushing away tears in the rearview mirror as he spoke about how he thought she would welcome him home with open arms.

His voice, along with his entire demeanor switched dramatically from sadness to hostile anger as he started telling me about walking in on his sweetheart and her new lover. “I used my old key to her place, I was going to surprise her. I opened the door, walked in and called her name. All I could hear was a mad scramble going on in the bedroom. It didn’t take me long to realize what was going on when I saw the panic on her face.” His voice cracked again as he said “she didn’t even hug me.” I could sense the anger building as he started telling me about what happened next. ” When I walked in the bedroom, there was that motherfucker trying to get his clothes on. I didn’t think and I didn’t ask any questions. I cold cocked that motherfucker right in the face! He hit the floor like a rock. His face was all bloody but I wasn’t through. I kicked the motherfucker in the ribs and in the balls three or four times. That bitch was screaming, slapping me and throwing shit at me. She called the cops. They’re looking for me now, I’m sure I’ll go to jail tonight.”

He was trying to make a phone call as we pulled up in the parking lot of the apartments where he had directed me. Apparently one of his buddies lived here, or had lived here at the time my customer left for war. He was trying to find a place to stay. With no luck on the phone and his buddy’s car no where in sight, he asked me to take him to one of the hotels along highway 280. He settled on the one that he thought would be the cheapest. When he tried to pay the twelve dollar fare he discovered that he had no cash and the three cards he had in his wallet had all expired while he was serving in Iraq. I tried to run one of them. Of course it was declined as both of us knew it would be. I said I’ll tell you what buddy, you’ve had a rough day, this one’s on me.

He got out vowing to pay me when he had the money. I gave him my card just in case. Then I left and hit 280 again. Of course I knew he would never be able to check into that hotel if all he had for money was three expired credit cards. I don’t think it had even been ten minutes until I heard the long beep and  saw that I was being offered a trip in zone 330. When I accepted it I noticed that the line where the name usually goes just said “customer.” The address was to the exact same hotel where I had dropped him off, it had to be him. I thought I was rid of him. I guess I shouldn’t have accepted any trips until I was well out of the zone. It was him. It couldn’t have been anyone else.

He wasn’t even standing near the door of the hotel. He was out in the street flagging furiously when he saw me. While walking up to my window he was saying “Man, I swear to God if you’ll take me down to Valleydale Road I’ll pay you $40 cash. I have it there, if I can just get down there I can get my money.” I was hesitant because I had already been stiffed by this guy one time. I finally agreed and we started down toward Valleydale. When we pulled into the parking lot he jumped out and went into an apartment. After about 5 minutes he emerged from the apartment and got back in the car. “It’s not there” he said. “We’ll have to wait for that bitch to get back, she took my money.” That bitch? I asked. Are you talking about your sweetheart? The woman you fought with earlier? “Yeah, I’m talking about THAT bitch. She took that motherfucker to the hospital after I kicked his ass.”

I wasn’t liking the idea of this at all. There was no way in hell this could end well. I had almost decided to just go ahead and swallow a double stiffing when she drove into the parking lot and up beside the cab. He got out immediately and started raising hell about his money. The short, average looking young woman with a blonde ponytail jumped out of her car and started raising hell right back. “I called the police on you, why ain’t you in jail?” she demanded. He walked over to her car, opened the door and grabbed her purse off the seat. She was cursing, screaming and hitting him as he walked back to the cab. He got back into the back seat and she got in with him. She was screaming to the top of her lungs calling him every name in the book as she repeatedly punched him in the face and head with her fists! He pulled $40 out of her purse and threw it in the front seat. They were still cursing and screaming as they exited the cab.

I don’t think I’ve ever exited a scene so fast. I turned my phone off so he couldn’t call me. I also turned off the dispatch and didn’t book in again until I was back to zone 120 (southside). I’m glad I didn’t get stiffed but the whole situation just seemed wrong. Was the $40 he paid me really his? Was the whole big story he told me even true? I don’t know but I know that I felt dirty and needed to get clean. I don’t know what happened in that parking lot after I left, but if I were a betting man I’d bet it wasn’t good.

copyright 2013 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.

