Tag Archives: police

Whatchu Gonna Do?

It was mid-summer and work was slack on my other part-time job. I was driving in the middle of the week trying to make a buck or two. On Wednesday morning at about 9:00 am cabs were stacked up 10 deep in the 120 zone and nothing was happening in the other zones. On mornings like this one I like to find a good place to perch, read the paper or a book or whatever I happen to have to pass the time. I was hoping that a regular would call or that something, anything, would pop up on the screen that I could bid on. I was worried about making my lease and how many trips it would take to do that. I hadn’t had any yet so I had a long way to go.

After about an hour had passed and I had long finished the Birmingham News and had read a chapter in Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, there it was. There was one open trip on the board in zone 210. This is southwest Birmingham west of I-65. Some drivers don’t like it, I don’t mind it at all during daylight hours. A large part of the zone is a neighborhood known as Titusville. No, it’s not pronounced Tight-us-ville, it’s TIT-us-ville. It’s not a terrible zone to work, it’s one of the flatter zones and it’s pretty easy to get around, no terrible traffic.

It didn’t take long after I made the bid until I heard the long beep. The call was to an apartment complex buried deep in the zone. It was beyond Titusville on a side street off Jefferson Avenue. When I arrived my customer was already standing outside. She was thin and dark skinned, wearing clothes for comfort, not style. She appeared to be toothless and her head was covered with a bandana. At first I would have judged her to be in her 70’s but once she got in and I got a better look I could tell she was younger.

She didn’t even have time to tell me where she wanted to go before a brown van pulled up beside us. In the flash of an eye, 8 cops jumped out in full riot gear! Dressed all in black, they were sporting helmets with shields on the front and bullet proof vests. They had the word POLICE on their backs and they were packing some serious firepower! Several of them had what appeared to be 12 guage shotguns. They began to take their positions, some on the ground and some on the second and third floor balconies of the apartments. All guns were pointed at one apartment on the second floor. Three of the cops were surrounding the door of that apartment. Two of them were pointing handguns at the door, the other one was busy bashing the door in with a large blunt instrument that looked like it was made just for that purpose. After about 5 or 6 hard blows the door flew open. All three of the helmeted, vested officers stormed in. cops

I was sitting there in the car mesmerized. It was as if I was watching an episode of C.O.P.S on TV. For a moment I had almost forgotten that I had a customer in the back seat. She was clearly not as fascinated as I, or maybe she just wanted to get the hell out of there. She said “let’s go” in a fairly urgent tone. She wanted to be dropped off at a post office just a few blocks away. The fare was $4. I never found out how the scene played out.

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.

Pissy Drunk

We all know that there are different degrees of drunkeness. It usually starts with just a slightly buzzed feeling after a couple of drinks. It can then proceed to slurred speech, staggering gate and talking about dumb and inappropriate things. After this stage comes complete incoherence of speech, inability to recall simple things like one’s name or address and finally unconsciousness. My customer on this day was at this last stage, just before unconsciousness.

It was a beautiful spring day and there was a beer festival going on at Sloss Furnaces. Sloss is an old steel mill near downtown Birmingham that stopped making steel in 1971. It has since been converted into a museum of sorts. The blast furnace and most of the other steel making machinery has been preserved and on most days it’s open for the public to tour. On some days it’s used as an event venue. There are weddings, concerts, festivals and even a haunted house in the weeks preceeding Halloween. It’s said that the old mill is home to the ghosts of some of the workers who died there over the years that it was in operation.

Just a few years ago, Alabama finally repealed an archaic law that didn’t allow beer containing more than 6% alcohol to be sold in the state. Since the law’s repeal, somewhat of a craft beer culture has emerged, at least in the larger cities. The festival going on at Sloss allowed the public to purchase a ticket and then walk through the festival sampling different craft beers from around the world. Needless to say it’s a very popular festival! I had made 3 or 4 trips to the festival to pick up the beer lovers. Most of them were just at the slightly tipsy stage, some were slurring but all were able to get around OK and communicate with me. When I dropped off a group in the Southside my dispatch computer immediately offered me a trip in the same zone. I accepted it, not thinking anything would be out of the ordinary. It was daytime, probably about 3:30 in the afternoon. The call was to a popular sports bar in the Lakeview entertainment district. When I drove up in the parking lot I could see a young man who apperaed to be very drunk leaning against a car with another young man who appeared to be sober standing beside him. The sober one was the bartender who had called the cab for the drunk guy. Apparently the two were aquaintances and the bartender handed me a twenty dollar bill and asked me to take him home. “I’ve never been to his house, but he said he lives near the peacock on the mountain”.Alabama court 024

I assumed he was talking about the NBC sign in front of T.V. station channel 13, the NBC affiliate located atop Red Mountain. One thing I’ve learned as a driver is that when you have a customer who is at the incoherent stage of drunkeness and there’s no one else along for the ride with them, it never ends well. I don’t know if this guy had been to the festival or not, he couldn’t communicate well enough to tell me. One thing I did know for sure was that he had been doing some serious drinking somewhere.

