I guess technically I should have called this post "Weather Report and Down Time," since I'm going to talk about the weather first, but it's my blog, and I'll do want I want. Plus, I just like the way it sounds.
Right now as I type this post, it is raining. That's right, you read me right. It's RAINING! In Phoenix, Arizona, the good old P to the H to the X and that's the PHX!
This is not "mist" or "drizzle" or the "don't worry you can run between the drops" kind of rain. This is actual, by God, things are getting wet, puddles are forming, "I wish I rolled up my car windows" kind of rain. Sure, by the standards of a lot of places, when it's all done, it won't amount to much.
But rain in Phoenix is special. It's a reaffirmation of life. It makes the air smells fresher and cleaner. It's how cars get washed. It causes the rate of rear-end collisions to sky-rocket.
What? Yeah, you read me right. Rain causes the incidence of rear-end collisions to rise here in Phoenix.
Here's what happens. As cars drive down a road, grease and oil fall off the car onto the roadbed. This happens on roads all over the world. You would think that this would make the roads slicker, but it doesn't. In most places, it rains enough that the slippery goo washes away before building up too much, so it doesn't become a problem.
In Phoenix, things are a bit different. We don't get a lot of rain. It's not really uncommon to go months at a time between rains, so you can see that the oily, greasy goo builds up on the roadbeds. When the road is dry, this isn't much of a problem, because in the great scheme of things, it's not a lot of goo, and it tends to hide in the pores of the asphalt.
But when it rains, watch out! For the first few minutes of the rain, the goo starts to rise, then the action of the goo and water being squeezed between the roadbed and tires starts to turn it into a mousse-like substance, which can really be slick. You really can't see it very well with the naked eye. You kind of have to look at the roadbed at an oblique angle, with a light pointing to the road, and reflecting back to your eyes to see the telltale "rainbow" of oil on top of water.
This wouldn't normally present a huge problem, but other factors come into play. Because it doesn't rain much, a lot of people here in Phoenix don't pay much attention to the tread depth of their tires. Shallow tread, or even "slick" tires aren't much of a problem on dry roads. But when the roads get wet... well, you get the picture.
Plus, Phoenix seems to be the tailgating capital of the world. Also, so many people commonly travel at speeds very much in excess of the speed limit, even on city streets, not to mention the freeways.
Put all these factors together, and it's a recipe for disaster. It wouldn't surprise me to hear of a at least one, and possibly several, multi-car tailgate chain-reaction type collisions before the end of the day.
As for me, I'm staying off the road today. I'll be leaving for Tucson in a few hours, to visit with Johnny Wraith, but between now and then I'm staying inside, listening to the rain, and getting a few things done around the old homestead. So far, my laundry is done, although I haven't hung everything up yet (I'd rather write than do laundry any day of the week). The floors are vacuumed, the sheets are changed on my bed, and I've sorted through the stuff that just seems to pile up, and thrown out a bunch of junk. Next I'll tackle the dishes, clean the kitchen and bathroom, and be done just it time to hit the road to Tucson.
A weekend of fun and debauchery in the company of my old pal, Johnny Wraith, awaits. We'll poor one back, to salute the rain, and one more to salute all of you. The rest we'll just pour back for effect. And what an effect they shall have on us! I don't imagine I'll be able to see straight much past nine o'clock tonight! Cheers!
I hope to see you out there on the road. Just not so close in the rear view mirror, okay!
The Cab Guy
PS - I've promised to reveal the the sordid details of how I almost got fired, and why I ultimately did switch cab companies. I'm working on those articles. But I want to let johnny Wraith (yes, he really is a lawyer) review them before posting. I'll get them up as soon as I can. Stay tuned: there's lots of drama!
Friday, November 30, 2007
I guess technically I should have called this post "Weather Report and Down Time," since I'm going to talk about the weather first, but it's my blog, and I'll do want I want. Plus, I just like the way it sounds.
Posted by The Cab Guy at 1:45 PM
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Well, I didn't do much of anything today, but at least I had plenty of time to do it.
Since I'll be going down to Tucson Friday night, to visit with Johnny Wraith through the weekend, I decided to take today and Friday off, and get a few things done around my apartment.
Also, I went over to my Mom's house to help her clean the filter for her central heating and cooling unit. The actual amount of time it takes to do this is about fifteen minutes, but you have to let the filter dry after washing it, and that takes about and hour and a half.
So Mom and I sat around talking, and watching various "Judge" shows, like "Judge Joe Brown" and "Judge Judy." After watching about ninety minutes of this garbage, I came to the realization that there are an incredible number of really dumb people in the world, and that any number of them are willing to go on national television to prove it.
After the filter was dry and reinstalled, my Mom took me out for a pizza. We went to my favorite pizza joint in the area, Ralph's La Hacienda Pizzeria, 15236 N. 59th Avenue, in Glendale, (602) 978-2780, on the southwest corner of Greenway and 59th. I've been going there for over thirty years, ever since high school, and when ever I'm near my Mom's house, I stop in, usually with her, to have some pizza or spaghetti.
Recently, Ralph died, and the place was sold, so technically it's now Long Wong's Wings and Ralph's Pizza, but that's a real mouthful. Anyway, I only go there for the pizza, which is just as good as ever. I like wings, too, but there are other Long Wong's near my house; there's only one Ralph's. I wasn't going to do anything other than scarf a pizza.
The medium cheese and meatball pizza went down real smooth. When you're in the area, give Ralph's a try. You might like it. It doesn't matter to me, it won't change my mind.
I hope to see you out there on the road.
The Cab Guy
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Well, I had a very full and interesting day today.
But unfortunately, not enough time to write about it.
Yesterday, I was threatened with being fired, but was spared the axe. Today, after reviewing my options, I decided to quit. I didn't do anything that was really wrong, but was caught being a little too curious about why the company was allowing certain drivers to grow fat (financially) at the expense of all the rest of us, even though we all pay the same lease, and how it was being done. Watch for all the sordid details in up-coming posts over the next few days.
Speaking of fat, don't worry about The Cab Guy not being able to buy groceries and being forced onto a diet due to a lack of funds. I've already being hired by another taxi firm, which at 300+ cabs is the major competition of the firm I used to work for. The President of the new company welcomed me personally to the new firm!
I'm going to work a shift tomorrow to activate my contract, then take a few days off to visit Johnny Wraith down in Tucson. I'll be taking along my notebook computer so that I can keep up with this blog.
I hope to see you out there on the road.
The Cab Guy
Posted by The Cab Guy at 9:45 PM
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Here's an update to my posting of Saturday, November 24, 2007.
If you've read the original post, you know that Friday night, November 23, I had a
guy walk out on his fare. As of the time of Saturday's posting, Joe hadn't responded to my note requesting he call me and make arrangements to pay, hence my rant.
If you haven't read the post, see If It Walks Like a Duck... for all the details.
Tonight, Joe left me an voicemail saying he left twenty dollars in an envelope under the welcome mat in front of his door, and I could come by and pick it up anytime. Since he lives only about two miles from me, I went right over to get the Andy Jackson. After retrieving the money, I wrote on the envelope, "Thanks Joe, I appreciate this. No hard feelings."
Maybe I was a little hasty in calling Joe a "drunken pissant." Although he could have coughed up the cash a little sooner.
Maybe I'll see you out there on the road.
The Cab Guy
Monday, November 26, 2007
To provide some much needed diversion and entertainment, after work tonight, I went to my favorite casino, to play a little Blackjack. Watching other people in the game caused to me think about why some people play the way they do.
I use a strict "basic strategy" style of play when I play "21", and vary my bets to take advantage of winning streaks, while diluting the effects of losing streaks.
For example, I almost always (greater than 98% of the time) hit a 16 when the dealer's up card is a 7 or better.
I know the math, and proven it for myself. Standing on 16, hoping the dealer does not have a "made hand" (17 through 21) is a statistical loser 72% of the time, because 72% of the time the dealer will in fact have a made hand, or draw to one, taking your money. Alternatively, hitting 16, even with it's unfavorable chance of busting (eight of thirteen cards, the 6 through King), produces a statistical loss only 60 percent of the time, because five of thirteen cards (5 down to the Ace) will produce a tie, or a better hand than the dealer.
Putting it another way, this means that standing on sixteen (against a 7 or better) wins only 28% of the time, while hitting produces a winner 40% of the time. This is a significant difference.
So if you're a gambler, and play Blackjack, please leave a comment explaining what you do in this situation, hit or stay, and why. I promise not to try to argue the rightness or wrongness of your strategy. I'm just curious. Who knows, maybe I'm missing something here.
By the way, I won three hundred dollars on a two hundred dollar "buy-in" while playing at a ten dollar minimum bet table. That was certainly entertaining, and I diverted the winnings directly into my bank account. The icing on the cake? The casino gave me a ten dollar meal ticket, to encourage me to come back another time. I ordered a steak, egg and hash browns plate, to go. It will make a delicious breakfast.
I hope to see you out there on the road.
The Cab Guy
Sunday, November 25, 2007
All my life I've heard how important it is to not disregard the little things. Actually, the advice is usually stated this way: "Take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves." This advice is so appropriate in the cab world.
