Monthly Archives: June 2013

Perks And Shakes

When I first started cab driving I was given a manual which laid out all the rules, both from the company and from the city. It explained how everything works, including dispatching. On the front page of that manual, there were bold letters that said “Welcome to the Business World.” Having been a small business owner for more than a decade, I can tell you that there is much truth to this statement. Income made driving a cab is made in an almost identical way that it’s made by owning a more traditional small business. There are no paychecks and no benefits, you make income by making a profit directly from your customers. Your gross minus your expenses equals your income.

The cab companies are in the leasing business. They make money by the leases each driver pays which covers the car, use of the cab permit, dispatching, insurance and maintenance. They make the same amount whether the business has been so slow that you’ve struggled to make your lease or it’s been so good that you’re rolling in dough. Good business does work to their advantage however; if there’s no profit to be made there’s no reason to do it. They’ll have a hard time keeping their cabs leased out if the business gets slow enough. Drivers also have the option of owning their own cabs and some do. They pay a smaller lease that only covers the use of the permit and dispatching. They are responsible for all other expenses, which of course can be substantial if there’s a major maintenance problem. I prefer to lease, it works better for me.

There are many downsides to doing this for a living. One of the biggest is the long hours that are often necessary to make a profit. Most weeks I only drive three days, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. These are almost always the most productive days. Even though I only work three days I usually work more than forty hours. I use the daytime hours to make my expenses, after a nap in the afternoon, I go out into the night to make my income. Another downside is having to work every weekend. If you want to make money you have to be out there when the business is out there. You have to get it while the getting is good. Income can vary quite a bit depending on how busy it is and how lucky you are. When you accept a trip offered you don’t know if it’s going to be a trip across the metro area for forty or fifty dollars or a trip of just a few blocks for four or five dollars. Luck plays a major role in making money in this business.

So what are the upsides?  Why do I choose to do this instead of working in a more traditional job? Well, there are several upsides. We are totally free to set our own hours. There are no time clocks and no one to give you a hard time for being a few minutes late. Pay your lease on time, don’t wreck or otherwise destroy their cars and don’t do anything incredibly stupid and you’re not likely to have a problem with your company. Anytime you need to take off for a few days you can. No, you won’t get paid, but since you are totally responsible for making your own income, you expect that. You don’t have to call in, you don’t need a doctor’s excuse and you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission or even plan for it in advance, just turn your car in and come back when you’re ready. Even with these perks, I will have to say that my wife and I are very fortunate because she has a professional career. It would be very difficult, if not impossible for us to maintain a comfortable standard of living if we depended only on my cab driving gig. Even if I worked a lot more hours than I already do.

There are also many perks when you are out in the metro doing your job. You’re free to go anywhere that the company is permitted to operate. You may work any zone you wish at any time you wish. You don’t have to ask anyone if you can stop and eat in a restaurant or even go to a movie, a sporting event or a concert. You can do your banking or any other personal errands you need to do. You can also drop by your house to take care or anything that may need your attention. There was recently a big weekend here in Birmingham when the Alabama Shakes , one of the hottest new musical acts on the scene today played a two night concert at Sloss Furnaces.  The Shakes are my favorite new musical act. This bluesy, soulful, rock and roll band started just a few years ago when Brittany Howard and Zac Cockrell started getting  together after school to write songs. They hail from Athens, Alabama, a small town in the Tennessee Valley about ninety miles north of Birmingham. I was happy to read that even after playing at venues all over the world and in iconic American institutions such as the White House, Saturday Night Live, The Grammy Awards and most of the late night talk shows, lead singer Brittany Howard listed Egan’s Bar in Tuscaloosa as her favorite venue. Egan’s was always one of my very favorite hangouts in my hometown. I can still drop in there and find some of the many friends that I made there over the years.

Shakes

On the weekend of June 7th and 8th I had the pleasure of being able to sit outside the concert venue, behind the stage and hear the Shakes just as well as anyone inside the venue at the concert, I just couldn’t see them. I took many concert goers to the show and then took many of them home afterward. I’ll have to say that they were all pleasant company, not one of these people was an obnoxious jerk. All of them were in love with this band and with it’s lead singer. We all agreed that they are the best thing to come out of Alabama in a long, long time. Most of the time when we see people from this state in the world spotlight it’s for something negative, something that re-enforces the ugly, negative stereotypes of the past. The Shakes are the opposite and when you’re used to being ashamed of people from your state, they are very much a breath of fresh air. I’m very proud of them.

sources: Wikipedia, al.com

Alabama Shakes image courtesy of www.nme.com

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.

A Flash In the Pan part 2

WARNING: SOME OF THESE STORIES CONTAIN SEXUALLY EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

This post is a continuation of stories about very quick, mostly short cab trips that are nonetheless remarkable:

While waiting for some of her relatives to exit Walmart, she felt the need, only God knows why, to enlighten me on her methods of shoplifting from that very store. ” You gotta have your baby with you because they won’t fuck with your baby. You gotta have that diaper bag. First, you gotta get them tags off, then put the shit in yo’ baby’s bag cause they won’t fuck with the baby.” I said that’s interesting, good to know. Three of her family members then exited the store, carrying a baby.