Pain and Anguish

The centerpiece of modern Birmingham’s economy is healthcare. Just off the top of my head I can think of 11 hospitals including multiple campuses of UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) and St Vincent’s around the metro area. In addition, there are a plethora of clinics of all types all over the area. As with carless people who still need to go to work, there are also many carless people who need to go home from the hospital or doctor’s office.

One of the first hospital trips I remember came shortly after I first started driving in the winter of 2010-11. Unlike many winters in the last few decades, this winter was actually a cold one. We had snow in Birmingham three times that year and had freezing temperatures for several consecutive days. When I picked him up at the ER of one of the largest hospitals there was still a little snow on the ground from a snow shower a few days earlier. I saw the nurses wheel out a very frail man who I would judge to be in his late 70’s. He was wearing a cap with some company’s logo on it, a plaid shirt and blue jeans. His legs were bent and the nurse had a hard time getting him out of the wheelchair and into the cab. When he was finally in I greeted him with my usual hello! how are you doing tonight? “There ain’t nothing they can do for me. They’re sending me home to die” was his response.Well, I didn’t quite know how to respond to that. I didn’t think telling him that I hoped he died peacefully and painlessly would be appropriate. I remained quiet, it was a bit awkward.

He gave me an address in one of the suburban towns north of the city. It was actually outside of the town on a sparsely traveled road in a single wide trailer. He had used my phone to call his son to tell him that we were on the way and that he, the son, would have to pay the fare. When we pulled up in the drive I could see the snow and ice covered ramp coming from the door of the trailer. The son came out looking pissed. He was a total ass. I assume he was pissed because his father had come home. The fare was $19, he handed me a twenty and I gave him a one. He didn’t offer a tip. He also didn’t offer a hello, a how are you or a thank you for bringing my father home.

When he finally got his father into the wheelchair it was time for him to be pushed up the icy, snow covered ramp. I pushed as the son pulled from the front. It wasn’t easy. When we finally got the old guy to the door, I turned and carefully headed back down the ramp to the cab. There was still no thank you or even an acknowledgement that I had helped. The son acted as if it was my job. It’s not. All I have to do is drive the customer from point A to point B. The fare doesn’t include any help beyond that. I was glad to help even though there was nothing in it for me, I didn’t see how it would have been possible for  the angry son to have done it on his own. The only regret I had as I left was that this pitiful old man would have to spend his last few days with a fucking asshole.

The trip started from a dispatch to a church affiliated hospital in west Birmingham. This hospital is in zone 210, what many would consider to be “the hood”. Good, lucrative trips can and sometimes do come from this hospital. When picking up at a hospital, any hospital, one big mystery will be the condition of your customer. Sometimes they walk out on their own power, get in alone, are completely coherent and the trip is no trouble at all. Other times the customer will need assistance from either the hospital staff or a family member but still no big deal. This time it was different. I was having serious doubts during the trip that I would be able to get this guy home before he died. His sister was with him, I think I would have refused the trip had she not been.

He was a young African American man probably in his 20’s. He could not stand or walk or even shift his sitting position in the back seat. Other than on TV commercials for C.A.R.E and other similar charities and maybe in National Geographic, I have never seen a human being so emaciated. I never asked about his diagnosis but it had to have been the final stages of AIDS or some kind of cancer. His bones and joints looked as if there was no muscle or fat at all, just skin and bones. His head was tilted back with his eyes rolled back in his head. We had to make a stop at a pharmacy near the hospital for his sister to pick up a prescription. During this time I was alone with him for about 10-15 minutes. I was looking for signs of life. After a few minutes of total quiet I heard a gurgling sound and I could see his bony chest rise and fall, albeit at a much slower rate than a healthy person.

We arrived at an old apartment complex in Ensley a few minutes after his sister returned. A teenage girl came out of the apartment to help the sister get him inside. The two of them were having a very hard time. I thought about just picking him up and carrying him inside. I thought about what could happen if I dropped him or broke one of his brittle, fragile bones and held back. In just a minute a man who was a friend and neighbor showed up and did exactly what I was thinking of, picked him up and carried him inside. I was glad.