At least once a day, someone will get in my cab and say something like,
"I'm sorry this is such a short trip, but I only need to go to..."
and they name someplace that's close by. This happened to me three times today. The only reason I can think of for someone to apologize for how short a fare might be is that some other cabbie, in the past, has made it obvious that he (or she) was very disappointed to get a short fare, as opposed to a longer one, and made that disappointment obvious to the customer. This experience probably left the customer embarrassed, and feeling that many or all cabbies feel this way, hence the need to apologize to me.
You don't need to apologize to me. I'm never sorry to get a fare, any fare, because they all fall to the bottom line. Sure, it can be tedious to get a whole string of five or six dollar calls, all in a row, but I usually don't worry about it. I know that by the end of the day, or week, or month, everything will balance out, and I'll have received my fair share of short, medium and long fares, and make a pretty good living for doing my job.
You see, my average fare, with tip, is currently (over the past year) about seventeen dollars. Today I took ten calls in about eight hours, and booked $191.00, a little above my per-call average, but it's in the ball park. A normal day is usually about eleven or twelve hours, twenty to thirty calls, and total bookings of $275.00 to $325.00. (For the purpose of accounting for my time, I include "no shows" in my trip count, which tends to skew the per-call average down.)
If I were to adopt a business plan that demanded I refuse to do any call that was less than, say, twenty dollars, you can easily see I'd be giving up somewhat more than half my usual total bookings. After my expenses for gasoline (a variable expense equal to about 12 to 15% percent of bookings) and cab lease (fixed, regardless of bookings), I'd end up taking home way less than half of what I usually do.
Gas and lease for a $300.00 day is about $140.00, netting me about $160.00. Gas and lease for a $150.00 day (say maybe five to seven hours) would be around $125 or so, netting me $25.00. This would be a quick way to go broke. (Today was a horse of a different color: It was my "free" day. The company from which I lease my cab only charges me for six days, if I keep the cab for seven. Thus, the seventh day is free. So my total net income was about what I'd usually make on a regular day. I don't need to work the "free day." But today I had nothing better to do.)
So I take every call that our dispatching system offers me. More calls, however big or small they are, equals more income, which can only be a good thing for me. Now, if you call me personally on my cell phone, I do require a twenty dollar minimum payment. I assume you want me, rather than some other random cabbie, because of the superior level of service you think I provide. Let's face it, you have pay to get what you want. I'm not being hypocritical, just practical: if I have to drop everything and drive twenty miles to get you, rather than take a call within a mile or two of where I am right now, I need to be compensated for the extra effort.
Folks, never apologize to a cabbie for taking a short trip. If you feel a cabbie is disdainful of you because you're not going very far, ignore him. You are the bread and butter of the personal transportation industry, at least here in the Phoenix market, for the segment I serve. If every person who needed a "short trip" were to all of a sudden start walking, I, and a lot of other cabbies would have to go and find another job.
Personally, I don't want to do that. I like what I do. Sure, I've had higher paying jobs, with more "status" or "prestige." But those jobs always came with a cost. I had to do what someone else told me to do. I had to do it his way. On his schedule. At his whim. For the same pay as other people in the same job, who likely didn't do it as well as I did. To a person like me, that's a mind-numbing trap.
True story: when I was an adult probation officer, for ninety months in a row, more than seven years, I operated at 150% or more of expected performance requirements. But my pay was identical to the guy who could barely manage to stay above 97%. As a matter of fact, for eighty-four of those months, all in a row, I was the top ranked APO in my department, yet I received the exact same pay that every other APO with a similar "time in grade" received.
At the risk of being tedious, allow me to repeat what I said earlier. I like what I do. I'm my own boss. I get to work when I want, where I want. My schedule is my own. If I want to cut out early, I don't need permission. If I want to take a day off, I don't have to lie, and call in sick. If I work harder than the next guy, I'll make more than he does. If I make less, it's because I slacked off, I have no one to blame but myself.
Unless I decide to become a multi-cab owner, and lease cabs out to other drivers, I'll never get rich in this business. But I do okay financially, and I really like what I do. Not too many people, if they're really being honest, can say that about their job. I know. It hear the complaints from the back seat every day.
I'll trade the security of mediocrity for the rewards of excellence every day of the week. Especially if Sunday is free!
I hope to see you out there on the road.
The Cab Guy
Saturday, November 24, 2007
If you were to think about it logically, not everyone who acts the way a thief would act is a thief. But every thief who acts like a thief certainly is. So how do you tell the difference between two people exhibiting thief-like behavior? Which one is the criminal, and which one doesn't realize how his behavior looks to an observer?
I post this observation, and the attendant question, because of something that happened to me last night, and something that happened today.
Before I get to the story of the two situations, I want to make it perfectly clear that I understand that it is not always easy for a person to see that his behavior may be negatively perceived, because he does not perceive his behavior to be negative. The political correctness crowd have convinced us that stereotyping is an invalid method of determining potential dangers in our midst. They say that just because something walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and lays duck eggs, doesn't mean that it's a duck.
Bullshit, I say! If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and lays duck eggs, it's a duck. If you dress like a thug, talk like a thug, and act like a thug, you may be the valedictorian of your class at the local Parochial school... but pardon me, if you don't mind (and I don't give rat's ass if you do), if I assume you're a thug, and take steps to protect me and mine until you prove otherwise. How a person is perceived is at least as much the responsibility of that person, and I say much more, as that of someone observing him.
With that, let me tell you the story of my night and day.
I usually work during the day, as I find that the "Weirdness Quotient" is lower than at night, plus it allows me to have at least the opportunity of a somewhat normal life outside of my cab. However, Friday was a very slow day, so I went home for a few hours to rest, intending to go out later and make a few extra bucks.
After getting back on the streets at about 1030pm, my very first call took me to Pomeroy's a very nice tavern/bar at the intersection of Missouri Avenue and Camelback Road, where I was to pick up Joe. I later found out that Joe was a friend of the owner of the establishment. He was also clearly highly intoxicated. I escorted him out to my car, helped him in, and took him home. He gave me the old "take me to such-and-such a corner." When we got to that corner, he said to go straight, and he'd point out his house. Well, we got to the next corner without him saying a word. By requiring him to sit up straight, look out the window and point out his house, I was able to get him home.
While I waited, he went through his pockets, but couldn't come up with any money. He then said he would have to go inside to get some money. I told him I'd wait, but reminded him that the meter was still running. He never came back. I left a note on his door to call me, but here we are, almost twenty-four hours later, and he has yet to do so.
Last night, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, figuring that in his drunken state he merely forgot that I was outside waiting. I also presume that he did not know that his script of "I need to get money from the house" is a common ploy among the thug set. So at the time, I hoped for the best, left him the note, and figured he'd call me.
That he didn't has led me to change my mind.
Joe, if you're reading this, you need to know that I think you're a thief. Everyone else reading this thinks the same thing, because if you weren't, you'd have called by now to make reparations. I know where you live. That I don't publish your address, a picture of your house, and your car's license plate is charity on my part, not fear of retaliation from you, you drunken pissant!
Now on to the second event, from today, about 130pm to be precise.
I went to a Denny's to pick up someone who I'll call "Sidney", because I don't remember this name. I was on-site within three minutes of receiving the call, which obviously pleased Sidney. He got in the car, with a plastic garbage bag full of who-knows-what, and told me where he wanted to go, which was about three miles away. I started the meter, and we were off. He asked what the fare would be. I said about ten dollars (it actually turned out to be a little over nine). He then said to take him as far as I could for six dollars.
Now, because the "flag drop" is $2.50 (the minimum service charge just for showing up), and the per-mile charge is $1.80, six dollars would only get him about halfway there. I told him this. When we got to six on the meter, he said to keep going, that he'd just as soon pay what it took to get the rest of the way there. Arriving at his destination, the meter, which Sydney could clearly see, said $9.40. However, I only asked him to pay nine, hoping I'd end up with ten, but figuring I wouldn't, because of his evident miserliness over how much the fare would be. If he really didn't want to spend money on himself, then my needs would be probably be disregarded.
Rather than paying me right away, Sidney opened the car door, grabbed his garbage bag, and started to step out.
Does this remind you of anything? It did me.
See, almost everyone who ever ripped me off by not paying the fare stepped out of the cab as a prelude to taking off.
Sidney walked like a duck.
Remember how I said he asked what the fare would be, changed his destination over a money issue, and then directed me to continue on to his original destination? This is a common ploy of thieves. First, a thief would want to lure me into a false sense of security. I'm supposed to think, "Well he has money, just not enough to get him where he really wants to go. But, he's being upfront about his money issue, so he'll at least pay me for the shorter trip." Then thief reverts to his original destination, to set me off balance. Whatever his actual motivation, Sidney's behavior mimicked that of a thief.
Sidney quacked like a duck.
As to the garbage bag, it was Sidney's duck egg.
I don't want to get into a long-winded explanation of why it was a red flag. It was a garbage bag, for pity' sake, not a Louis Vuitton briefcase! Anyone with three days experience in the cab world would have looked at it askance.
So I said to him, "Sir (yes, I actually did use the word "Sir"), you need to pay me before you exit the car."
This brought him up short. He said, "But I need to stand up to get to my wallet!"
A likely story.
I'm not exactly what you'd call svelte. As a matter of fact, to refer to me as merely "husky" is a grand compliment. As big as I am (and believe me, I'm huge, at over six feet tall, weighing in at three hundred pounds), I can still easily get my hand under either one of the enormous Christmas hams that comprise my buttocks, to get to my wallet. He should have be able to do the same, as he was a medium-sized man wearing loose clothing.
