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 maybe 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.