A few months later I was back at the same hospital. This time it was an account trip, meaning that the hospital is paying for the trip. You simply fill out a voucher and get paid by the cab company. When  Alabama court 005we are dispatched an account trip, we are able to see the destination on the computer screen, that’s how I knew this would be a lucrative trip. I waited and waited and waited some more. The customer wasn’t coming out. Before pressing the noshow button I decided to call dispatch to see if they could get in touch with anyone at the hospital to see if the customer was indeed there. The company will pay us $5 for a noshow on an account trip but judging by the distance showing on my GPS this would be a $45 or $50 trip if the customer was there, so I was willing to wait a little longer if necessary. The dispatchers put me through to some hospital staff person who assured me that my customer would soon be out.

They eventually wheeled out a guy who looked like he had just been taken straight out of his hospital bed and sent out the door. He was bent over forward in the wheelchair with a string of saliva drooling from his toothless mouth. He was holding a pale pink kidney shaped drool or vomit receptacle. He was accompanied by a woman probably 10 or 15 years his junior. She had the look of a country woman but with a hard edge. When they got in she barely gave me a hello. It was clear that she wasn’t interested in exchanging niceties with me. Before we got out of the parking lot, the man with the drool pan started screaming in agony. “OH GOD, OH GOD, OH GOD”, he shouted! The screaming didn’t stop. All the way through west Birmingham and all the way out of town he continued to shout “OH GOD, OH GOD” while hyperventilating and clutching his side and chest. For a minute I was thinking that we may need to turn around and take him back to the hospital. I was wondering why they sent him home? No insurance, maybe? The screaming didn’t stop until we finally reached our destination northwest of the city near the Walker County line.

The only words that I heard come out of his mouth other than “OH GOD” were “I’m so thirsty”. After he repeated this several times, the woman asked me to stop at the next gas station to get him a Sprite. Sprite was his favorite soda. After a couple of minutes sitting at the gas station listening to this man scream, I saw her exit the store empty handed. She lacked 40 cents having enough money to buy a Sprite. I thought to myself, it’s a damn good thing the hospital is paying for this trip. I told her to get back in the car and I went in the store and bought the man a 20oz Sprite.

From the view of society that we cab drivers get, stereotypes are sometimes, even often, shattered. This wasn’t one of those times. It took four turns off the main road to get onto the two ruts that the woman called a road. I could almost hear banjos playing as we pulled up in front of a run down trailer with assorted rusty auto parts strewn about in the yard. It was a scene that would confirm the mental image that many have of poor whites in the rural south. A young man, probably in his late 20’s, wearing a camouflage hat and a shirt with cut off sleeves that exposed his tattoos, one of which was a confederate flag, came out and assisted the woman in getting the man in agony out of the car. I couldn’t turn around in front of the place. I drove probably a quarter mile before finding a safe place to turn around. When I came back by the trailer the young man and the woman were gone. The sick man was sitting on the ground leaning against the mailbox, clutching his Sprite.

copyright 2013 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.

Stuck In The Middle

There’s a building near 5 points south that ‘s a retirement home for the poor. Almost all the residents are elderly and most have some kind of disability, physical, mental or both. Trips out of here are typically very short. Many times the destination is to a small urban supermarket just at the top of the hill. The fares are usually less than $5 and the trips usually involve the handling of wheelchairs, walkers ect…Needless to say, this place is not high on the list of places that most drivers want to pick up.

This customer didn’t need any kind of mobility aids. He seemed fairly fit. I judged him to be in his mid to late 60’s. A big red flag appeared before my eyes when I saw that he was wearing a full sweat suit on this eighty plus degree day. This is almost always a sign of mental illness. His thick gray sweat shirt had the orange and blue logo of Auburn University on the front. I noticed he was also wearing an orange cap with the same logo. The putrid, pungent smell of body odor hit me like a ton of bricks when he got in.

His speech was clear and distinct. There was no accent. It was much like a newscasters voice. Everything he said was grammatically correct and he had clear, crisp diction. He said “take me to the middle of Mountain Brook”. Since Mountain Brook is made up of three villages and a bunch of residential neighborhoods, I had to clarify. I asked where in the middle? He said he wanted to go to “a pizza parlor in the middle of Mountain Brook”. I guessed he was talking about the one in Mountain Brook village.mountain brook village

Before we made it to “the middle of Mountain Brook” he wanted to stop at an ATM at his bank. He started giving me directions like a drill sergeant barking out orders. “You will turn right at the next intersection and then you will merge into the left lane. You will then turn left”. I made the right turn but couldn’t immediately get in the left lane due to oncoming traffic. “I SAID merge into the left lane” he snapped. Now I was officially pissed and I almost lost my cool. Do you want to have a wreck? I asked him in a sharp tone. I can’t just get in a lane because you want to, cars are coming!