The call was to a restaurant at the Summit Mall. The two young women were quite nerdy compared to most of the younger folks that I’ve picked up in this area. They seemed a little old fashioned, their faces and hair looked very plain, not fashionable at all by today’s standards. The conversation turned to a movie they had just seen in the nearby theater before going to the restaurant. The first young lady said “that was a good movie” her friend agreed. “The only part I didn’t like was that lesbian scene. It was soooooo disgusting when those two girls were French kissing.” After an awkward moment her friend softly said “I liked that part, I’ve done it before.” Dead, awkward silence for the rest of the trip…

nerd girls

She came out of the McDonalds near University Hospital with a totally normal bag of burgers and fries. One thing that didn’t look quite normal was the plastic tubing hanging from her body below her skirt. I thought, well I guess it isn’t that unusual since we’re here next to this huge hospital. It isn’t unusual at all to see people wearing all sorts of medical devices. I asked her if she just got out of the hospital. “Naw, it’s been a while since I was in there.” After a few seconds a light came on and she said “Oh that. Are you talking about that tube?” “It’s a womb vacuum, it’s supposed to be sucking my womb shut.” Ok, I said. Where do you need to go?

The brick apartments that line both sides of Valley Avenue can be a difficult place to pick up. The traffic is heavy, it’s hard to find a parking place and the house numbers are hard to see at night. This guy made it easy, he was standing out on the sidewalk flagging as I drove by. He wanted to go to the Search Club, the most popular gay club in town. “I’m not sure they’ll let me in” he said. “Will you wait and not leave until you see if I get in or not?” I assured him that I would. “I got into it with that bitch at the door about a month ago, she might not let me in.” What was the problem? I asked. I immediately realized that I shouldn’t have asked that question. ” I was just looking for a dick to suck or somebody to fuck me and she got mad about it and kicked me out.” “What about you? I could suck your dick.” I said man, I have no problem with you being gay but it’s not my thing, please don’t hit on me. He said “I’ll bet if I gave you twenty thousand dollars you’d stick your dick down my throat, wouldn’t you?” I said, hit on me again and you’re gonna be on the side of the road. He was silent for the rest of the trip to the Search.  Just as he feared, he was turned away at the door. I said there are two other gay bars nearby, do you want to go to one of them? He said “No, I can’t go to them either. I guess I’ll just go home and fuck myself, again. I’m getting tired of that dildo, I want a man to fuck me.” When I pulled up back at his apartments the meter was sitting at eighteen dollars and he started to whine. “I’m gonna have to pay you almost twenty dollars for nothing, twenty dollars just to fuck myself again.” He slowly handed me the twenty and got out. I said good night, go fuck yourself!

We don’t get individual calls to the Greyhound Bus Station anymore. The dispatchers now simply put a message on the screen saying “Greyhound Can Load” and if you’re nearby you can go by and get a fare. In the days when we did get individual calls, I got one to pick up Amy one night about 11 pm. When I got there another driver had pulled up with an order to pick up Michelle. Amy was nowhere to be found but Michelle came out immediately. Michelle was a transsexual and not a very convincing one. This person looked a little like Archie Bunker wearing a dress, pumps and carrying a purse. The driver who was supposed to be picking her up took one look and said, “Why don’t you get this one? I’ve got a personal trip I need to pick up.” I said OK and Michelle got in my cab. It was a uneventful trip except for Michelle’s unconventional appearance. She was a trucker. I delivered her to a trucking company north of the city where she picked up her truck and hit the open road.

transexual trucker

Images courtesy of blog.blip.com, http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk

copyright R.W. Walker 2013

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

A Flash In The Pan part 1

Many, perhaps most, cab trips are very short. Often a customer will be with you no longer than five minutes. If the customer is engaging, if they’re likable, weird or interesting in other ways it can seem quite surreal when they exit the car and the experience abruptly ends. This post will highlight some of these short but otherwise unrelated trips.

It was after sundown on a Thursday night and I hadn’t planned on working late because we had a guest coming to our house. I decided to accept one last call in the 120 zone; the zone where I live. It was an apartment complex up on the side of the mountain in Southside, one of the complexes with fantastic views of the city but with deadly drop offs nearby. A short haired woman appeared at the door and held up one finger, which is code in this business for “I’ll be out in a minute.”

short hair 3

“How do I look?” she asked as she hopped in the backseat about 5 minutes later. I turned on the bright light and looked around. She was putting a wig on her close cropped head and was trying to make sure it was combed and on straight. After telling her that she looked great, she started telling me the story of her cancer and the chemo that she was going through. Her hair was short because it had just started to grow back. She was on her way to Children’s Hospital to visit her niece and wanted her niece to see her looking good and healthy. About halfway to the hospital, which was only about a mile away, she changed the subject. She asked me if I picked people up at hotels. Of course I do, it’s a big part of the job, I told her. “Well before I got cancer I was an escort, I worked in most of the better hotels around town.” For some reason she felt the need to fill me in with some of the details. “Have you ever been to the Bankhead?” All the time, I said. It’s a very popular hotel. “That’s where I gave my first golden shower.” Wow! That’s interesting, I said as we pulled up at the hospital door. “Wish me luck” she said as she paid the fare and headed into the building.

He was a short chubby white man in his mid forties with shoulder length hair. One leg had been amputated below the knee, his blue jean leg was folded up and pinned on his upper calf. His other leg was in a cast. He was able to put it on the ground to help him get out of his wheelchair and into the car but I could tell he didn’t get much use out of that leg. “I don’t know how I’m gonna get in the car next week. They’re gonna cut my other leg off Wednesday.” It was Monday, he was talking about having his remaining leg cut off in two days. I told him that I was sorry to hear that. “Don’t be, I’ve been trying to get them to go ahead and cut it off for a year.” He went on to tell me that he had been fighting an infection in his foot this length of time. “They’ve tried every anti-biotic known to man. Nothing has done any good and they’ve finally given up, I’m glad.”

It turns out that I was taking him to get a haircut so he would look nice for Wednesday’s date with the saw. He got a phone call during the trip from the office of the doctor that would be doing the amputation. He seemed alarmed when the woman said something that made him think that the surgery would be delayed. When she later assured him that his surgery would go ahead as scheduled, he seemed relieved.

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.

image courtesy of www.byebye-breastcancer-hello-wellness.com