Category Archives: Rich

A Matter Of Class

Income inequality is a major issue across America and indeed the world. The issue is profound in this area and as I may have mentioned previously, driving a cab allows one to see it in a very personal way. Some, including some fellow drivers, say that they’re unable to see it or think that’s just the way it is and there’s nothing that can be done about it. I guess they’re right, at least to some degree. I don’t know if a classless society would ever be possible but seeing some with far more than they need to live a luxurious life and others without the life’s basic necessities rubs me the wrong way. I have absolutely nothing against educating one’s self, working hard, having great ideas and making a lot of money. In fact I think that’s very admirable. What’s even more admirable are the people who are the big winners in this crazy money game we all have to play who don’t forget about their fellow humans who haven’t been so lucky. Some high profile billionaires such as Bill and Melinda Gates are very charitable and have done a great deal to help those in need. That’s fantastic. Unfortunately, not every mover and shaker wants to help the less fortunate, some in fact are the causes of the problems.

The following stories are about real life people on the extreme ends of the income gap. These are situations that paint a realistic picture of income inequality and the expectations of privilege by some on the good side of the gap. There are many days when we serve both the richest and the poorest residents of our community, sometimes on back to back trips. I hope these situational accounts will help someone, maybe someone who is in denial, see the issues clearly.

THE WEDDING PARTY

It was a busy night. One of those nights when there was far more demand for cabs than there were cabs. That happens sometimes when there are concerts, festivals or other big events that bring a lot of people to town. I had just dropped off a customer in the 150 zone. That’s Mountain Brook, the richest neighborhood in Alabama and one of the top ten in the southeast. There were 6 calls on the board for the zone and I decided to take one hoping that it wasn’t too old and that the people were still there. It was to Otey’s Tavern, as many of the calls in this zone are. Otey’s is a small bar in the Crestline Village section of Mountain Brook that is very popular with the young “Brookies”, the children and grandchildren of the old money elites who populate this posh suburb.

wedding party

There was to be a wedding of a Mountain Brook girl and a fellow from New York the next day. A large group in the wedding party was celebrating early at Otey’s, there were eight of them in all. We’ve been warned many times not to overload a cab. The capacity is five people, the driver and four passengers. Anything more than that is against the law because there aren’t enough seatbelts for more than five. If a driver should be pulled over, or worse yet have an accident with the car overloaded, his or her ass is grass. It’s not a chance that I’m willing to take. The guy who seemed to be the leader of this group decided that he was going to put all eight of his friends in the car, I flatly refused which started a firestorm of hate aimed in my direction.  They had been waiting for a while. When I told them that I wouldn’t take any of them if they insisted on overloading the car, four of them reluctantly agreed to make the trip while the others waited on another cab.

It was a very unpleasant trip. The girls kept trying to shame me for leaving their friends behind, all of the logic in the world didn’t matter. In their mind I was supposed to forget about the warnings that had been passed down and do as they wanted in order to please them. The guy who had first tried to orchestrate the eight person trip was sitting behind me kicking me in the back with his knees through the back of the seat. Once I screamed “what the fuck are you doing?” at this asshole he subsided for a little while. Now, I regret not stopping the car and putting his ass out on the side of the road.

One of the girls was busy calling the cab company to get their friends picked up. She tried being an authoritarian with the call taker. She said ” You’d better get a cab to pick up our friends, RIGHT NOW”. The call taker hung up on her. Realizing that her options were limited she changed her tone a bit. She started soliciting my help in getting a ride for her friends. She asked about other cab companies. I said there are several others but they’re mostly a joke, but please feel free to try one. I told her the name of two of the companies. She tried calling them both but neither of them would even answer the phone. She ask if I had any friends who could pick them up. Not tonight, I said. We’re crazy busy, everyone already has all they can do. Trying to make the best of the situation, I said maybe I could go back and pick them up when I drop you off. One of the girls in the back seat piped up and said “they wouldn’t ride in the car with you.” Great, I said. There are plenty of others that need rides and I won’t have to back track. The girl in front immediately flipped a switch and tried to become my best friend. “You’re a good cab driver” she said in a childlike voice. “I was on your side all along, you will go back and get them won’t you?” I’ll consider it, I said.

By the time we reached their destination, Lakeview, the other girls had joined in the love fest. “You’re the best driver we’ve ever had” one of them said. The guy who I had screamed at wasn’t feeling the love. He decided to try and put me in my place instead. “You’re a terrible cab driver” he yelled in my face! “YOU WORK IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY, YOU DO AS YOU’RE TOLD! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT?” I managed to keep my cool even as I was fantasizing about bashing this stupid asshole’s brains out with a hammer. He slammed the door and stormed off. I don’t how long it took their friends to get a ride. I hope it was a long, long time.

