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.