Sidney couldn't see that his actions could be perceived as the prelude to a theft, given the circumstances under which cabbies have to operate. He's like many people, oblivious to the fact that their actions speak may volumes about how they may act in the future. No explanation would have convinced him otherwise.
With evident anger, Sidney handed me a ten dollar bill. I gave him a dollar, although I could have rightly returned him only sixty cents.
Grabbing his garbage bag, Sidney blurted out, "I was gonna give you that dollar as a tip! But because of what you said, I won't!"
After years of hearing this king of crap, I couldn't help it. I let fly:
"Shut up! You were not, so don't lie and tell me you were. Garbage bag haulin', money-grubbing, 'I really don't want to pay more than six dollars', steppin'-out-of-the-cab-to-pay-me people like you never do! So have a nice day!"
His response was predictable.
"You're an asshole, do you know that?"
"Yep. And damn proud to be one. I earned the title, and wear it with pride! See ya, and I'm damn sure I wouldn't want to be ya!"
Damn, after years of taking crap from literally hundreds of people who've played the "I would tip you, but..." game, in all of it's manifestations, it felt good to finally let all that anger out. I felt like I would have after having having divested myself of a three-week colon blockage!
I forgave myself for my lack of professionalism, and dropping the tranny into 'Drive,' I cruised away to my next fare.
Have a nice day, Sidney. Have a nice effing day! No cabbie would buy your bullshit.
Thanks for listening.
Sincerely, The Cab Guy
Friday, November 23, 2007
A friend of mine operates a website/blog named Johnny Wraith Stories (link on sidebar). This is where he posts his fiction stories, allows others to post their stories, receives comments on his stories, and comments others stories. The other day he posted a question about gambling.
Here's Johnny's question:
So, is there a trick to winning at slots? For instance, if I have $100, do I just put it in any machine and hit MAX BET until I am out or rich, or do I switch from machine to machine based on some algorithm, or do I limit my bets based on results, or what?
Maybe because I'm closer to Johnny that the average person, I understood that it was a joke question designed to "stir up the pot." He does this from time to time, just to see if any responses might generate story ideas. Some people obviously didn't get the joke. Some called Johnny stupid, while others implored him to invest his money more wisely.
I liked my answer the best. But then again, I'm an ego maniac. For your enjoyment, or disgust, here's what I said:
If you're going to throw your money away on gambling anyway, the best way to obtain maximum benefit and enjoyment from a one hundred dollar bill is follow this simple, five-step process:
1. Take your hundred-dollar bill, go to a nice restaurant, have a forty dollar meal, leave ten for a tip, and insist you get your change in the form of a single fifty-dollar bill. Go home. Maybe listen to some soft music, or put in a DVD. Relax until you hear the call of nature.
2. Answer the call, taking along the fifty-dollar bill, and one of those resealable sandwich bags. Sit down on the throne, relax, and let nature take it's course. Meanwhile, pull out the fifty, and examine it closely. Look at the intricate design formed by the engraved plate upon the paper. Leave no detail unexamined. Commit it to memory. Consider how you exchanged one piece of paper, similar to the fifty, for a meal, and received a different piece of paper in return, and how absurd this course of action would appear to an African Bushman. When you are done doing your business, instead of toilet paper, use the fifty. Be careful: it's smaller, and rougher. It will get the job done, if you're patient. When your ass is clean, place the fifty in the sandwich bag, very carefully sealing the bag. Stand up, buckle up, and wash up.
3. Go down to the nastiest part of town, and find the dirtiest, grungiest, smelliest hobo you can. Give him the fifty, safely secured in the sandwich bag, telling him he can only use the bill to buy himself a nice dinner. Drive him to the restaurant where you had dinner. Recommend his courses to him; remind him which wines would be appropriate. Tell him to tell the waitress to "keep the change."
4. Go home and consider how this whole process is a metaphor for life. It's how shit get passed down.
5. Laugh until you cry.
Drive a cab for more than a few months, and you may find this to be your attitude towards life. Though I resist, sometimes it is for me.
The Cab Guy
PS - I highly recommend going to Johnny's website. It's a hoot. There's a link on the sidebar.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I really couldn't think of anything to write today. Except for "I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving. Be grateful for what you have received. Treat your family right. Don't eat to much. Brush and floss before bed."
Meanwhile, check out these picture of birds I'd like to see at my holiday dinner. Yummy!
Hey, what do you want? I'm addicted to bad jokes and puns! But wouldn't these "birds" make up a great dinner party? You betcha!
The Cab Guy
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
A few years back, in my Fast Lane Magazine column, I wrote a little rant concerning drinking and driving. As we enter the holiday season, I think you might find it educational.
The Cab Guy Pleads for Sober Driving
Now, before we begin the fun, I would like to make a seasonal plea for sanity during the upcoming holiday party season. I know that some of you who are reading this are going to totally ignore the advice that I am about to give, but that’s okay, because there are always going to be idiots that cannot do the right thing, no matter what the situation. Therefore, this little slug of advice that I am going to impart is for the rest of you out there, who can change, if given reason enough to do so. So here it is: DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!
Because Fast Lane Magazine is distributed at quite a few bars, clubs and lounges throughout the Valley, the chances are, those of you who are reading this right now probably received your copy from a drinking establishment. I am hoping that if you are reading this while you are in a bar, club or lounge, and you are consuming a tasty adult beverage, you will do the right thing, the smart thing, and take a taxi home. You have no excuse not to, as so many of the cab companies in the Valley offer some form of a "free ride back" program, where you pay for a cab ride home, and the cab company gives you a free ride back to your car in the morning. What could be easier?
If a personal plea from me, your Cab Guy, isn’t enough to keep you from getting behind the wheel after having one or more adult beverages, and if the offer of a "free ride back" isn’t enough to keep you off the road when you aren’t 100% sober, then you must be one of those people who thinks that he or she is okay to drive because you haven’t had that much to drink. I guess the thinking goes something like this:
"I haven’t had that much to drink, so I won’t be over the 'legal limit' of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, therefore I cannot be convicted of Driving While Intoxicated, so I must be okay to drive!"
People, what kind of thinking is this? Although you may have a blood alcohol content under .08, that does not mean you are safe to drive, and it certainly does not mean that you cannot be convicted of Driving Under the Influence.
I know that at this very moment, some of you are thinking, "Hey Cab Guy, if my BAC is under .08, how can I be convicted of DUI?"
Well folks, listen up, pay attention, and you might learn something. DWI and DUI are not the same thing!
That’s right, folks, DWI and DUI are not the same thing. They are two separate offenses, exclusive of each other, and are treated as such in the Arizona Criminal Code. DWI relates to the amount of alcohol that you have in your system at the time that you operate a motor vehicle, while DUI relates to the effect of alcohol on your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. You can be convicted of DUI if you drive after having only one drink containing alcohol, if it affects your ability to drive "to the slightest degree."
Once again for, the condensed version, for the mouth breathers: even if your blood alcohol content is under .08, you can be convicted of DUI! So stop putting yourself, and others, in danger: if you’ve been drinking, even if it’s only a little, don’t get behind the wheel. Take a cab, or have a sober friend drive you home!
Since I first wrote this, several years ago, Arizona's DWI-DUI laws have gotten even more draconian. More and more people are finding this out the hard way, by having to spend significant time in jail, as well as thousaands of dollars in legal fees, fines and extra insurance premiums, for being what they thought was "okay to drive."
Plus, having to deal with the costs associated with a suspended driver's license isn't a lot of fun, either. Get a DWI-DUI, and your chances of meeting me or one of my cohorts in person will significantly increase. How dumb will you feel to have a perfectly serviceable car in your driveway, but still have to take a cab everywhere you go? Believe me, the cost of a few cab rides home during the holiday season, or any season, for that matter, is a lot cheaper than having to take a cab to work every day for what could be a long, long time!
Please don't be a statistic. Don't drink and drive. Ever. Even one may be too many.
The Cab Guy
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Hello my friends, thanks for calling on me, business has been a little slow lately, and I could use a few more 'personal' trips like this. At the time I write this, the Thanksgiving pig-out is still several days away. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict I will probably consume about three times as many calories in a single sitting as I usually do in an entire day. And since I am a pretty big guy, that is, quite frankly, a scary thought.
I hope all of you reading this have a pleasant Thanksgiving season, and are truly grateful for all that you have received in your life. I know that I am, although I don’t always remember to consider it so.
Now, although I am not a character in the little tale to follow, it is, in fact, a true Taxi Tale. As a matter of fact, I happen to think it is one of the best Taxi Tales I have heard in a long time, and I’ve heard hundreds of them. The protagonist, whoops, I’m sorry, I guess I should have said main character or hero, is currently a truck driver, but he used to drive a cab in Seattle. His name is Mike L., and I met him while playing poker one night out at Gila River’s Wildhorse Pass Casino. Although the poker game was fun, Mike’s telling of his story was the cherry on top. Anyway, sit back, relax, and enjoy Mike’s story, in his own words. I call it…
“How Much to Wenatchee?”