At the ATM he tried two different cards. I could see the screen from my vantage point. Both were declined because of insufficient funds. I asked him if he still wanted to go to Mountain Brook. “Yes” he said. “I have enough, take me to the middle of Mountain Brook.” On the way over the mountain he started to evaluate my service. “Timeliness? I’ll give you a passing grade on that. Accuracy?  A bit off but still passing. Friendliness? On that you get a C” he said. What he didn’t know was that I was about to get a big fat F when I got him to the pizza parlor.

Traffic was thick in the village and there was no parking in front of the pizza parlor. I had to go past it a bit and turn left against oncoming traffic in order to turn around. When i got to the front of the place I stopped in the street, blocking traffic and put on my flashers. I told him the fare would be $11.75. To my amazement he handed me one of the debit cards I had just seen declined at the bank. I thought you said you had enough? I asked him harshly as I gave him a stern stare. “There is enough on that card” he said. I couldn’t sit there long, there was no parking and traffic was building up behind me.

I ran the card and of course it was declined. “For what reason?” he asked very sharply and angrily. I said it’s because you don’t have any fucking money in the goddamn bank! That is the reason! I said you’d better have some cash on you or I’m gonna call the cops. “CALL THE COPS” he snapped “CALL THE COPS NOW!!” He had called my bluff. I told him to get his ass out and never call for a cab again. I then called dispatch and told them about the games this guy was playing.

I was thinking later about what his motive could have possibly been. Why did he want to go to the middle of Mountain Brook? Why was he so eager to call the cops when his card was declined? Was he trying to go to jail in this posh suburb because he thought it would be better than his current situation? Was it just some twisted fantasy in his twisted mind? Who knows?

copyright 2013 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.

Silver and Gold

The thing that most people fear most about cab driving is the possibility of being robbed at gunpoint or even murdered by a customer. Thank God I haven’t been robbed. I know it has happened to some of our other drivers over the years but contrary to popular belief, it’s not an everyday occurrence. There is however, another thing that happens much more frequently that’s not nearly as dramatic but can still put you in a bad mood and mess up your day. It’s when you don’t get paid for your services. Most drivers call it “getting stiffed”.

As with most cities, at least in the working class and poorer areas, the check cashing, payday loan and title loan business is big business in Birmingham. These places are everywhere you look in payday loancertain parts of town. I had just dropped off a customer in Fairfield and was heading back toward downtown. I booked into the 200 zone as I approached the Arkadelphia Road exit. I immediately recieved a call to an address I knew to be in the Elyton project.

The cell phone seemed to be a permanant attachment to her body. She didn’t take it down from her ear until we had reached our destination. She was young, I’d say about 20. She was thin and dressed cheaply, a red bandana covered her hair. She quickly told me where she wanted to go, a payday/title loan place on Greensprings Highway. She was talking with someone who was obviously selling her something. I overheard talk of shipping options, dates of arrival ect…Whatever it was, I guess she really wanted it. So much so that she would call a cab to take her to get a loan to buy a money order in order to buy it, whatever it was.

I started to worry that my cab fare depended on my customer being able to get a loan as well. I was right, it did. I had had a similar situation about a week earlier when getting paid depended on my customer being able to pawn a Kirby vacuum cleaner. That trip worked out in my favor, the pawn shop took it and I got my money.

She didn’t stay in the place very long, she was turned down quickly. It seems the only payday she had was a government check for a little more than two hundred dollars a month. She had no car to pawn the title to, she was S.O.L and so was I. She already owed me more than $20 by this time. Once it became clear that she had no means of paying the fare I just turned the meter off and told her I would take her home but let her know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t have to. I could have, and probably should have, just left her ass stranded there.

