Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cab Cheats Part Two - Feeding

Supposedly, all cab drivers within a particular company are supposed to be working on an even playing field, with all having equal access to calls for service offered by the company. However, in some cases, in some companies, some drivers have a higher earning potential because of a scam known as "feeding."

Feeding is generally defined as a driver being given a call by a dispatcher (or other cab company employee) in a manner other than receiving it through normal methods. It may or not be the result of collusion between the driver and dispatcher, and may or may not result in the dispatcher being "paid off" by the benefiting driver. To understand how the feeding process works, it helps to understand how the "standard" dispatching system works.

At my old cab company, XYZ, and my new cab company, ABC, calls for service are dispatched by a computerized call-to-cab matching system. Each cab has a computer terminal in it, connected to the company's host computer through a radio-modem system. The cab terminal has a GPS antenna, to provide a real time position report to the host computer of where each cab is located. This information is used to determine which cab gets which of the calls that may be available.

Although XZY and ABC use the same basic equipment and software, there are some differences. XYZ uses GPS-based matching, where a call is matched to the closest cab; ABC uses Zone-based matching, where a call is matched to the first cab "up" in the zone the call originates in. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. I've worked under both systems, and don't really have a preference of one over the other.

In theory, after calls are entered into the computer system by customer service representatives, the host computer handles the actual dispatching of the calls. However, there is a human operator to oversee the system, and to communicate with the drivers regarding the status of the system.

For example, a call may come up in a zone that does not have any cabs in it, or in any adjacent zones. If the dispatcher left the system to it's own devices, the call might never get covered, because a cab might never match to it, or bid on it. At this point the dispatcher might "advertise" the call, to induce a cabbie to cover it.

For example, the dispatcher might send a fleet-wide message saying something like, "The call in zone 233 has wings!" meaning the party wants to go to the airport. This message should generate interest among the drivers, leading one or more of them to bid on the call, thereby maintaining an adequate level of customer service.

However, rather than sending a fleet-wide message, the dispatcher might send the same message to a select driver, allowing only that driver to have the extra information about the call. Moving one step further along, the dispatcher might just override the matching system, and send the call directly to a particular cab. This is the genesis of "feeding."

Even at this stage, the feeding might be relatively benign. The dispatcher may just be sending the message or call to the closest cab, not a co-conspirator; in a future similar circumstance, another cab may be closer, and it's driver will be favored. The motivation of the dispatcher in this type of case is not to favor a particular driver, or group of drivers, but to favor the customer, and get the call covered. Or, maybe, just get the call covered so he can go smoke a cigarette.

Even though a particular driver isn't being favored, this activity is usually frowned on by everyone involved, simply because it looks subversive. It's generally best to advertise calls, and let the cabbies, through the bidding process, cover the calls based on their own decisions.

The type of feeding that I described above was going on at XYZ company. I know it was happening, because over the period of time that I was there, I was sent calls directly from the dispatcher. I could tell this, because calls dispatched in this fashion were labeled as "Personal" on my cab terminal. The odd thing is, in many of these cases, I would have matched to the calls, if the dispatcher had allowed the computer to do it's job. And here's what confused me the most: while some of the calls were bigger than average, I was never approached by a dispatcher to pay a "commission" for the benefit of being sent the calls. What was the motivation here? I'll never know.

As far as I know, this type of feeding is not allowed at ABC company. Apparently, management thinks it best to avoid the appearance of evil, and just let the matching system do the job. If particular calls aren't getting covered, the dispatchers advertise them, and allow the drivers to decide if they want to go after any particular call. This may tend to degrade customer service in some outlying geographic areas, but does maintain the integrity of the entire system.

Meanwhile, back at XYZ, the feeding continues. Certain dispatchers have made it know that they can be "bought." I never had a dispatcher approach me to pay him a "commission" to get better calls, but I know it goes on. The driver manager himself confirmed this to me. He told me that the "fee" varied from dispatcher to dispatcher involved, from a few dollars a week, to a fixed percentage, like 10% of the value of all "fed" calls. According to this manager, whenever he caught a driver or dispatcher involved in feeding, he would fire them. It seems to me he couldn't fire them quick enough, because the feeding never stopped.

And it isn't just dispatchers who can feed calls. Customer service representatives who actually talk to the customers, and enter call data into the system, can also get into the act. One way a CSR can do this is to take the order from the customer, and appear to enter into the system. However, rather than submitting the data to the system, the CSR can send a cellular text message to a particular cabbie, detailing the call, and then delete the call from the system.