As I was saying earlier, I used to drive a cab in Seattle. I did this for about ten years, and really enjoyed it. Probably the story that most sticks out in my mind is the time I got a call in the middle of the night to go to a convenience store that I knew was closed at that time of the night. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I decided to check it out. Anyway, when I got there, I didn’t see anyone right away, but as I pulled around in the parking lot, this guy jumped out of the bushes on the side of the building. He had to be one of the dirtiest, filthiest people I had ever experienced in my career. His clothes were filthy, and he had quiet an impressive bush of hair growing out of his head. He wasn’t the scariest person I had ever seen, but he was right up there, I’ll tell you!
Anyway, I roll down the window, and ask him if he was the person that called for the cab. He said that he was, so I asked him where it was that he wanted to go. He said that he needed to get to Wenatchee, and wondered if I could give him a good rate. Now, in case you don’t know, a trip from Seattle to Wenatchee takes about four hours, and involves a trip over the mountains east of Seattle. That’s a pretty good run, and if a person was serious, I’d really be up for it, because even allowing for the round trip, I’d still have several hours left of my shift, and with the fare to Wenatchee, plus whatever I could make when I got back to Seattle, I’d have a pretty good payday. I figured this guy was whacked out, and having a little fun at my expense, but I went ahead and offered him a pretty good rate of two hundred dollars.
I really didn’t think that he had that kind of money, so imagine my surprise when he hauled out a wad of cash that would choke an elephant. He handed me the two hundred dollars, and I unlocked the doors, and let him in the car. Now, just as soon as I let him in the car, I knew that I was going to earn my two hundred dollars, because this guy really smelled bad. And what’s worse, it was the dead of winter, so driving to Wenatchee with the windows rolled down was going to be a test of my endurance. But, I thought about the two bills, and decided to tough it out.
As soon as the guy got settled in, I got on the radio to let dispatch know where I was going, and made a few calls on my cell phone to some of the guys I worked with, to see if they had any information regarding the weather conditions along the route I planned to take through Stevens Pass.
At this point the guy sits up real close to the back of my seat and asks me,
‘Do you have to always be talking on the phone and the radio?’
Yes, I tell him, it’s part of the business, I need to keep my company informed of what I’m doing, check on the weather, stuff like that. I’m sorry if it bothers you, I say, but it is part of what I do. Why don’t you just sit back and relax?
At this point the guy kind of leans back, falls over, pulls his feet up, and starts to cry. Great, I’m thinking, I’m really going to earn this fare! I’m already thinking that this trip can’t end soon enough, and we’re only about five or ten minutes along the way.
After a few minutes of crying, or moaning, or what have you, my passenger sits up, leans forward, and asks,
Are you going with me all the way?'
'What?', I say.
'You’re gonna go with me all the way, aren’t you?,' he says.
'Yeah, of course, you’ve paid me, I’ll get you where you’re going.'
This must have pleased him, because in the rear-view mirror, I could see a big smile on his face and he leaned back in the seat. And proceeded to take off his shoes. Revealing the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest feet I had ever seen! I really didn’t think that after getting a wiff of those beauties that things could get any more interesting, but I was wrong.
For a little while, the guy stayed back in the seat, alternately crying, laughing, and moaning. This was a little freaky, but I didn’t mind, because we were making pretty good time, and I preferred what he was doing, to all the other things that he could have been doing. But, these fun times were too good to last, because after a while he sat up, and again asked me,
‘You’re going with me all the way, aren’t you? You’re really with me all the way, right?’
'Right,' I said, 'whatever.'
All of a sudden, he sat back on the seat, sat up real straight, and asked me if I also practiced the ‘Black Arts’. I could practically hear the capital letters in the way he said it.
'You practice the Black Arts don’t you? You’re going to take me all the way aren’t you?'
'Yes, of course, I’m going to take you all the way to Wenatchee!', I said. 'Please just sit back and relax, we’ll be there in just a little while!'
Man, this guy was really starting to freak me out. We were coming up on Stevens Pass, so I really had to concentrate on my driving, and wasn’t paying real close attention to the guy.
Now remember, it was wintertime, and it was cold, and in Washington you have to know that it’s wet and icy on the road. All of a sudden, completely out of the blue, the guy says,
'Come on, let’s go, you said you were going all the way with me!', opened the curbside door, and jumped out of the car.
'Holy Shit!', I’m thinking, the guy just jumped out of my car!
I look in the rear-view mirror, and see him tumbling end over end. I brake to a stop as quick as I can, and back up to check on the guy, but already, in my mind, I’m thinking that I’m going to be calling in to report a dead body to the police. As I back up, I see the guy get up, and stagger around a bit. I’m so relieved to see that he’s okay, that what happened next took me completely by surprise. He kind of shook himself off, and started running across the highway, towards the cliff-side edge. I couldn’t believe it! He didn’t slow down at all, he just ran up to the barrier, and dove over. Headfirst. To a pretty long drop.
Well, I got out my flashlight, but when I looked over the edge, I couldn’t see him at all. Since we were deep in the mountains, neither my cell phone, nor my two-way radio, were working. I had to drive up the top of the pass to use a pay phone at a gas station that was closed. Then I drove back to the place he jumped, and waited for help.
Because it was such an isolated location, it took a while for a Sheriff’s Deputy to arrive on the scene. When he did, I relayed the story, just the way I’ve told you. Then I got his nasty, smelly shoes out of my car, and gave them to the deputy. I told the deputy that if the guy survived, he’d probably want his shoes back. I then got back in my car, and started driving back to Seattle.
When I got back into range, I got a message on the two-way that dispatch had been informed by the Sheriff’s Department what had happened, and I was to call dispatch, to give them the details. So, I got out my cell phone, and called the company. The dispatcher said that he had only one question for me, because everyone was real curious, and wanted to know: did I get the money up front, or not?
I couldn’t believe it! After all I went through, the guy freaking me out, jumping out of the car, jumping over the cliff, and then disappearing, and all they wanted to know was if I got the money up front. What the hell could they be thinking?
I’m a professional! Of course I got the money up front!
But, that isn’t the end of the story.
A few hours later, I was told to call the Sheriff’s Department, which I did. The deputy I spoke to told me that my passenger had been found. Naked. That’s right… naked! He was just walking around naked, apparently physically unharmed. He was taken to the local looney-bin, and checked in for a little rest.
But… that’s not the end of the story.
A few weeks later, I picked up a doctor at that same mental hospital. I asked him if he had heard the story, and asked me if I was the driver. I said I was, and asked what happened to the guy.
He said, 'Oh, we shipped that wacko out of here!'
So, at least now I know the official medical term for what was wrong with the guy! He was a wacko!
Thus ended Mike's story.
There you have it friends. Just remember, contrary to what Forest Gump said, life is not like a box of chocolates. It’s more like a jar of jalapeno peppers: what you to eat today could burn you in the ass tomorrow! See you next time.
The Cab Guy
(A version of this posting previously appeared in my Fast Lane Magazine Column, "Road Rage - Tales From the Taxi!")
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday morning when I came out to work, it didn't appear as if there were very many calls on the dispatch system. Certainly, none of them were anywhere near me. So I went on down to the Greyhound Bus Station to see what I could scare up. I wasn't disappointed.
As soon as I pulled onto the property, I saw that no other taxis were waiting for fares, so I was first up. I pulled the cab right up in front of the door, and sat back to await my first fare of the day. I didn't have to wait long, nor did I have to go very far to get that person where he was going.
Upon my return to the Greyhound I found that I was first up again. Once again I pulled up right in front of the door to wait for a fare. But this time, rather than kicking back in the cab, I got out to stretch my legs. Three cabs pulled in almost immediately, so I knew that I'd have someone to talk to if the wait was long. But, getting out of the cab, and leaning against the trunk must have been interpreted as an invitation to have a conversation, as a leather-jacketed man made a beeline over to my cab.
But I was wrong about him wanting to have a conversation. He wanted to talk alright: about how to get him from where he was, to where he wanted to go. The problem was, while where he was could be described in the physical world, where he wanted to go seemed to be more in the realm of an intellectual concept. The Phoenix Greyhound Bus station, having a particular address and cross streets, could be located on a map. His destination, lacking even an accurate proper name, could not be located, even in his own mind.
You see, where he wanted to go was the hotel where he had a reservation and a confirmation number, which he showed me written down a piece of paper. But he couldn't remember the name of the hotel.
"I want to go to the AmeriBest Hotel. Do you know where it is?", he asks.
"No, but I have a phone book, I can look up the address."
"You don't need to do that, I have the phone number right here," and showed me the piece of paper again.
I dialed the number, and wasn't surprised to find it out of service.
"The number's disconnected, sir."
"Well, maybe it isn't AmeriBest, maybe it America's Best."
Well, maybe it is, but 'America's Best' isn't listed in the phone book either, and I tell the guy that. Then I get the bright idea to ask some of the other cabbies if they might have a clue to where the guy wants to go. After consulting one cabbie who actually had what appeared to be a list of Phoenix area hotels, I thought that maybe where to guy wanted to go was 'America's Best Value Inn' in Tempe. The guy said it sounded familiar, he wasn't sure, but he was willing to take a chance. So we drove out to Tempe.
I had a nice conversation with the man, who's name turned out to be Eric. He had just come up from Benson, in southern Arizona, to start a new job with a trucking company. He would be staying at the hotel overnight, and in the morning, someone from the company would pick him up and take him to the truck yard, where he would pick up the semi-truck that he would be driving. He said he sure hoped that the hotel we were going to was the right one, otherwise, he didn't know what he'd have to do.