A WARM FLOOR TO SLEEP ON

The address on the screen was to a park up behind the Civic Center in the 500 zone. As I approached I could see four scruffy looking white guys standing on the corner of the park waiting for my arrival. As I’ve noticed with all groups, no matter how rich or poor, no matter the race or ethnicity, there’s always one who seems to be the leader. One who makes the decisions for the rest of the group. I guess that’s just the way most humans operate. The leader of this group was a middle aged man wearing a U.S. Navy jacket and a baseball cap. The others were in dirty jeans, cheap tennis shoes, what I’m sure were hand me down coats and knit skull hats.

The destination was to a low rent extended stay hotel up on the mountain on the Homewood side. The leader, the man in the Navy jacket, had apparently received a check or some kind of significant income and he was putting the others up for the night in this hotel. They wanted to stop at a store to buy cigarettes. The youngest of the group said “I caint go in there, they done banned me.”  So he stayed in the car with me while the others got their smokes. Once back on the interstate the group began expressing their gratitude to the man in the Navy jacket. ” I been sleepin’ under that damn 280 bridge. I thought my feet was gonna freeze off last night. I sho am glad I’ll be sleepin’ in a motel tonight. I don’t care if I have to sleep on the floor. That warm floor will feel mighty good compared to where I been sleepin’.”

When we exited the interstate at the Greensprings Avenue exit, one of the other fellas decided to tell us all that this could be a very lucrative intersection. “Me and my son will stand out here with a sign saying I’ll work for food. Just about always somebody will take you to do some yard work, rakin’ leaves or sumpin’. They’ll usually give you sumpin’ to eat and a little money to boot.  You caint stay out there long though. The po-leece will run you off. They say it’s beggin’ even if you are offerin’ to work.”

work for food 2

We arrived at the hotel just a few minutes later. The man in the Navy jacket asked me to wait a few minutes just to make sure he could get all the fellas in. I was a bit nervous about the wait as I had yet to be paid. True to his word, our Navy friend returned in just a couple of minutes and said “we’re all in, how much do I owe you?” The meter was at seventeen dollars. He handed me a twenty and said “keep the change.” I’m glad these guys got off the street for at least one night. God bless the man in the Navy jacket.

These are just two examples, there are countless others. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that every wealthy customer is obnoxious like those in the wedding party. Many are very polite and pleasant company. I’m also not saying that every poor customer is honorable, some are not. The point I’m trying to get across here is that equality of human beings in this society is non existent. As I’ve already said, I don’t think a classless society is possible, but to narrow the huge divide between the classes would be a lofty goal indeed.

copyright 2015 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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Dinner On The Grounds

One of the most popular bars in the Lakeview district is a relatively new one known as the Top Cat. It’s most popular with the young, preppie, over-the -mountain crowd. It was just after 2 am on a Sunday morning, the time when all the bars that aren’t private clubs have to close. I saw him stumbling around the Top Cat, then he threw up his hand to flag me down. I almost didn’t stop because of his ridiculously drunken condition. I have plenty of experience dealing with super drunk people and I know what a pain they can be. I thought, what the hell? Maybe it’ll go quick, I’ll let this trip be my last one tonight.

I asked where he wanted to go as he fell into the backseat. “I’m starving” he slurred and he was very specific about what he wanted. “I want a gyro combo, take me to that place in Southside that sells gyros”. Luckily, this place was one of the few in the area that stays open this late at night. It and the two others that stay open are always packed with people seeking to feed the drunk munchies. When we drove up at the place I could see that there was a line and I knew that he would never be able to wait in line, order and pay for his food, he was just too messed up. I said, I’ll tell you what. Give me the money and I’ll go in and get your food, you stay here in the car. He agreed and pulled a crumpled up ten out of his pocket.

gyro combo

It took about twenty minutes to get through the line, order and get the food. When I got back to the cab my customer was out cold. I tried shaking him, yelling at him, turning on the bright overhead light and shining my flashlight in his face. I turned the radio up to full blast and shook him some more. He was alive, he would grunt every now and then but he was not gaining consciousness no matter what I tried. I didn’t know where to take him, he hadn’t given me a final destination. There was only one thing left to do, call the cops.

This place was surrounded by the UAB campus, the cops were there in less than five minutes. They tried all the usual methods, the same things I had tried, shaking him, yelling at him and shining a light in his eyes. They weren’t having any better luck than I had had. One of the cops said ” I guess I could use a little mace but you probably wouldn’t be able to drive the cab the rest of the night if I spray it in there”. The other cop, a big burley guy, said “that’s not necessary, I know what will work”. He then made a fist with his massive hand and started rubbing his knuckles over my customer’s sternum. He rubbed vigorously over and over and said “this is supposed to work. He’s the first one I’ve ever seen that this didn’t work on.” The guy again made a few grunts, but no consciousness, even after the sternal rub. The other cop asked “if we look in his wallet can you take him to the address on his license?” I said sure but I don’t know how I’ll get him out of the car or how I’ll get paid. He said “this is how you’ll get paid” as he handed me the guy’s debit card. “If you can’t get him out of the car, you may have to call Mountain Brook, that’s where he lives.” When he handed me the license I could see that my passenger was twenty four years old, did indeed live in Mountain Brook and had a very aristocratic sounding triple name with the suffix III at the end.

