Category Archives: Amputation

Caught In A Trap

The thing that makes this job much more interesting than say, retail, factory work or office work is the fact that you get a chance to observe the lifestyles and culture of every segment of society in a very personal way. Sometimes it’s business people in suits discussing multimillion dollar deals on phone conversations on the way to the airport. It can be surgeons talking about the open heart surgery that they just performed or engineers going over the latest bridge project. I once had two engineers get into an argument about the depth of the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. Sometimes it’s Latin American athletes speaking in Spanish or Portuguese about the latest soccer match. Cabbies are likely to see lavish displays of wealth and desperate, grinding poverty all in the same day, sometimes on back to back trips. Your emotions can vary greatly depending on the luck of the draw, the luck of who the dispatchers send you to pick up. It can be funny, ridiculous, dull, boring, delightful and disgusting. Sometimes it’s just downright sad and pitiful.

I was just getting started at about 8:00 am. My first dispatch of the day came from the 130 zone. I could tell by the zip code that this customer was in the far eastern section of the zone. I often reject trips that far away but on this morning I was headed out to the cab depot, which is near this customers location, so I went ahead and accepted the trip. I cringed a little when I saw that the call came from a low rent, quite gritty, extended stay hotel. I figured that it would just be a trip to the store for a pack of smokes or something similar. That’s the type of trip that typically comes out of this place.

The information page of the dispatch told me that this women needed to be picked up in front of her room which was on the back side of the hotel. I also noticed the code WC indicating that this customer was in a wheelchair. She was sitting outside, ready to go when I arrived. I could see that she had one partial leg that was the result of a below the knee amputation on the left side. The other leg seemed to be non existent. She had a very high above knee amputation on the right side. There was a toddler, probably about a year old, in her lap.

She asked if I would roll her down the wheelchair ramp and up to the car, she also requested that I let her ride in the front, she said it was “just easier” that way. She had another favor to ask before she wiggled her way into the car. She needed for me to hold the toddler while she accomplished this task. I was a bit surprised at how comfortable the little girl seemed in the arms of a strange man that she had never met. She didn’t resist at all, she just happily sucked on her bottle until her mother was securely in the car.

“You gonna make some money today” were the first words out of her mouth when I got behind the wheel. “I’ve got several errands to run, then we gonna go to Vestavia so I can get my power chair.” I told her that I couldn’t fit a power chair into the cab. “Don’t worry about that” she said, “they gonna bring me home.” All of the errands consisted of visits to payday loan/ title pawn businesses that are ubiquitous in lower income parts of town.

green-loans-payday-loans

“I’ve got to pay these folks, but I know I’ll have to borrow more before the end of the month. That’s the way it is every month, it just goes round and round.” Each visit required getting the wheelchair out of the trunk and positioning it for her and then holding the little girl. The process was reversed every time she came out of a business and back to the car. After the third visit she decided that she had to pay her rent. “I’d better go on and pay it now, cause I’m gonna run out of money then they’ll want to kick me out.” I asked if I could go in and pay it for her to avoid going through the process again at the hotel office. She enthusiastically agreed and handed me her debit card and told me her PIN. She volunteered it, I didn’t have to ask. There was a line at the office which was behind a bullet proof shield at the grimy hotel. She had told me to pay two weeks worth but the clerk said “You can’t do that here. A weeks worth, max.”

The next trip was to another payday loan place all the way across town on Green Springs Highway. After this she was supposed to be picking up her power chair, which I learned on the way that she would be renting, not owning. A call to the business supplying the chair yielded bad news, they wouldn’t be able to bring her back to the hotel after all. The power chair would have to be postponed indefinitely until she could figure out a way to get home.

By the time we got back to the hotel the fare was substantial. I had mixed emotions, on the one hand I truly had sympathy for this woman and her family living in a crappy hotel and caught in a hellish loan shark nightmare. On the other hand, I needed to get paid and this was enough to pay my lease for the day. I ran the card and purposely omitted adding a tip. I figured she had suffered enough for one day.

image: green loans-payday loans

All text 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 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