"Maybe next time write down the name and address of the hotel before leaving home?", I thought.
"Well, sir, if it's not the right place, there's lots of other places close by. I wouldn't worry about anything," I said.
After a leisurely ten minute drive, we pulled into the America's Best Value Inn. At this point the meter was at about $18.00. Eric went inside to see if he was in the right place. After a minute, I joined him. It turned out he wasn't in the right place. He did have a reservation at an America's Best Value Inn. But it was clear on the other side of Phoenix, as far west of the Greyhound as the one in Tempe was east of it.
After I jotted down the address of the other place, Eric and I hit the road again. This time we had a leisurely twenty-minute ride, but the conversation was still good. Eric wasn't mad at me for taking him to what turned out to be the wrong place. After all, he said, I did the best I could with the information I had. He didn't even seem to be too upset that by his own actions he had effectively tripled his cab fare. He seemed to be one of those perpetually calm people who take what comes their way, making no attempt to control what he can about what goes on around him.
Arriving at the other America's Best Value Inn, the meter now read $48.00. Eric gave me three twenties, and asked for two dollars back. Ten on forty-eight? Not a bad tip at all!
"I want you to have the extra ten for helping me as much as you did, making the phone calls and all. Thanks!"
"Well thank you, Eric. Good luck on the new job. Maybe I'll see you around some time."
With that, I got in the cab, and drove away. Back to the Greyhound. Where I was again instantly first up.
But I was think about how I was going to tell this story, and how I would end it. I decided it needed a moral, so I spent all the rest of Sunday composing it. And here it is:
"Everyone will eventually get to where they are going. But if they write down the name and address of their destination, they'll get there much. much quicker. And much, much cheaper!"
Thanks for listening.
The Cab Guy
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Have you ever met someone, started a conversation with them, and then come to realise that they clearly did not understand the rules of the "Conversation Game?" I met a guy like that just yesterday. I didn't kill or maim him, or damage him in any way. But I really wanted to!
I was driving my cab in Mesa yesterday, just trying to eke out a living. There weren't many calls in the east part of the Metro area, where Mesa is. I would have moved somewhere else, except that there weren't very many calls anywhere in the Phoenix area.
Around about four pm, I received a call to go pick up a fellow from a bar on Main Street. I don't really like bar calls at any time, but especially before sundown. Nighttime drinkers are bad enough; daytime drinkers are worse. They are more likely to be really drunk, less likely to be possessed of good humor, and more likely to be ridiculously ignorant. But, it is part of the job, so I put up with it.
A few minutes later I arrived at the bar, which shall remain unnamed, 'cause I don't need the potential legal hassles. But I will say this: the name of the bar is a synonym for 'a pig's thighbone.' Chew on that ham sandwich for a while.
Anyway, even before I opened the car door, I could hear the music blaring from the jukebox. I cringed at the thought of what having to actually enter the bar and expose my ears to the noise would do to my hearing. I prayed that my customer was seated near the door.
Entering the establishment, I made my way to the actual bar, where the bartender was conversing with a patron. As luck would have it, the patron was my customer. He asked if he could finish his beer. I nodded my assent, said I'd wait in the cab, and shot on out of there before my brain melted from the din.
A few minutes later, my customer, who I'll refer to as 'Jack', exited the bar, and made a beeline towards my car. Getting in, he told me the major cross streets to his destination. I put the car in drive, and away we went.
Jack immediately started a dialogue that was liberally spiced with epithets of all types, including the venerable F-bomb, but, oddly enough, lacking any trace of the N-word. Curious. Going on in this vein, he eventually wound down, and asked me how the cab business was going for me.
"Slow, today. But I'm doing alright, overall."
"Is this the only thing you do?", he asked. Why is it that so many people assume that being a cabbie isn't really a full-time profession, or really even a job?
"This is my full-time job, but I also write, and do stand-up comedy now and again."
"Who do you write for?"
"My loyal readers."
"What do you write?"
"Cab stories, and the occasional bit of 'wacky' fiction."
I then proceeded to tell him about the epic of degenerate excess that is growing, slowly, over at my other blog, Disco Bisquit (www.Doscobisquit.blogspot.com). I asked him if he knew where 'Tom Ryan's Bar' was. As it turned out, TRB was his destination. (Shocking... a day drinker going from one bar to another!) It also turned out that he knew that the previous name for the TRB was 'Group Therapy.' Which begat a round of "do you remember so and so...?"
Now let me fill you in on a few facts. About ten years ago, I used to hang out pretty regularly at Group Therapy. I was usually there on Wednesday nights for the Karaoke, and Saturday nights for the live band. I knew a few of the other semi-regulars, and they knew me. I can remember only a few names, but literally dozens of faces from that place. Keep this in mind as you try to follow the conversation ahead.
"So do you remember Jim?"
"No Jack, I'm not really good with names. I remember faces pretty well, but I have a hard time putting names to them. If you were to pull out a bunch of random photos, though, I could point out the people that went to Group Therapy, and the people who didn't."
"So you probably remember Corvette Bob, right?"
"No, Jack, like I said, I'm bad with names..."
"Well, you have to remember Tommy and his wife... what was her name?"
"Jack, like I said, I'm bad with names..."
"Oh, yeah! Now I remember! Her name was Diane. You remember Diane, dontcha?"
"No. The name thing, remember?"
"Yeah I know what you mean. But you gotta remember Jimmy. You remember Jimmy, right? Everyone knows Jimmy."
And that how the conversation went, for the next ten minutes. Probably the most excruciatingly painful ten-minutes from the last thirty days of my life. Jack would ask if I remembered someone. I'd reply in the negative, and every once in a while remind him that I wasn't good with names.
And I know the sunuvabitch knew I wasn't good with names. He heard me say it, several times. He even acknowledge that I said it! He just didn't care. He just wanted to me know how important he was, and the only way he had of doing this was dropping the names of other important people. And who were these important people? Regular, habitual drunks who patronized a bar that changed it's name almost ten years ago.
Thankfully, the trip finally ended, without me swerving the car into oncoming traffic, or pulling over and beating the leaving Hell out of Jack. He gave me a twenty for a seventeen dollar fare, which is a pretty generous tip. But not nearly the recompense I felt I was due for having to put up with this nimrod for almost twenty minutes.
Just before he exited the cab, I asked him...
"Say, Jack, do you remember Rick?"
"What about his girlfriend... what was her name? Laura, Loreen, Lori... Lauren! That's it, Lauren. You remember Lauren, don't you?"
"No, but then again..."
"How about Sammy? Shifty Sammy? Everybody knows Shifty Sammy. You gotta remember Shifty Sammy, dontcha?"
"Well, not really..."
"Well, Hell, Jack! What's going on here? I thought you knew everybody!"
He tossed me a dirty look, closed the cab door, turned, and shambled away into the bar.
Welcome to my world. If you want to hang out, you'd better pack a lunch.
The Cab Guy
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I've figured out that if I drive a cab long enough, I'm either going to meet a famous person, or meet someone who has the same name as a famous person. So far, it hasn't happened to me, but a cab driver friend I know did meet someone who shared the name of a relatively well-known movie character. I thought the outcome was hilarious!
Jeff E. is the name of my cabbie friend. We used to work for the same cab company in the Phoenix area, but I recently moved on to another company. We keep in regular contact by phone, sharing war stories, and comparing our daily results. I'll let Jeff tell the story his way:
One day, about a year ago, I went to a house to pick up a lady who's name was Sarah Connor. At least that was the name given to me by the dispatch system. As you probably know, "Sarah Connor" is the name the character played by Linda Hamilton in the "Terminator" movies. In the first movie of the series, the Terminator, as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, tries to kill Sarah; later on in the series he tries to save her from other terminators who are trying to kill her.
At one point Arnold's character meets Sarah, and says, "If you want to live, come with me!" I thought I might have a little fun with this situation, if the timing was right.
When I arrived at my Sarah Connor's house, I made sure that my Ray Ban sunglasses, like the ones the Terminator wore, were on straight. I then got out of the car, walked up to the door, and knocked on it. I waited a few seconds, then the door opened to reveal a very disheveled woman. In my very best 'Arnold' voice, I asked,
"Are you Sarah Connor?"
"Yes," she replied.
I then held my hand out to her, just like Arnie did in the movie, and said,
"If you want to live, come with me!"
I was only joking, but she totally freaked out! She screamed, slammed the door, and I never saw her again.
For a little while I was worried that I would get in trouble for what I had done. But I never heard of any complaints. I still laugh every time I think about the look on her face; it was hilarious!
Jeff called me up today to tell me that story. As soon as he said the name "Sarah Connor," I knew where he'd be going with the story. I started laughing almost immediately. Every time I've thought of it since I've had to giggle.
Thanks, Jeff, for letting me tell your story!
The Cab Guy
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Most of the time, when a person steps out of my cab, they effectively step out of my life. My memory of them usually fades quicker than a bright shirt dropped in a vat of bleach. But I'm still thinking about Steffan...