I gave her a lecture on the way home about why she should make sure she had money before she called a cab. I told her that I could have called the cops and that most drivers would have called them. “Fo’ real?” she asked. “Fo’ what?” She had no idea that stiffing a cab driver could possibly be against the law. I told her it was called theft of service, which is similar to theft of property, like shoplifting from a store.”Naw it ain’t” she said. It seemed to me that this young woman had grown to adulthood without a clue as to how to function in society. Pitiful, I thought. At least she did offer a “thank you” as she got out of the car back at home.

It was fairly early in the morning, after sunrise but before 8am. I had been working the going to work business in the 400 and 500 zones. It had been raining off and on and was a very gray morning. Norwood is one of Birmingham’s grand old neighborhoods that fell into decline and disrepair after the white flight. Big houses that were once elegant mansions line some of the streets. A few of them, a very few, have been bought in recent years and renovated back to their former glory. Most are still in sad shape, some repairable with a major effort. Others that are burned out or literally falling down are beyond repair. This call wasn’t to an old mansion but to a decent home in good shape.norwood 018

She was sitting on the front porch when I drove up. A young girl, no doubt a teenager, jumped up and immediately got in the back seat. “How much will it cost to take me to Bessemer?” she asked. i said probably about $40, maybe more, depending on where it is in Bessemer. At first I didn’t worry about getting stiffed because most passengers that intend to stiff you don’t ask for an estimate. That’s because they’re not planning on paying you anyway.

On the way to Bessemer I learned that she was 16 and she had been out all night with boys that her mother didn’t like. She anticipated a big fight with her mother when she got home and was clearly anxious about it. She didn’t tell me but I instinctively knew that my fare would depend on an angry, possibly hysterical mother paying me. I started to worry. When we arrived at the house the meter was at $42 and mom was nowhere to be found. My customer’s brother said that he thought she had been called to work but he wasn’t sure. The girl made no attempt to call her mom. Maybe she couldn’t take calls at work or maybe it was just out of fear, I don’t know.

The girl was about to panic. “I don’t know how I’m going to pay you” she said. I had just been stiffed by the payday loan girl about a week earlier and I wasn’t in the mood to get stiffed again. I had already decided that I would call the cops if it became necessary. She approached the car window and said “I’ve got this little bracelet, it’s made of silver and gold. If I can pawn it I’ll pay you.” She saw that the meter was at $42 already and was able to reason that by the time she got to the pawn shop and took the necessary time to pawn it, the fare would be much higher. She asked if I could just charge her a flat rate. I told her that if she didn’t mess around and take too much of my time I would turn the meter off and just charge her the $42, she agreed.

The first place turned her down cold. The second place had a sign out front that said “We Buy Gold”. She stayed in this place for about ten minutes. She came out accompanied by a bling wearing heavyweight dude that reminded me of Biggie Smalls. The rain had started to fall steadily as the big guy knocked on my window. He had a $100 bill in his hand. He asked “you got fifty eight dollars?” I dug around in my pockets and found that I did indeed have fifty eight dollars. Just as we made the transaction my customer said “you don’t have to worry about taking me back home.” She and Biggie walked back into the office. I got paid and I don’t know how the story ended with her mom.

copyright 2013 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.

Drunk Daddy

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS VERY HARSH AND EXPLICIT LANGUAGE. MOST READERS ARE LIKELY TO BE VERY OFFENDED AND DISGUSTED BY THE MAIN CHARACTER OF THIS STORY

Some drunks are fun, like the twenty-somethings leaving the bars that are just drunk enough to want to sing. I remember one group singing Comfortably Numb along with the radio at max volume. Some are friendly and talkative, others are just plain silly. They can be annoying as hell but for the most part they’re pretty much harmless. This isn’t a story about one of those kinds of drunks. It’s a story about possibly the most disturbing, disgusting drunk that I’ve ever had to deal with.

The call came from zone 150, Mountain Brook. Calls from this zone are not always as lucrative as one might imagine considering the prestige and income level of this area. You can’t always expect to make a lot here but you can generally expect for it to be a pretty civil trip without too much drama or ridiculousness. Not this time. When I drove up in the driveway, he came out immediately. I could tell he had been hitting the sauce pretty hard. He said “just park over there, let’s take my Hummer.” I said I can’t do that. “Why?” he persisted. Because it’s against the rules was all I could think of to say. I didn’t know if it was or not but I did know if I had wrecked or even put a blemish on that thing that I would never hear the end of it. He persisted, telling me how much nicer it was than the cab. I finally said I know it’s nice, that’s not the point. I’ll lose my job if I do that. I said if you want me to drive you, you’re gonna have to ride in the cab.