As a matter of fact, in this circumstance, the favored cabbie doesn't even have to work for XYZ. Because XYZ has so many "brands," most customers wouldn't even think to question the name on the side of the cab. They're just satisfied to get their cab. The company might never notice what's going on, because as long as the "call" is covered, the customer is never going to complain about what happened.

But, every once in a while, something does go wrong, and the customer calls back to ask, "Where's my cab?" But in these circumstances, it's just assumed that there was a "glitch" in the system. The customer is then told that no record of their call can be found, but that a cab would be sent to them as quickly as possible.

I know that this type of feeding was going on, because a former employee of the XYZ company, who was a CSR, saw it happen, and gave the details to another cabbie friend of mine. This person told my friend that she could not believe the number of times people would call for a cab to take them to Tucson, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles. Calls like this could be worth literally hundreds of dollars to the driver. She said that in almost all the of the cases that she witnessed, the call never got into the computer system. Someone, somewhere in the company, would "hijack" the calls, and send them to their favorite cabbies.

Not really fair is it? All drivers paying the same amount for the use of a cab, but some drivers, being singled out to get better calls, and make more money with less effort.

Well, I never thought that life was fair. Until I found out about the feeding, i just never realized how unfair it could be in the cab world. Guess that makes me kind of a naive sonuvabitch.

But an honest sonuvabitch.

The next installment of "Cab Cheats" will detail how "Ghosting" works.

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Monday, December 3, 2007

Cab Cheats Part One - Background

Well, it's been a few days coming, but I finally feel prepared to explain in some detail the reason I left my old cab company ("XYZ"), and decided to go to work for another company ("ABC").

Today, I'll provide some essential background, and name the offending scams my old cab company allowed to happen. Future posts will detail how the offending scams worked.

I spend the weekend with my friend, Johnny Wraith, who is a lawyer, and a very good one at that, my accusations that he is an alcoholic notwithstanding. We discussed the issues, and how they should be explained, for the purposes of maximum revelation, and minimum likelihood of being sued.

Having previously worked in the Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice field from 1981 through 1997, I was aware that the truth is an absolute defense in any lawsuit accusing a person of slandering or libeling another person, and was prepared to name names, and let the chips fall where they may.

Johnny reminded me that while the truth is an absolute defense against a lawsuit being successful, it does not protect one from being sued in the first place. The cost of defending the suit could be staggering, even if judgement was not granted to the plaintiff (say a cab company) against the defendant (say, Yours Truly, The Cab Guy). He further went on to point out that usually this was of concern only to people with substantial assets, or any assets at all.

Well, since I don't have substantial assets, my estate consisting of some personal property (furniture, computer, a television and stereo system, assorted books, CDs, and DVDs and the like), the few dollars I've managed to save, and my car, I felt relatively safe from retribution via a lawsuit.

However, the hassles of being sued are not negligible. Also, Johnny went on to point out that although I was relatively "poor" at this point in my life, I was not always so, and probably would not be so again in the future. For all of these reasons, and because it really doesn't add to my readers' understanding of what goes on in the taxi business, I have decided to refrain from naming names.

The miscreants who might happen to read my blog will recognize who they are, but will be unable to do anything about it. Anyone involved in the Phoenix Metro Area taxi industry will also know who they are, and may or not take pleasure in the knowledge that what they suspected was going on all along really is in fact happening. They may also take steps to protect themselves from being cheated.

Some additional background is necessary. I have worked in the taxi industry since approximately December 1, 1998, through the present. (NOT 1997, as I have stated elsewhere in this blog; I apologize for that error). I started with "XYZ" cab company, and stayed with them through late May of 2001. I became fed up with some of the practices at XYZ, and so moved on to "ABC" cab company.

I stayed on with ABC company for somewhat more than six years. Over time, some management and policy changes led to my gradual dissatisfaction with ABC. I heard that things had improved at XYZ, so after considering the situation for several months, I went back to XYZ.

In some ways, I was glad of the change, and in others, I wasn't so happy. Last week my nose was thrust, like that of a puppy into his own mess, into the truth of what was going on at XYZ. I quit them, after being threatened with termination, and returned to ABC. S why did I go back to ABC? Well, I was only dissatisfied with their policies; I wasn't being cheated by them.

Do you follow me so far? I know it can seem kind of convoluted, but if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I suffer from verbal diarrhea, and a love of excess detail.