The food was smelling delicious on the way to the Tiny Kingdom. I thought to myself, he’ll never know the difference if I have a few of his fries, will he? My GPS guided me to a grand Mountain Brook estate. The kind that I would imagine would be common in Beverly Hills. Apparently this guy’s family was movers and shakers.

mansion

I pulled into the long driveway and prepared for the daunting task of getting him out of the car. I turned on the overhead light and got out and opened the back door. I was saying, you’re home, time to get out. Of course this didn’t work so I started trying to drag him out, feet first. To my amazement, he woke up enough to crawl out on his own power and ask “am I home?” I said yes you are. He managed to stand up and take a few staggering steps into the highly manicured front lawn of this gigantic mansion. He seemed to make a circle, kind of like a dog looking for a good place to lie down. He did lie down and he was out cold again, but at least he was home and no longer my responsibility. I ran his debit card and added a generous tip. I placed his card, his license and his receipt on his chest. I placed what was left of his gyro combo by his side. I’m sure his prestigious neighbors got an eye full if they were out and about around sunrise.

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.

images courtesy of www.yelp.com,  commons.wikimedia.org

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.

Diaper Money

I’m not a cop. I’m not the father or guardian of any of my customers. My job is to get them where they want to go. I’m frankly not concerned with what they do in their private lives as long as they don’t get me involved. That’s why I have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I’m not going to ask you and please don’t tell me if you’re doing something on the wrong side of the law. Now, don’t get me wrong, if I think a customer is involved in a robbery, burglary or some other property crime or a violent crime I’ll do everything I can to alert the authorities. If it’s not a violent crime, not a property crime, I practice don’t ask, don’t tell. Some customers won’t just out and out tell you what they’re doing but for some reason they feel the need to come up with an elaborate cover up story. Here’s an example, you can draw your own conclusions.

The address was inside the city limits of Mountain Brook. Called the “Tiny Kingdom” by many, this is one of the wealthiest suburbs in the south, maybe even the nation. It certainly is THE wealthiest incorporated town in Alabama. Adjacent to the city of Birmingham, it seems like it should just be a neighborhood of the city, but like most of the other suburbs, it’s incorporated on it’s own.

She was blond, 30’s,looked like she could have been a soccer mom or the mother of a sitcom family. She felt the need to tell me an elaborate tale about where she was going and what she was doing. “I’m going to have you take me to a terrible neighborhood” she said. “My friend lives there and she can’t afford diapers for her baby. I can’t stand to see that baby suffer. I’m going to take her some money to buy diapers”. “Do you mind taking me there?” I knew the address that she gave me to be in the 110 zone near the airport. I assured her that I wasn’t afraid to go there and I didn’t mind taking her. For most of the way she went on about how bad the neighborhood was and how she was afraid. “If it wasn’t for that pitiful baby I wouldn’t go” she said several times.

Before we got there she asked me to stop at a convenience store out in the Woodlawn area. “I told my husband I would stop and pick up a couple of beers for him. I don’t drink” she said emphatically. The store where we stopped really did look a little scary. The front was covered with burglar bars and when she opened the door I could see that the clerks worked behind bullet proof glass. There were a bunch of shady looking characters hanging around outside. She entered the store as if she had been there a thousand times, she didn’t seem scared at all. She returned with two Bud tall boys and we continued on to deliver the “diaper money”.

It was an average looking house for the neighborhood. Of course it wasn’t anything comparable to what my customer was used to in the Tiny Kingdom. It wasn’t fancy but it wasn’t falling down either. When she went in she said “I won’t be long. I won’t be gone long enough for anything terrible to happen to you out here.” I didn’t tell her that this place looked like Shangri La compared to some places where I’ve waited on people.

She returned a few minutes later even more hyper and giddy than when she went in. In an almost panicky but obviously fake shrill voice she said “quick, get me out of this terrible neighborhood!” I guess she forgot that she had told me that she didn’t drink. About halfway home I heard her pop open one of the tall boys that she had bought back at the ghetto store. Passengers aren’t supposed to bud talldrink in cabs but I figured that maybe she needed it for her “anxiety”. I don’t know how much she gave her friend to buy those “diapers” but she paid me forty dollars to take her there and back.

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.