At first I thought he may have been talking about the old brick apartments on both sides of Valley Avenue on the backside of the mountain and the T.V. stations. Do you live here, in these apartments? I asked him. He looked around a bit and made negaitve gestures. I then drove up the hill next to channel 13 but there were no houses or apartments there. Then I thought, he must be talking about the front side of the mountain. There are many houses, apartment complexes, and old houses broken up into apartments along 16th, 17th, and 18th avenues, it has to be in that area. You can see the NBC peacock sign from there. I asked him, is this your neighborhood? Do you live on this street? He didn’t recognize any of these houses as home. After a while I had driven over almost every street on the Southside side of the mountain and he never recognized the place he wanted to go. I decided I’d just take him back to where I picked him up, after all I couldn’t ride him around with me the rest of the day, I had to make money. When I got to the main intersection in Five Points South, 11th avenue and 20th street, I had to stop at a red light with three cars in front of me, I couldn’t go anywhere. Five Points South is a popular cultural area with many restaurants, bars, shops, a Starbucks and an area where people congregate to play music, do artwork ect… this area usually draws a crowd of everything from homeless people and freight train hopping hobos to UAB students, faculty and business people.

There were many people enoying their beverages at the tables on the street in front of Starbucks, many people at the gathering area, and several people standing in front of the Thai restaurant and the BBQ restaurant across the street. Five Points was bustling on this bright spring day. While sitting at the light I heard my back door open. When I looked around my customer was standing in the street in front of God and everybody, with his pants unzipped taking a leak. Before I could say anything I heard the whoop whoop of a police car siren that was waiting at the same light a few cars back. When my customer finished peeing and got back in the car he was able to say “take me to the Courtyard”. The Courtyard is a bar around the corner on Highland Avenue.

When I pulled up in front of the Courtyard with the police car close behind, my customer jumped out immediately and staggered toward the door. I could see that the shorts he was wearing were soaking wet from the crotch down, I guess he had a really bad aim. I looked around at my seat; yep it was wet too. Thank God it was faux leather and not cloth. The cop caught him before he made it to the door. What the cop did next astonished me. Instead of hand cuffing the guy and arresting him for public intoxication or indecent exposure, he took the drunk guy’s cell phone and found his father’s number in the contacts. He called the guy’s father, who lived in Gardendale, a suburb a few miles north of the city. He said “your son is here in Southside and he’s very drunk. I don’t want to take him to jail, if you’ll come pick him up I’ll let him go with you”. I guess it was the drunk guy’s lucky day. I drove up to the Chevron on the corner, bought some cleaning supplies and started to clean and disinfect my back seat.

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.

Jesus Huffin’ Christ

I cringed a little when I saw that the call I had just accepted in the 100 zone was to the Tourway Inn. The Tourway is an old motel on the edge of downtown next to the interstate. It’s common to pick up hookers, stippers, junkies, drunks and other assorted weirdos here and in other motels like this. Sometimes you get people who are totally normal but that’s the exception, not the rule. This time was no exception.

The young man was sitting on a curb in front of the motel when I pulled up. He was wearing a hoodie over his head but I could clearly see his face. He had a round face with a thin scraggly beard and shoulder length dirty hair. He looked a little like Jesus I guess, maybe after he had been hanging on the cross for a while. When he got in the car his mental issues or drug issues or both, became apparent.

At first he couldn’t decide where he wanted to go. It was after midnight and it had to be some place open 24 hours. It was either going to be Walmart on Lakeshore or CVS on Greensprings Highway. After a minute of hemming and hawing a clear preferance for Walmart emerged. We left the motel but as soon as we were on the ramp to I-65 his indecision about his destination returned. This time it was all about money, all about the fare. He wanted estimates for both places. I told him that it would cost 3 or 4 dollars more to go to Walmart. That sealed it, we were going to CVS.

Not long into the ride he started trying to negotiate a round trip price. He said “I only have $15 for the round trip”, I told him that wasn’t enough. “I guess I’ll just have to walk back. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my back and I’ve been in trouble. Homewood hates me, the 5-0 won’t leave me alone. I’ve got a big blister on my heel that hurts like hell but I guess I can walk back”. I wasn’t born yesterday, I could easily tell that he was trying to manipulate me with his poor me stories. For some reason I felt a little sorry for him and I said OK, as long as you don’t stay in the store too long I’ll do the round trip for $15. The meter was sitting at $10 dollars when we pulled into the parking lot. By the meter the round trip would have cost him $20 or so.

True to his word, he came out of the store in less than 5 minutes carrying something in a bag. I thought, Ok this won’t be bad, I’ll take him back to the motel and make about 5 bucks less than I could have but no big deal. Before we were halfway down Red Mountain I heard the sound of an aerosol can spraying. It was a deep sound, much more like the sound of fix a flat than the sound of deodorant or air freshener. When I looked around he was lying on my backseat with his eyes rolled back in his head. He looked like a person that was dying. I screamed WHAT THE FUCK? but he was out of it. By the time I could get pulled over at the closed Chevron station he was coming around.

Suddenly, his arms were flailing about as he screamed jibberish that made absolutely no sense. I took out my phone and started to call for help. When he saw this he jumped out of the car and started yelling “really? are you really gonna call the 5-0 on me? Really? I said I thought you were dying or losing your mind. Are you OK now? He started pacing around ranting about how the 5-0 was out to get him. “They hate me. “Every time the 5-0 sees me they fuck with me, I’m always in trouble with the 5-0!” I said well, maybe if you’d quit doing crazy shit they’d leave you alone.

After stomping around a little more he got back into the back seat and immediately took out his spray can and took another big huff. Once again he was lying on my back seat looking dead. I got out of the car, walked to the edge of the parking lot and called dispatch, who then called the cops. When the cop got there the first thing he did was to make him pay me. I said I’ll settle for $10 dollars but I’m not taking you anywhere else. He had $8 and that was all. I wouldn’t have gotten my $15 if we had completed the trip. I was glad to get any money but even more than that I was glad to get this nutcase out of my car. As I drove away slowly I could see him in my rearview; being questioned by the 5-0.

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.