Tag Archives: southside

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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Disappearing Act

I’ve been “stiffed” probably about ten times since I started driving taxis. That’s the slang that’s used in the industry when you don’t get paid for the trip. A customer who stiffs a cab driver can be charged with Theft of Service, a misdemeanor. Of course this almost never happens because the “customer” will be long gone before the police ever arrive. When you are first hired as a driver, most companies show an orientation film which includes several scenerios that you should expect to happen eventually. One part of the film shows the cab stopping at the destination and then the passenger bolts from the cab and runs like hell. I’ve never had that happen. Most times that I’ve been stiffed involved either  declined debit or credit cards or sometimes the customer just admitting that they didn’t have any money when we arrived at our destination. I’ve also had two that have gone into houses and never returned. Once, my fare depended on a woman being able to get a loan at Easy Money; it didn’t happen. A few nights ago I had something happen that was similar to what happened in the film, but with a twist.

I was driving down Richard Arrington Blvd toward downtown when I saw a young man with his hand high in the air flagging for a ride. It was at the intersection near the Stillwater Pub so I assumed that it was someone who had been hanging out there. He was a young white man in his early twenties with a very short haircut, like a crewcut. When he got in I could tell by his speech and mannerisms that he wasn’t the type of person who usually hangs out at Stillwater. He mumbled something about Findley. There is both a Findley Blvd and a Findley Avenue in North Birmingham. The area is very industrial, with warehouses, distributing companies, trucking companies and the like. There’s not a lot of residential areas, what few there are are almost entirely African American. There IS a halfway house. A place where many men live when they are transistioning from prison life to life in the world. I figured it was a good bet that that’s where this guy was going.

He asked that I stop at a gas station on Findley Blvd so he get could get a pack of smokes, when he got out I finally got a good look at his face. He didn’t look like the stereotypical halfway house resident. He was actually quite good looking but as I mentioned earlier, his speech and mannerisms didn’t quite match his looks. I didn’t trust him, not at all. He never actually said that he was going to the halfway house but when we got on pitch dark Findley Avenue he was suddenly sick and had to pull over. “Please pull over now, I’ve got to throw up”. You don’t want me throwing up in your cab do you”? I pulled over and said no, please don’t. We were close to the halfway house and I could sense that he was up to something. He gagged a few times and said “just give me a few minutes and I’ll be OK”. After not hearing him say anything or make any sounds for about ten seconds, I looked around and my gut feeling was confirmed, he was gone. The meter was sitting at $12.50. For some reason I didn’t even get upset, I guess I expected it deep down. I drove away and headed back to Southside. There were other people needing rides.

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.