Tag Archives: the projects

Early Morning Craving

As I’ve alrady told you in the story “Diaper Money” I have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy when it comes to shady dealings by my customers as long as it doesn’t involve violence or thievery. I don’t consider what my adult customers are doing to be my business as long as they’re not causing me any trouble and as long as I get paid. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to ask you what you’re up to and for God’s sake, please don’t tell me. If you don’t tell me I can always say I don’t know what’s going on even if it seems obvious. I can remember picking up a middle aged white man in a very rural part of zone 550. It was in the direction of Pinson but not actually in Pinson. He was very much a working class kind of guy wearing steel toed work boots and sporting a new crewcut. He said “I need to go into town for just a few minutes, this will be a round trip.”

He had his own route in mind which was fine with me. I always ask customers if they have a prefered route and if they do, I always abide by their wishes. Many customers believe the stereotype that all cab drivers are out to cheat them by trying to up the fare by driving a route that’s longer than necessary. Letting them be in charge of the route takes this issue off the table. We rode along some roads that I don’t think I’ve ever driven on. We eventually came out on I-65 near Fultondale, north of the city. We had made some small talk along the way but nothing concerning exactly where he was going or what he was doing. His destination was in a public housing project, one of the older ones that look like red brick barracks. This project was next to a large city high school, west of downtown in a neighborhood that’s almost entirely African American. He had me park a building away from the building where he was going. True to his word, he was in and out in less than five minutes. We followed the same route we had taken to the project back to his country home. The fare was $95, he handed me a hundred dollar bill and said “keep it”.

The name on the screen of the dispatch computer was a traditionally female name. When I saw the person come out of the house I thought this must be the wrong customer or maybe someone else called for him; that happens sometimes. I would have sworn this tall, broad shouldered person with close cropped hair was a man until she got in the car and I heard her voice. It was a deep voice for a woman but still a feminine voice. She wanted to go to one of the gentlemen's clubgentlemen’s clubs on the west side of town, she said she worked there. I certainly didn’t think she was a stripper so I figured she must have been a bartender, a bouncer or maybe even a manager. When we arrived I turned the meter off and told her the amount of the fare as I thought this was her final destination. She said “I’ll be back, wait on me. I won’t be long.”

When she returned a few minutes later I couldn’t see that she had anything that she didn’t have when she went in. But man, could I SMELL that she had something that she didn’t have when I picked her up. The skunky odor that filled the car was so pungent that it made my eyes water! It almost made me think that Cheech or Chong had just gotten in my cab. She said “let’s stop by the store. I’m gonna get some beeuh then you can take me to my gull house.” Was she aware of the smell? Maybe not, she went into the convenience store smelling like that. She came out with a twelve pack of Bud light, I guess she and her “gull” had a party.

This brings me to the only person who, as of yet, has violated my don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I had had some success earlier in the week by getting up early, by five or five-thirty am and catching the going to work crowd. It was about six in the morning when the call came through in the 235 zone. It was an old, low rent apartment complex almost to the summit of Red Mountain off of Greensprings Highway. This was late winter, it was still black dark, there was no hint of the morning sun.

She was standing outside when I arrived. A thin, middle-aged white woman wearing a V neck sweater, knee high leather boots and short hair dyed dark red, almost purple. I could tell she was no spring chicken but still not bad looking. I could tell something was awry by her hyperactive behavior. She got in and out of the cab four times before she finally settled in and was ready to go. It was obvious that she wasn’t one of the morning workers that I had been aiming for that morning. She said she wanted to go to the extended stay inn where my wife and I had lived when we first moved to town. I saw dollar signs because this place was clear on the other side of town from where we were. Shortly after we got started I was a little concerned when she said “after we go to the inn I need to go to Rugby.” Rugby avenue is a pretty seedy area in East Lake. I figured that this was probably a don’t ask, don’t tell situation.

About halfway to the inn she waved a big red flag indicating that this trip was probably not going to end well. She asked me “you’re cool ain’t you?” I said yeah, I guess I’m pretty cool, why? She said “you know we’re going to get my smoke. We don’t have to go to the inn if you’ll lend me twenty dollars to get it.” In hindsight, I should have stopped the car right where we were and put her ass out. We actually have a code that we can send to the dispatchers that means “refusing drug run.” I would have been better off this morning if I had used that code. I said, I’m not lending you any money. How the hell were you planning on paying me? She said “don’t worry honey, I’ve got PLENTY of money, just take me to the inn and I’ll get it.”  When we got there she frantically ran to one apartment and then to the next banging on doors. Someone finally let her in the second one she tried. After a few minutes she came back to the car and we headed to Rugby. After about five minutes of ringing the doorbell and knocking on the door she became frustrated and came back to the car. “I guess he must be dead asleep” she said. She now wanted to go to a house in Roebuck. By this time the sun was coming up and I felt a little safer as I could see my surroundings. I still had an inner knowing in the pit of my stomach that this wasn’t going to end well. I waited and waited and waited. After about 30 minutes I said to myself, if she doesn’t come out in five minutes I’m calling the cops. The meter was sitting at fifty two dollars, I had been fucking around with her all morning and hadn’t yet made a penny. I knew the chances were slim to none that I would see any of this money.

After forty minutes had gone by and she was still nowhere in sight I decided to call. I called the non-emergency number. I didn’t think this warranted a 911 call. I gave up after twenty rings. I decided to just drive to the nearest police station which I knew to be just behind the Roebuck Walmart. The policeman on duty was less than enthusiastic about writing up my report. I didn’t expect anything to come of it. I wasn’t wrong.

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.