He insisted on riding in the front because we were going to pick up his daughter and her friends and they would take up the back. Classic Cars is a venue located beside the railroad tracks and under a bridge. It’s extremely difficult to find unless a person knows exactly where they’re going. Inside is a collection of classic cars in mint condition. There’s a full bar and space for dancing. This venue is often rented out for private parties such as wedding receptions, beer festivals, ect…Tonight it was an alcohol-free dance for teenagers. He began talking all about his family life with his drunken slurred speech. It was clear that he was full of contempt for every person in or associated with his family. He referred to all females, including his wife and daughter, only with the words bitch, cunt, or whore.

He started telling me the story of catching his 14 year old daughter’s boyfriend on his patio smoking pot from a homemade bong. He talked about having a confrontation with this 15 year old kid like the kid was his own age, which I had guessed to be about 45. “I told that little pot smoking motherfucker I’d kick his goddamn ass! I was drinking a Corona in a cup and I just  drunk daddyslashed it in his face. If that motherfucker had come after me I would have kicked his goddamn ass!”. He went on to tell me, “The only reason I’ve got money is because of that bitch I’m married to. I hate her and that little cunt we’re going to pick up.”

When we pulled up at Classic Cars he called his daughter on the phone to come out, he was there to pick her and her friends up. She didn’t waste any time getting to the car but she was alone. “Where are the other two little bitches?” he asked. His daughter sat in the backseat like a perfect little lady. It was clear that she didn’t want to be confrontational at all, she just wanted to go home. She explained that the other two girls said that their mother was coming to get them so we didn’t have to worry about bringing them back. It wasn’t long before Drunk Daddy started verbally abusing his daughter. He slurred ” I don’t like that little pot smoking motherfucker you’re fucking around with.” He then told her that he had thrown beer in the kid’s face. She sat stoically in the back. I could hear her barely mumble “I don’t believe this”.

“Are you fucking that little motherfucker?” he asked. “I know you are you little cunt. Why don’t you just go ahead and let him stick his goddamn dick in your little pussy and put a baby in there so that me and your mama can dig it out of your fucking little cunt with a goddamn coathanger?” I’m 53 years old and I have never in my life heard a grown man talk to a 14 year old girl this way. I was completely appalled and disgusted but what was I going to do short of starting a fist fight with this drunk asshole. In hindsight, I thought that I should have just put his ass out on the side of the road and taken the girl home. I wasn’t thinking straight at the time, I just wanted to get this scumbag home and out of my car. The little girl never raised her voice, I guess she was used to taking shit off this stupid bastard.

We were almost home, we were turning off of highway 280 onto Overton Road when the situation suddenly became much more complicated. The girl got a phone call. It was the mother of one of the other two girls making sure they were being brought home. The two girls had lied to Drunk Daddy’s daughter because they wanted to stay longer at the dance. Back to Classic Cars. Drunk Daddy is scowling and cursing the entire way, calling the girls every derogatory name that’s ever been thought of for women. Drunk Daddy’s daughter had to go in and get them, turns out they were just trying to buy more time with their boyfriends. Apparently they were neighbors or staying over at Drunk Daddy’s house. That’s where they were going, not another location.

When they got in the car, he came out with “hello you little cunts.” Then he started to give what I assume he thought was fatherly advice. “You know, boys only want one thing out of little whores like you. They want to stick their dicks in your little holes.” All three girls seemed terrified of this idiot. They were completely quiet except for an occasional “Yes sir” when he was spewing his filthy bullshit.

When we pulled up in the driveway all three girls bolted. They were gone in two seconds flat. Drunk Daddy didn’t get out. He was one of those drunk assholes that just wanted to hang around and keep me from leaving. Thank God his wife came out. She was livid. “Pay this man and get your stupid drunk ass out of the car” she said. “Brittany’s dad knows you’re drunk! He’s never letting her come over again!” she angrily told him. “How much do I owe you?” he asked. With all the running back and forth the fare had run up to $65. He handed me a $100 bill and said “Keep the change for putting up with my shit.” I said thank you.

copyright 2013 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.