I was at the Greyhound Bus station Thursday night, waiting for a 'go home' fare. I had been sitting in the 'first-up' position for about thirty minutes, after waiting 'on-deck' for an additional thirty minutes. I was beginning to wonder if it was really worth waiting at the station for a fare, or if I should just try to get a call off the dispatch system.
To me, it wasn't a good sign when the third-place cabbie, a Greyhound stand veteran, decided to leave without picking up a fare. What did he know that I didn't? I didn't feel much better when the second place guy also started to leave. I watched him pull up to the parking lot exit, and activate on his turn signal. It was obvious that he was waiting for traffic to clear. Traffic cleared for a few seconds, but he didn't go. Then his backup lights came on. This could only mean that he had a reason to stay... Turning back to the Greyhound entry, I saw people starting to stream out of the door.
I young man, who I later found out was named Steffan, walked over to my cab. Steffan was burdened by a HUGE backpack, and was pushing one of those tricycle baby strollers, it being overladen with bags of various types of foodstuffs. He replied in the positive when I asked him if he needed a cab. Opening my truck, I helped him get his backpack and the food bags secured. The stroller wouldn't fit in the trunk, but luckily, it folded, and we were able to place it on the back seat. I asked Steffan where he wanted to go. He pointed to a map he was holding, indicating the intersection of Main Street and Country Club road in Mesa. Woo Hoo! I had my go home fare!
As we headed east towards Mesa, Steffan and I began to talk. He had a accent similar to German, but otherwise spoke very clear English. I never did get around to asking him where he was from. He told me he walking across America for cancer. I assume that what he really meant was that he was walking across America because he was opposed to cancer, and was trying to raise money to help find a cure. It turned out that this was the correct interpretation.
As it turns out, Steffan does not have anyone sponsoring him in his endeavor. He does have a list of people who have pledged to donate to a particular charity if he completes the trip. But no sponsors. Steffan is taking money out of his own pocket to cover all of his costs as he walks across the United Staes, from California to Georgia. Quite dedicated to his cause, Steffan is.
I wondered why it was that I met him at the Greyhound Station, if he was walking across America. As it turns out, about ten days into his trip, Steffan ended up in Blythe, California. After spending about a day asking around for various roads or highways to take him further along, he found out that the only road east was Interstate 10. He said he didn't get too far out of town before a Highway Patrol Officer stopped him, saying it was illegal to walk along the side of an interstate highway. The officer then drove him back to Blythe, where he caught the bus to Phoenix. He wanted to use Mesa as his jumping off point.
Steffan told me that he was over four hundred miles east of his starting point, but he had only walked two hundred and ninety of those miles. He told me he was disappointed to have cheated, but didn't feel like back-tracking. Having not walked any distance greater than three miles at one time during the last decade, I had no opinion to offer on his "cheating." I was just amazed to meet someone doing what he was doing, with no sponsorship, no support.
I dropped Steffan off at a Mesa Fire Station near Mesa Drive and First Street. He said he was going to ask the firemen if he could sleep on the garage floor, or in the yard to the back of the station. He told he had done this before, that fireman were usually glad to accommodate him after they found out what he was doing. I wished him luck in his endeavor.
Just before parting ways, I asked Steffan if there was a way to contact him. He told me that a friend of his was in the process of putting up a website, www.SteffansWalk.org. It turns out that I can email Steffan through this site, although, at the time of this posting, it is not yet available. As soon as I notice that the wesite is active, I'll make another post saying so.
I just wanted to write about Steffan to remind everyone who reads this that there are people out there in the world who think they can make a difference. All by themselves. And are willing to walk across a continent to prove it!
The Cab Guy
Sometimes it seems to me that everyone is trying to "get over" on the cabby. At least once a day some nimrod will get into my cab and ask me for a "flat rate" which is to say, a firm declaration on my part at the beginning of a trip how much I will charge the passenger at the end of the trip.
Now, I know some people, based on past experience, having taken the same trip dozens, or maybe even hundreds of times, already know the approximate fare of the trip they're about to take, and don’t want to have to fumble around with paying me, and then waiting for their change. They already know that the cost will be about, say, $12.00, and they would just as soon give it to me up front, and settle back and enjoy the ride.
These type of people are being honest and upfront with me, and usually say something like,
"I normally pay $12.00, with a two dollar tip; is that good for you?"
In cases like this, I quickly estimate the fare in my head, and if it’s close, I take the money, and off we go.
However, for other people, there is a more sinister motive. What they want to do is pay less than the service is worth, usually a lot less. These folks will ask for a flat rate from point A to point B, knowing that if I accept it, they are going to have the opportunity to con me into believing that the service they actually want is the service to which I agreed.
It usually goes some thing like this: "Fifteen okay for this trip?"
If I say yes, then all of a sudden they start asking for detours and extra stops along the way, in essence, cheating me out of my proper recompense. I can usually sniff out these morons, because their speech and body language gives them away.
I like to have fun with them, and ask a question like,
"Hey, do you have to negotiate your paycheck with your boss?"
Of course, I usually get a response like, "What do you mean?"
I say, "Well, what if, when you go to work in the morning, your boss were to say, 'Hey, how about I only pay you half of your hourly wage today?' Would you go for something like that?"
"Hell, no! He ain’t gonna rip me off that way!"
This is when I retort, "'Hell No!' is right, and I'm the same way. I don't negotiate my paycheck, and I don't do 'flats.'"
"Besides which, speaking of flats, if it comes to that, I’ve got a spare in the trunk."
The Cab Guy
(This little rant was excerpted from my column, "Road Rage: Tales From the Taxi," and appeared in a February, 2003, issue of Fast Lane Magazine, a Phoenix-area entertainment guide.)
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Well, friends, I've received my first true cab story from a reader. Ron writes of his experience with a 'gypsy cab' in Bulgaria. I post it here for your enjoyment.
Keep in mind that I know the reader, Ron, from another venue, where we play on-line poker for free points and bragging rights. Ron and I became pretty friendly with each other one night when we found ourselves in a wild game with several fish. As I remember, patience paid off for both of us that night, as both of our "chip counts" were substantially up when we left the game.
I have posted Ron's story 'as is,' except I have substituted "The Cab Guy" for the name by which he knows me.
Hey, Cab Guy,
Thanks for pulling my chain; I just read and enjoyed your story about Ross.[Ed. note: see "Dude, Where's My Cash?"] I’m still teaching at American University in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria and still enjoying doing so. Funny thing, this past week was our fall break and my ex-wife (now girl friend) came over to visit for 10 days. She flew into Sofia, about a two hour ride from here, 78 leva ($60) round trip by taxi AND GAS COSTS ABOUT $7 PER GALLON.
Anyway, on her return trip we decided to spend the weekend in Sofia, the country’s capital and a city of about 1.4 million. Taxis are generally very inexpensive anywhere in this country – not so this time for me. We had taken a cab to an outdoor market for maybe 3 leva (2 bucks). After walking a great deal MJ, my girl friend/ex-wife, was tired and cold so I hailed a cab to take us back to the hotel. The ride was unforgettable; I’ve watched more sedate driving on TV watching European road rallies. Anyway, when we got to our destination I pulled out three leva (about 2 bucks – see above) and he pointed at his meter showing over 7 leva. Fortunately, the hotel bellman was there to intervene and keep me from doing something really dumb. I can afford $5 dollars for a taxi ride if I’m staying in a $150 per night hotel but that wasn’t the point.
As the doorman explained, after I paid exactly 7.3 leva (no tip this time), there are some gypsy taxis that have the same name OK Taxi and the same yellow color as legitimate cabs, the difference is the legitimate taxis have two red dots on their name. Now I know, understand, and still don’t like it but . . .
Now back to reading another of your blogs – sure beats working. Hope to find you at a table again, my chip count’s a little short.
Best to you.
Well, Ron, I was entertained by the idea that you were "rolled" by the driver of a "Gypsy Cab" in a land so close to the ancestral homeland of the real Gypsies. If it's any consolation, you could think of it this way: it probably cost less than the rollercoaster ride at any Six Flags-over-wherever-the-hell-we-are. See you at the tables real soon. I'm feeling lucky!
The Cab Guy
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I'm constantly on the Internet, looking at information related to the cab industry. A few weeks ago, I found this debate about the prepayment of fares. I'm not even sure you'll find it interesting. Maybe I'm just getting lazy. Well, give it a go anyway. You might find the information useful.
I forget the website from which I got this 'debate.' I doesn't really matter, because I changed all the names. "Tom" is the alias of the person running the site, with the responses being from "Tom's" readers; mine is the last.
[Post Update: After re-reading this post (on November 21, 2007), I realized that I should have indicated that ALL of the names, save for mine, were aliases. Sorry for any confusion. Also, in his comment, Lucky 327 reminded me where I found the original post. It's at Bytes From the Backseat. Sometimes, this blog is a lot like Russian history: it's subject to revision!]
"Prepayment for Taxis" by Tom:
I had an interesting if rather annoying conversation with a customer last week. Interesting because of his point of view. Annoying because like a reasonable percentage of my customers he was drunk.
Basically he was saying that in his opinion all taxi fares should be pre paid at the commencement of the journey. When I pointed out that drivers had the right to ask for the fare in advance already he told me I was missing the point.
