Tag Archives: Highway 280

Liquored Up And Locked Out

“Go straight” said the well dressed drunken yuppie as he plopped down in the backseat. Where are we going? I asked. “Just go straight, I’ll tell you where to turn”. I hate it when customers do this, I want to know where I’m headed. I shouldn’t have even moved the car until he told me. I picked him up at the Blue Bottle Cafe, which is usually a worry free place to pick up customers. It’s mostly frequented by hipsters and hipster wannabes that turn out to see trendy urban indie rock bands and solo musicians. They have a menu with mostly vegetarian choices; it’s not the kind of place that drunk assholes like to hang out.

This guy was an exception. He had an open drink with clinking ice and it was strong enough that I could smell the alcohol. He immediately exhibited an attitude of superiority, as if I was his servant. I didn’t like him at all from the moment he got in the car. After driving a few blocks I said, where are we going, man? I’ve got to know a general area, I don’t like driving and not knowing where I’m going. “Crestwood” he said. ” I’m going to see my buddy in Crestwood” I felt a little better just knowing the neighborhood where we were headed. He got out and walked across the grass in the front yard to the door; he ditched the plastic cup that had held his drink in the middle of the yard. After banging on the door and a window and hollering for his buddy, it became clear, even to him that this was a futile effort. He staggered back to the car, fell in the back seat and said “now you’re gonna take me down 280”. I didn’t like this “you’re gonna” language but I held my temper and started driving. Before we got out of the neighborhood, he said “stop, I’ve gotta pee”. I stopped, he stood in the middle of this neighborhood street and let it fly. I thought well, at least it’s late at night and maybe no one will see him and if he has to pee I’d rather him do it here than in his pants in the car.

In a few minutes we were taking the split to 280 off the Red Mountain Expressway. I said OK, we’re on 280, where do you want to go? “Way down, all the way down”  he said. I was still not happy with his vagueness about his destination. He made a phone call shortly after the split. At least he pretended to make a phone call, I’m still not convinced he was talking to anyone. He was pretending to talk to a girl, slurring sexual comments and questions like “did you like it when I was rubbing up against you? Could you feel my hard dick?” ” I thought you were gonna pull your pants down and let me taste it, I sure would like to taste it.”

It was a cool night, probably in the 40’s. It was too cool for the air conditioning but not cold enough for the heater. I had my drivers window barely cracked just for some fresh air. He interrupted his imaginary porno phone conversation to scream “ROLL THAT GODDAMN WINDOW UP, I’M FREEZING!” That’s when I lost my cool. I couldn’t help it, I said you don’t order me to do shit you stupid asshole, you can either respect me or your drunk ass is gonna be out here on the side of the goddamn road! I pulled over to the shoulder with full intentions of putting his ass out. He said “I won’t get out, you can’t make me get out.” It was after two in the morning and I was tired, I didn’t feel like going through the routine of calling the cops and waiting for them to get there. I said just tell me where you want to go and shut up until I get you there. He said “take me to Patio 280”, I drove off as he continued his fake phone conversation “this cab driver is being rude to me” he said into the phone. He said “my girlfriend doesn’t like you being rude to me.” I said shut up, we’ll be there in a minute.

I was happy to see a moonlighting Birmingham cop in full uniform at the door of the Patio when we pulled up. My customer immediately jumped out of the back seat and slurred to the cop in a whiney tone, “he was rude to me”. The cop said “what did he do, make you put your pants on?” Seeing that the cop had no sympathy for him he started to walk in the bar. I said, I’LL TAKE THIRTY ONE DOLLARS PLEASE. The cop said “pay the man”. He handed me two twenties and said “I want change”. Not getting a tip was the least of my concerns, more than anything I was just glad he was gone.

Before I could leave the scene the cop approached me and asked “can you do me a favor?” Of course I said yes. He asked me if I was familiar with the west side of town, I assured him that I was. He said “I’ve got two guys in that car over there, they’re pretty drunk but mostly they’re sleepy. They were trying to leave in the car, I couldn’t let them do that. Can you take them home?” I said sure and he went to get them out of the car. I’d say they were more than just “pretty drunk”, totally shitfaced would be a more accurate term. I asked for an address and one of them kept saying “647 Southwest.” I asked 647 what street Southwest? He didn’t get the question, he again repeated, this time louder “647 SOUTHWEST.” I turned to the other guy and asked, can you give me an address? He managed to slur out an address that included a number and a street, we were on our way.

It was a long drive to their neighborhood, they both slept most of the way. I heard a few comments by the one who couldn’t remember his street address about how he was moving to Jersey because “they” just weren’t right down here. After that the snoaring started, before long it sounded like I had two chainsaws running in the back seat. The guy who had been talking about Jersey was awake when we arrived at the address that his buddy had given me. Ok we’re here, I said. “This ain’t where I live” he said. I said OK where do you live? “647 Southwest”. I said that won’t do, I’ve got to know the street. 647 what street Southwest? He finally understood what I was asking him and slurred out “647 12th street Southwest.” I said OK, now we’re in business. He recognized his house when we turned onto his street and said “just pull in behind that white car, that’s where I live.”

I looked at the meter and said OK, that’ll be thirty four dollars. That’s when the trouble started. He said “them folks done got me a ride home and I ain’t got no money.” Ain’t got no money? I asked. Do you have a credit card or a debit card? “Naw, I ain’t got NO money, I spent all my money at that bar.” I said what about your buddy, does he have any money? He shook his buddy awake and said “this man want to know if you got any money? He say we owe him thirty foe dollars.” “Naw” he said. “I ain’t got no money”. The first guy looked at me and said “you gon’ have to take him home, this ain’t where he lives.” I said if he ain’t got no money I ain’t taking him nowhere, this is the end of the line. “Well, how he gon’ get home?” That’s his problem, I said. I said y’all just get out, I’ve got other people I can be picking up that will actually pay me. With some difficulty they managed to get out of the car and I saw them staggering and stumbling toward the house in the dark as I was driving away.

I was pissed but mostly I felt stupid for not getting paid up front. These guys didn’t want to take a cab, they wanted to actually get out on the highway and drive in the ridiculously fucked up condition they were in. I did feel like I had at least done a service to the world by keeping these drunk assholes off the road, at least this time. Who knows, someone’s life could have very well been saved and to me that would be well worth thirty four dollars. It would be worth a helluva lot more than that. I still felt stupid, there was a cop right there, he could have and would have made them pay me up front if I had only asked. Oh well, live and learn.

I decided to make a pass through Southside to see if I could get just one more trip. I picked up a young guy in the Five Points area who was going downtown to the Sheraton. As he was getting drink keysout he said “hey look, someone left their keys.” He paid his fare, handed me the keys and walked into the hotel. There was a key ring with two keys to a GM car and what looked like several house keys. You know, I hear that locksmiths are expensive. It would probably cost a lot more than thirty four dollars to replace all those keys. Gee, I wonder whatever happened to those keys?

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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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.