Tag Archives: motel

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 Country Boy And A City Girl

He was standing just around the corner from Patio 280 with an innocent looking smile on his face when I pulled up at 2:45 am. He was wearing a John Deere hat and had a snuff bulge in his lower lip. He said he wanted to go to one of the hotels in Southside because he had to get up in just a few hours and go fishing on the Tennessee River. He told me that he was from Columbiana in south Shelby County and asked my advice for a good hotel. I named off all the Southside hotels but he said “them places is too high, do you know a cheaper place?”

The only cheap hotel I know of in Southside is really a motel. The back of the motel is just across a narrow alley from the crematorium of a huge funeral home. Besides the creepiness of sleeping next to where bodies are being burned, this is a generally skuzzy place. Most of the folks I’ve picked up or dropped off here have been ex-cons, skid row drunks, hookers or junkies. He asked “how about that one on First Avenue North, Motel H?” Motel H is a whore motel, and a rough one at that. I said  motel 097maybe that one by the crematorium isn’t such a bad idea. He rejected that. He said “my daddy works at the steel mill right behind it. It ain’t that bad is it? If anybody messes with me I can just walk over to where my daddy is.”

At this point I was pretty much convinced that the whole “going fishing” thing was just a cover up story. After all, he didn’t have any fishing equipment. Was someone supposed to pick him up from this fleabag whore house to go fishing? I figured he had designs on a store-bought motel girlfriend and because of his country raising he thought he had to hide it, even from a cab driver. I gave it one more try. I said, you really don’t want to go to that motel do you? There are plenty of hotels and motels that are perfectly safe. He wouldn’t hear of it, he insisted on Motel H.

When we drove up in the parking lot, some incident had just happened. Two cop cars were already there with their bright blue lights flashing. There were hookery-looking girls and thuggy-looking guys standing around watching. I was flabergasted by what he asked me when he saw this. “Do you reckon’ it’s safe?” I didn’t say anything for a minute because I was thinking, damn dude, what have I been telling you since I picked you up? Was he really looking for a hooker or was he just that damned naive? At this point I was ready to get rid of him and move on. I said, well maybe whatever was gonna happen has already happened. So maybe it’s safe now. He exited the car and walked slowly into the office.

She was just off the train from New Orleans, standing in front of the Amtrak station with her tiger print luggage. She wasn’t bad looking at first glance. With a closer view I could see that she had a big infected-looking sore on her upper arm and teeth that needed maintenance. I loaded her bags and she told me her final destination would be a hotel but she wanted to stop by a couple of places on the way to look for work. She had the name and address of one place. The now defunct Mike’s Crossroads on Third Avenue West. This was a Gentleman’s Club, or as is more commonly said in Alabama, a titty bar. Mike’s catered to African American men. She was white but made it clear that she was only interested in working in places catering to black men. On the way to Mike’s we would be passing the Bunny Cage. Upon my suggestion, we stopped there first. Unfortunately, no one was there yet as it was still early in the afternoon. She was told to come back later at Mike’s. Apparently the manager that did the hiring wouldn’t be in until later in the evening.

She was becoming concerned that it may be more difficult than she thought to execute her plans. Her grand scheme was to take the train into town, quickly get a job stripping in a seedy strip club where she would make the business contacts for her main business that she would run from the hotel. I told her that there was another place just down the street called the Castle. They told her that a stripper must have a license to strip in Birmingham. They said “you can’t dance here without a license but one of the others will probably let you do it.” From there we went on to the hotel which was one of the lower level chains in gritty zone 410. She was concerned that it wasn’t busy enough. “Do you think guys will want to come see me out here?” I could only say that I did not know. I never learned whether or not her plans came to fruition.

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.

The Final Guest

The call came from the 410 zone. Just northwest of downtown, this area may be one that you would want to avoid at night. Working class and poor, it’s somewhat industrial with a few plants still operating. There are several trucking companies located here, there’s a lot of 18-wheeler traffic. I was picking her up at a discount store in an old shopping center that looks like it’s on it’s last leg. She was waiting in front of the place with a flat cart with about 12 cases of bottled water and a few other Alabama court 003assorted items when I arrived. I helped her load the water in the trunk. She got in and told me to go back up the highway toward Forestdale. Forestdale is a suburb in decline in the 420 zone. 420 is almost as gritty as 410.