The point according to him is it creates a problem between the passenger and driver if the driver asks for the money in advance. All that could be avoided if DPI (dept of planning and infrastructure, taxi unit) and all the other relevent body’s implemented blanket pre payment of all taxi fares. Further to that he suggests an ad campaign utilising tv, radio and print media to ensure everyone knows about it, thereby eliminating any trouble in the cab and also eliminating the problem of non-payers or runners.
Honestly the idea is solid, I mean even carrying drunks would be less stressful if you knew the money side of things was already taken care of. Taxis are the only form of transport around that offers pay at destination. Sure there are some issues with credit/debit cards etc and how to ‘pre pay’ a fare then charge the correct amount once at the destination but I’m sure they could be sorted out.
I think it’s time we moved out of the dark ages and made the change.
This entry was posted on September 29, 2007 at 4:37 and is filed under fares, info, opinions . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
3 Responses to “Prepayment for Taxis”
Red Foreman Says: October 24, 2007 at 5:27
I’ve read this blog for a time, on and off. Nice color scheme, and very informative.
and yes, if there was someway to make everyone pre-pay, wouldn’t things be so much easier. I’m gonna add you as a link.
JackTheRipper Says: October 27, 2007 at 10:26
I have argued for this for years and run into all sorts of inexplicable opposition. The owner of the largest company in my city stated at a public meeting that there were a lot of unscrupulous drivers?! Apparently he was oblivious to how that statement reflected badly on him. It was actually after being ripped off every week for 9 weeks that I finally quit driving, after 20 -plus years, fed up. I’m happy to say I’ve finally found a job doing something I love, with people I respect, but I haven’t forgotten the need to protect drivers. The city I live in is pathetically conservative, and it is next to impossible to mobilize drivers to act in their own interest; I wish you luck. Let us know how it goes.
The Cab Guy Says: October 29, 2007 at 2:14
I drive for a large taxi company in the Phoenix, Arizona (USA) metro area. You know, I agree with you on this issue. But, I have the feeling that your customer meant “pre-payment of a flat rate fee”, rather than a “deposit against the ultimate fare” given his resistance to your explanation.
Here in Arizona, cab drivers have the right to ask for a deposit in advance of the fare. As a matter of fact, several police departments in the area recommend doing this.
I have a written list of conditions or circumstances under which I might ask for a deposit, which I will show to a potential customer if I am accused of prejudice or racism, or he doesn’t understand why it is appropriate to ask for a deposit. Most people comply immediately, because they’ve been asked before, or they see the logic. Most of the rest comply after I explain the situation.
A few rare individuals exclaim their indignation, saying that I should be ashamed of myself, and that I should just trust them. These people are then refused service. Generally they demand that I call them another cab. I always refuse to do this, and tell them why.
“Look, sir, I am allowed by state law to require a deposit, for any reason, or no reason at all. Your refusal to comply leads me to believe you won’t pay me at at all. There’s no way I’m going to put another driver through that. As a matter of fact, I’m going to notify my dispatcher that you won’t give me a deposit. He’ll make certain that any further calls from you will be cancelled.”
The way I look at it, if someone is offended by this practice, then they really don’t have any empathy for other people. Therefore, why should I trust them?
As to enacting something like a “Pre-Pay” system, I really don’t think there would be that many problems. Just estimate the trip mileage, calculate the fare from this estimate, add ten for fifteen percent for “wiggle room” (traffic delay, unexpected stops, etc.), give this total estimate to the customer, and clearly state that they will receive any change, if due, or owe a balance if the estimate proves insufficient.
I’ve used this procedure for years, and have never been accused of ripping someone off. I also do not worry about how the practise might affect my tip income, the way some cab drivers do. The way I look at it, I rather have 100% percent of what’s on the meter and no tip because of a deposit, rather than 0% of the meter plus tip because I failed to get a deposit. A a matter of fact, my actual tip income from these situations is fairly much on par with no-deposit situations.
In the old days, people could be trusted to pay someone what they owed, and that is why it was customary to collect the fare at the end of the trip. This custom has long since out-lived its useful life. It is an archaic practice that should have been eliminated a long time ago.
As a final note: this is what I say to people who refuse to give me a deposit because “the last guy didn’t ask for one”: “Well, if you’re so offended, then give him a call!”
The Cab Guy
Monday, November 12, 2007
Have you every wanted to go to a sit-down restaurant for a delicious meal of a hamburger and fries, and have it served to you in about the same amount of time it takes for a fast-food joint to 'bag one up' for you? Then you have to go the to The Heart-Attack Grill.
Last Saturday night, my good friend, Johnny Wraith, came in from out of town to visit me. Around about seven-thirty, we decided to go out to get something to eat. We're simple folk, and so we wanted a simple meal. Johnny also enjoys a fun atmosphere, so he said, "I want to go somewhere we can get a hamburger, and see women [dressed in a sexy manner]."
Actually, what Johnny wanted to see was cleavage. No, I'm lying about that. I was trying to protect Johnny's reputation, I don't know why.
What he really said was, "I want to eat a burger, and see some boob." He can be such a caveman, at times.
It only took me about ten seconds before I came up with what I thought would be the ideal place to fulfill our needs: The Heart Attack Grill, at the southwest corner of the intersection of Thomas Road and 44th Street, in Phoenix. It has a rather interesting gimmick: all the waitresses dress in nurse's outfits, and the menu is very simple, being limited to burgers, fries, soft drinks, beer, and cigarettes.
It doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out why it's called "The Heart Attack Grill."
Although I had never been there, I had driven by the place several times, and had heard rave reviews. It seemed like the perfect place to fill our bellies, and satisfy my curiosity about the place. I described what I knew about the place, subtly hinting that I wasn't going to offer any other options.
Johnny was all for checking out the place, so we we're off.
Arriving at THAG around seven forty-five pm, I was a little concerned to see that there were few cars in the parking lot. At first I feared that the place did not live up to it's reputation, and that people were staying away. Then I remembered that it wasn't even eight o'clock on a Saturday night. (The joint started to fill up around eight pm.)
Walking towards the door, we were greeted by two friendly waitresses as we passed the outdoor patio, and several more as we entered the building. I loved the decor: just about the only things inside were several long, industrial-type steel tables with bar stool seating. A mannequin dressed up as a nurse was posed in the front window. Clean and simple. Nothing to distract one from one's food, or dining companions.
Except for the waitresses, who as I've said before, were dressed in nurse's garb. Skimpy nurse's garb. Very skimpy... well, you get the point.
We sat outside on the patio, which was also simple: about nine or ten wrought iron tables, four-place tables with chairs. Again, nothing to distract me from the meal at hand.
Except for the waitresses in their skimpy outfits.
Our waitress, Samantha, looking very fetching in her nurse's uniform, was very friendly. First, she took our drink orders: A Pabst Blue Ribbon for Johnny, and a Coke (in the bottle - so rare!) for me. Returning with our drinks, Samantha took our food orders: a cheeseburger without onions for Johnny, a cheeseburger (with everything) and fries for me. After having barely enough time to take one or two sips from our respective bottles, our dinner was delivered.
Amazing! A sit-down, full service dinner at fast-food speed. How do they do it? It's pretty simple, really. I'll let Samantha explain:
"Our complete food menu consists of only cheeseburgers and fries. All of the patties weigh a half of a pound, and all are cooked 'well-done' for health safety reasons. The only variation available is how many patties you want on your burger: one, two, three or four."
"Let me guess," I interjected at this point, "you call them 'Bypass Burgers?'
"Yep. Single through quadruple bypasses."
Johnny and I both had ordered The Single Bypass, not wanting to need an actual quadruple bypass later in life.
I love this concept. Because of the uniformity of the orders, the cook can start slapping burgers on the grill as soon as someone walks in. By the time the food order reaches him, the meat is almost done.
"How are your burgers?" Samantha asked us a few minutes later.
"Delicious!", we replied, in unison.
"How about the fries?"
"I love them!", I said.
Johnny, not wanting to be left out of the conversation, grabbed a few fries off my plate, stuffing them into his mouth. He was speechless; and why not? After all, his mouth was full! But, he nodded his head vigorously in agreement.
With two more beers for Johnny, and another Coke for me, our bill came up to $31.00. Here's the breakdown (I only paid attention the price of the beers for sure; I'm guessing at the rest, but I think I'm real close, as the math come out okay):
When we left, Johnny and I agreed that The Heart-Attack Grill had been the perfect choice for our dinner outing. We loved the food, service and ambiance.
Oh, yeah, I almost forgot; the view of the 'nurses' was great, also!
Heart-Attack Grill: I'll be back! Just as soon as I see a cardiologist.
The Cab Guy
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Did you know there is a way to improve your vocabulary and help provide free rice to the hungry people around the world?
I clipped the following story from another Blog, Taxi Tales, written by Bob, a cabbie in Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, UK:
Improve your vocabulary and donate rice to feed the hungry. Go on try it now, my rating was about 40, how well can you do? Click on the free rice link and get clicking now please.
FreeRice has two goals:
1. Provide English vocabulary to everyone for free.
2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
This is made possible by the sponsors who advertise on this site.
Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your vocabulary can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.
Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive.
Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide.
I couldn't have said it better myself, Bob.
Folks, I've been to the Free Rice site a couple of times. It took me about 5100 grains of rice, but I finally achieved a rating of 50. Please take a few minutes each time you're on the 'Net, and go to "Free Rice." I've provided a link on my sidebar, in the section called "The Cab Guy's Web Favorites. It's a fun way to improve your vocabulary, and feed the hungry.
The Cab Guy
In my last post, "Date a Hot Phoenix Stripper," I asked the question: "How many of you guys out there would like to date a HOT PHOENIX STRIPPER?" This is because my friend Danielle, who is a hot stripper, is having trouble meeting a decent guy. I told her that I would find her a decent guy. Well, so far, no one has stepped up to the plate the help Danielle out.
This is not a joke! Danielle is a very nice girl, but because of what she does for a living, she has a very difficult time of meeting and dating decent guys.
You're probably wondering, "Well, Cab Guy, is Danielle is so nice and hot, why don't you date her?"
This is a valid question. Let me tell you, if I were about twenty-five years younger, I'd be 'all over it.' I guess you could say that I'm kind of an 'age bigot.' My preferred age range for the women to date is about thirty-five to fifty. Sadly, Danielle is much younger. Sigh!
So what do you say, guys? Do you want to date a hot stripper? Well, here's the rules:
Send me an email describing your proposed date with Danielle. I'll show her the all the emails that I get, and she'll pick her favorites. My recommendation: be creative and romantic!
Send your email to me at Supercabbie@gmail.com, with the subject header, "I Want to Date Danielle."
I promised Danielle that I'd find her a decent guy. Don't let me down, fellas.
The Cab Guy
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I am just wondering: how many of you guys out there would like to date a HOT PHOENIX STRIPPER?
This isn't the setup to one of my ridiculous Cab Guy jokes: it's a legitimate question!
As your Cab Guy, having driven the mean streets of Phoenix for ten years, I have had the opportunity to meet literally hundreds of HOT PHOENIX STRIPPERS! I have become friends with many of them.
Do you want to know what most of them have in common? Believe it or not, they have trouble meeting decent men! That's right, I can hardly believe it myself! They're always asking me, "What do I have to do to meet a decent guy?"
Just tonight, my friend, Danielle, asked me this same question. You know what I told her?
"Danielle, I'll find you a decent guy!"
I've agreed with Danielle to set her up on a date with a decent guy. Do you want to be that guy? Help me out.
If you're out there, and would like to get to know a girl, not for what she does for a living, but who she is inside, here's want you need to do...
Send me an email describing your proposed date with Danielle. I'll show her the all the emails that I get, and she'll pick her favorites. My recommendation: be creative and romantic!
Send your email to me at Supercabbie@gmail.com, with the subject header, "I Want to Date Danielle."
The Cab Guy
Today is the 232nd anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps. I just wanted to let you all know this, if you didn't, and relate an amusing anecdote that shows how dedicated my Dad, a former Marine, was to his Beloved Corps.
The San Diego Marine Band plays John Phillip Sousa's Semper Fidelis.
My family moved to Phoenix after my dad retired as a Captain from the United States Marine Corps in 1971. At that time, my parents bought the first house they ever owned, or, for that matter, lived in for more than two years.
When the phone technician came to install our service, he asked my father if he would like to have a phone number with the last four digits holding special significance. He chose 1775, which was available.
Supposedly the tech said, "Don't you mean 1776, the year the USA became a country?"
"No," my Dad said, "I mean 1775, the year the United States Marine Corps was born!"
In 1979, I was to have entered the USMC through the PLC (Platoon Leader's Class) program. Sadly, I was disqualified by a back injury that occured just days before I was to have formally started the program. I remain, to this day, disappointed that I could not serve.
My dad died in 1989, but his beloved Corps lives on.
Semper Fi, Dad! Semper Fi, Marines!
To "The Few, The Proud, The Marines," Happy Birthday!
The Cab Guy
Friday, November 9, 2007
In the cab world, generally, when you work the really, really late hours, your customer base is radically different from the daytime sort. They tend to be wackier. That's why I prefer to work when the sun is in the sky. It helps preserve my sanity.
Last Monday evening I stayed out late to have a little fun at the Lone Butte Casino, south of Chandler on the Gila River Indian Reservation. After being there about an hour and a half, and losing some of my hard earned scratch at the blackjack tables, I figured that it just wasn't my night, and decided to go home. I cashed in my remaining chips, said goodbye to some of the dealers I knew, and headed for the parking lot.
I had come to the casino directly after work, and so I had my cab with me. I usually have my cab with me when I'm not working, for two reasons. Firstly, I'd rather run up the miles on the company's car, rather than my own; and secondly, I can go to work at a moment's notice. I don't mean to imply that I'm tied to the job, far from it. But if a personal customer should call, and wanted to put fifty dollars in my pocket for an hour of my time, then I wanted to be able to jump on it.
Anyway, I got into my cab, started it up, and began the thirty-minute drive back to my house. Just for laughs, I turned on the computerized dispatch system, just in case there were any calls close by. As luck would have it, there was a call in between the casino and my house, about five miles away. I went ahead and bid on it, and received it.
"Cool," I thought, "I'll be able to recoup a little of my losses, then go home."
It took me only about eight minutes to drive to the customer's house, but in that time he called the dispatcher two times to check on my ETA. Not a good sign. At least I knew he still wanted a cab. But he was very impatient. Impatient people can be a handful of work, to say the least. I really didn't want to deal with any kind of crap from this guy. I hadn't even met him, and I already didn't like him.
Arriving at the pickup address, "Peter" was standing outside, practically hopping up and down on one foot. I really hoped he didn't have to pee! Rolling down the window, I asked him the obvious:
"Are you Peter?"
Peter started to get into the car, and without even giving me his destination address, asked me the most insulting question you can ever ask a cabbie:
"Will you give me a flat rate of forty dollars?"
My usual response to the flat rate inquiry is a resounding, "NO!" But he had stated a dollar amount, without a drop address; maybe the fare would be less than forty. I had to check before saying no.
"Well, where do you want to go?"
"Bell Road and Tatum Boulevard."
"Sorry, no, that's about a fifty dollar fare."
"Well, you should do it for forty dollars, 'cause I'm a big tipper!"
"Yeah, I know all about those big tips. As a matter of fact, I can feel you trying to put your big tip in my bunghole. It's a fifty dollar fare, and if you want to go, then I want the money up front!"
"I'll pay you when we get there!"
"No, you'll pay me here, or you'll never get there. Let's not even start the whole 'don't you trust me?' debate, because, after you started our relationship with the whole flat rate issue, no I don't. Pay up, or get out!"
Not very appealing customer service, I know, but he wasn't a very appealing customer. And I was on a bit of a short fuse. Trust me, you had to be there. But after a few more seconds of verbal sparring, Peter finally gave me a hundred dollar bill as a surety against the fare. I turned on the meter, and we were off.
As it turned out, Peter, although he was a little drunk, was an okay guy. I say this even after finding out he was a lawyer. His idea of a compliment was to call me the biggest prick he had ever met. I didn't take offense, because coming from a lawyer, it is indeed praiseworthy to be a considered a prick. Plus, he told me up front that he considered being called a prick to be a compliment, so he thought he was being complimentary.
I told him I wasn't offended; he'd know right away if he ever stepped over the line with me.
"How so?", he asked.
"I'll pull over and let you walk. With no refund."
"My God, I so admire you! You are the biggest prick I've ever met, maybe could ever hope to meet!"
Are you starting to get the picture of what late night customers can be like?
"Well, Peter, you're not so bad yourself. But you need to work on your prick skills, 'cause frankly, you suck at it. I know of at least half a dozen lawyers with better fare negotiation skills than you have. Hell, at least two of them would have convinced me that not only should I pay the fare, but I should give them thirty-three percent of the action to boot. You've got a ways to go, kiddo. But I mean that as a compliment!"
"It didn't seem so complimentary to me."
Yeah, but it was okay for him to call me a prick, just because he thought calling someone a prick was a compliment.
"And by the way, cut me some slack on the negotiating thing, will ya? I passed the bar exam, but haven't even been admitted yet. I'm still learning."
Well, we had a pretty nice conversation for the thirty minutes or so it took to get him to his destination. And I really did begin to like Peter, even though he was a lawyer. He had a good, solid, if somewhat drunk and narcissistic, head on his shoulders. He probably will make a pretty good lawyer someday.
Pulling up to Peter's destination, the meter showed fifty dollars and fifty cents. I decided to cut him a little slack.
"Well, the fare is fifty dollars. You gave me a hundred, I owe you fifty."
"No, just go ahead and give me forty. Keep ten for yourself. I told you I was a bigger tipper."
"And so you are. Never doubted it for a moment!"
And so he was. It certainly was how odd, though. After all, he tried to cut his fare, and my wage, by twenty percent; but having failed in that endeavor, he tipped me to the tune of twenty percent. I'll never figure out people and their money issues.
As Peter exited the cab, I gave him my card, saying,
"Call me anytime. Hell, I might even give you a flat rate next time!"
"Hey," he said, "I take back everything I said about you being a prick. You're a hell of a nice guy!"
"Just joking, Peter. I never cut my fares for anyone. It hurts the wallet to much. But thanks for calling me a nice guy! It means a lot to me, coming from a newbie lawyer."
"Prick!", he exclaimed, while laughing. "Thanks for the ride, I really enjoyed it!"
"They always do," I thought. "They always do!"
See what I mean about the overnight customer base? You just never know what you're going to get.
Thanks for stopping by.
The Cab Guy