She wanted to stop at a gas station that carried a particular kind of beverage that the discount store did not. As we were backing out to leave, a thuggy looking guy with bling bling, gold teeth and a side-ways hat came bursting out the door holding his baggy pants up by holding onto his penis. He was taking wide straddled steps to keep his pants from falling off. He was hollering “You done hit mah cah!”. I had not hit his car. It was sitting at a gas pump and I was backing out of a parking space. It was close but I had cleared it by at least a foot. My customer opened the back door and said “He didn’t hit your car. I’ll testify for him if I have to”. The thug could see that I didn’t hit his car and let it go. I thanked her for offering to testify for me and we headed up the road to her destination.

She directed me into probably the worst-looking cottage-style motel that I had ever seen. I thought “Damn, this place looks like it’s been hit by a tornado”. After looking around for about another minute, I realized my first thought had been correct. The place HAD been hit by a tornado! The devastating Alabama court 001tornadoes that had hit Alabama on April 27, 2011 had grazed this place. Some of the neighborhoods nearby had seen catastrophic damage. This place was damaged pretty severely, but for the most part still standing. She directed me over to one of the better looking units. It didn’t look good but there was no major structural damage. The parking lot was littered with all kinds of debris.

It was obvious that the motel wasn’t in business. I’m sure it hadn’t been since the tornado. Once I realized that she was a squatter in this God-forsaken place with no power or running water, all the bottled water she had bought at the discount store made perfect sense. I stacked the water next to the door of the unit which was secured by a padlock. The fare was $10.75. She gave me $11.00 and said she needed her quarter back. I don’t think she was unhappy with my service. She just needed that quarter.

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.

Working Girls

I have the utmost respect for the working class. Partly because I’m a member of it but also because the working class seems to get so little respect from society these days. It pisses me off when I hear people, especially those on the political right, talk about how people on public assistance don’t work or about how they’re moochers on society. This is bullshit!  Poor people most certainly do work. Most of them work a helluva lot harder than the assholes that make these kind of stupid comments. I know first hand, because I take them to their jobs. Many people have to take cabs to work because the crappy jobs that they have don’t pay enough money to buy a car. Most will take the bus if it’s possible since the bus is much cheaper than a cab. Sometimes, because of the hour that the person must report to the job or some other logistics, the bus is impossible and a cab is the only option.

Many of the folks that go to work at odd hours live in public housing or what is more commonly known as “the projects”. Yes, many working people use the nation’s safety net programs because minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour and many of their employers are just too damned greedy to pay any more than that. I have no problem at all with hard working people getting whatever assistance is necessary to make ends meet. To hear people disparage working folks and talk about them like they’re the scum of the Earth makes my blood boil.

It was 2:25 am on a Saturday morning. I had been out since about 7:00 pm Friday night trying to capitalize on the party and club crowd. I had picked up a couple in the the Lakeview entertainment district and dropped them off at Birmingham Southern College. Birmingham Southern is a private Methodist college located in west Birmingham. The area surrounding the college is what many people may think of as “ghetto” or “hood”. Of course this wasn’t the case when the college was first built, the area declined over many years. During daylight hours I will pick up anywhere. It doesn’t bother me at all to go into the projects or many other areas where most suburbanites would fear to tread. There are however; gangs that operate in these neighborhoods. The crime rate in west Birmingham and other similar areas is much higher than it is in the rest of the metro area. Most of the gangsters and criminals operate late at night; for this reason I generally don’t pick up in zones west of I-65 this time of night.

When I pulled out of the college I noticed that the dispatchers were begging someone to take a trip in zone 210, southwest Birmingham. The message on the screen of the dispatch computer said “zone 210 trying to get to work. Somebody please c-book 210. 210 really needs to get to work”. I was sitting at the red light in front of Princeton Hospital, the border of zone 210. I said what the hell? This is probably just someone going in early at UAB or some fast food restaurant or something. I booked into 210 and immediately got the call. I cringed when I saw that it was in Loveman’s Village. Loveman’s Village is an old barracks style project built in the 1950’s. It’s probably the most run down project in Birmingham and it overlooks what is probably the largest cemetery in the state. The television show First 48  featured this project in an episode several years ago. They documented the gang culture here and focused on the shootings and killings that had taken place here in recent years. You can put the words Loveman’s Village into you tube and watch videos made by gangsters where they rap and brag about crime and shooting. LVP  So as you can imagine, this wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be at 2:30 am.

The project was eerily quiet. I met one car and didn’t see anyone moving around outside. The address was on the backside next to Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. There were a few dim street lights and a quarter moon hanging in the black sky. The moonlight enabled a view of the endless tombstones in the huge cemetery across the blvd. The name on the screen was simply “Joe”, the information page only displayed the word “work” in the drop off destination line. Addresses in this project are notoriously difficult to find because most of the numbers posted on the apartments don’t match the address. When I was sure I was close to the pick up point I pressed the call out button for the dispatchers to call “Joe” to come out to go to work. I waited about 5 minutes and they never called him. I then called the dispatchers and told them that I couldn’t take anyone to work if they didn’t come out of the house. The dispatcher then called and connected me to someone with a woman’s feminine voice. She told me that I wasn’t in front of her apartment and that I would need to turn by the couch that was sitting next to the dumpster.

I found the apartment with all the lights on and figured this had to be it. The woman that exited the apartment was dressed to kill. The first thing I noticed was that she was very well shaped. A little too well shaped. Her coke bottle shaped figure was almost unrealistic. I thought damn, she either worked really hard for that or was just very lucky. As she approached the car and I got a good look at her masculine face I could tell that this was no woman. The face was made up but I immediately saw that no matter how well she may have shaved I could still see the shadow of a beard. She said in a very feminine voice “we’ll be right out, I’m waiting on her”. When she turned to go back in the apartment I caught a glimpse of a bubble butt. I wondered how in the hell do black drag queen they do that?

When the two of them exited a couple of minutes later I could see that the first woman’s companion was dressed just as fancy and was wearing silver platform heels. They told me that we were going to the Penthouse Club which wasn’t far away. I was actually relieved, trannies are better than thugs any night of the week. Apparently they had learned by past experience that if you want a cab to come to Loveman’s Village at 2:30 in the morning you have to tell the dispatchers that you’re “going to work”; clever.

We made a little small talk on the way to the club. The woman in the silver heels asked, “so, do you think we look good? Do you think we’re fine transsexuals?” Knowing that a compliment is always the right answer I said yes I do, y’all look great! She said “great, we love compliments”. I could see a blue light flickering in the distance as we approached the club. As we got closer more and more blue lights became visable. By the time we reached the front we could see about 15 police cars with flashing blue lights and what looked like all the people who had been in the club standing out in the street. I said y’all don’t really want to go in there do you? Miss Silver Heels said “no honey, looks like there’s done been a shooting or something. I ain’t gonna walk by all them polleeces either”. They decided on another club in the downtown area. I dropped them off without incident and even got a tip. Not at all what I expected when I took the call but it made for an interesting night.

My very first call the next day was just before noon. It was to one of the shady motels in the Woodlawn area that’s known for prostitution and drug use. This place is basically a brothel and though I’ve never seen it with my own eyes, rumors abound that they sell crack smoking kits complete with a small pipe,a brillo pad and a butane jet flame lighter in the motel office. The first time in my life that I was solicited by a hooker was about a year ago when I picked up a young woman at this very motel and was taking her to the Walmart pharmacy to fill a precsription. While sitting at a red light she said “you know I’m a working girl, do you date?” I said no, I’m married, I don’t date. She left it alone and we completed our trip.

On this day I was dispatched to pick up “Briana” at this sleazy shithole near the interstate. When I pulled into the parking lot I immediately saw a white woman probably about 35, wearing a cheap sweat shirt motioning for me to drive to her. As I stopped the car she walked over, opened the front door and plopped down in the front seat. Thinking this was Briana I said where do you need to go? She looked over with a smile on her ragged face with missing top teeth and said ” hey honey, do you want to come to my room?” When I said no she seemed shocked and disappointed. “Well, why did you come here?” she asked. I pointed to the name on the screen and said I came to pick up Briana. She said “she’s upstairs, blow your horn” as she jumped out almost slamming the door. Briana was a young African American woman who still had her looks. That drug worn look that afflicts most of the women here had yet to catch up with her. She was polite and didn’t solicit me. It was just a quick trip to the package store for a bottle of vodka.

copyright 2012 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.