So what were the offending scams?

Those of you in the cab community have already guessed that they probably relate to "feeding," in one form or another. Anyone who had this as their guess is correct. Feeding was going on at XYZ Cab Company. What surprised me was how many variations on this basic theme there were, running from a fairly passive form to a very active form of corruption.

For those of you not in the know, "feeding" occurs when a call is given to a driver in a manner that circumvents the normal dispatch system. It may or may not result in any overall benefit to the receiving driver, or the dispatcher (or any other company employee involved).

In it's most benign form, a driver may be "fed" a call to which he would have ordinarily been "matched." However, due to system operating parameters, the matching might not have occurred for several minutes. The motivation for the dispatcher to "feed" the call may be to get it off of "pending" status into "assigned" status, resulting in quicker service to the customer. Or the dispatcher may have just wanted to take a cigarette break, and needed to "clear his board" before doing so.

So, if there was no net benefit to the driver, or the dispatcher, and the customer got his cab quicker, what's the problem? I guess there wouldn't be a problem, if that's a far as it went. But corruption, even if relatively minor, is like rust: if unchecked, it eventually spreads, creating all sorts of havoc and destruction.

In subsequent posts, I'll detail some other more egregious examples of feeding, which provide tangible benefits to the driver and dispatcher (or other company employee) involved, to the detriment of other drivers, and even the customers that the cab company serves.

I can't resist giving you a little teaser about the offense for which I was almost terminated. It's called "ghosting" (also "cloaking", "hooding", or "stealthing"). Frankly, after learning how ghosting works, I came to see it as an ingenious method by which the "ghost cabbie" feeds himself, bypassing the need to directly involve a dispatcher, or anyone else!

Stay tuned for more details. I'm pissed, and want the world to know it!

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Post Updates: Steffan and Danielle

I wanted to provide some updated information on a few recent posts. And futher delay the time until I fully explain what actually happened to cause me to leave my old cab company.

On November 5, 2007, I wrote a story I called "Steffan's Walk," about a young man, Steffan, who is walking across the country, California to Georgia, to raise money in the fight against cancer. Before Steffan and I parted ways, he gave me the name of a website that would have been going up soon, "SteffansWalk.Org", to promote his efforts. So far, the site is not active, nor have I heard from Steffan on my email.

Steffan, if you're out there, Godspeed to you, friend. Be careful. I do think about you every day. If you ever read this, get hold of me, and let me know how you're doing.

On November 10, I wrote a post called Date a Hot Phoenix Stripper. I followed it up the next day with the post, Danielle's Dilemma. These posts detailed my efforts to help Danielle, a stripper, meet some nice guys, and choose one or more to date. So far, there have been zero responses. I guess I can't blame anyone if they thought it was a scam. Hell, here I am reading the posts two weeks later, and if I didn't know I had written them, I'd think they were part of a scam.

So anyway, I'll have to report to Danielle that the effort failed. If anyone still wants to enter the "contest" described in the November 10 post, be my guest. I'll just pass along the emails to Danielle.

Danielle, I'm sorry I let you down. If there are any nice guys out there, The Cab Guy couldn't find them!

However, a cabbie that I know, Drake Gustave, wants to meet you. If you're interested, leave me a message on my email, and I'll pass it along to Drake. You're on your own after that. I wouldn't classify him as a 'Nice Guy.' Oh, he's not abusive or anything, anymore, but he's a cabie, for pity's sake, and you know how those guys are! His idea of Haute Cuisine is the drive-thru at Taco Bell. And he doesn't order individual items. He just gets it by the pound.

Also, please be advised: he's a heavy drinker. And not the good stuff either. But he is a cabdriver, so he's got that going for him. As long as him company doesn't find out about his long history of DUI.

What the hell, take a chance girl! I say give a cabbie some love! You've got a great window of opportunity right now. His wife is in Romania, visiting with family. Play your cards right, and she'll come home to a divorce, and you'll come home to... a new home. Of course, it's way out in Apache Junction, but I'm sure you'll be able to find work. Not the kind that has any dignity, but work, nonetheless.

Just don't tell me all the sordid details. I'd feel honor bound to pass them along to my readers.

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Livin' On Tucson Time!

I'm still down in Tucson with my friend Johnny Wraith, but I thought I give you all an update, as well as a reader submission from a Dublin cabbie named Roy.

Well, Johnny and I haven't been doing much beyond drinking, eating, playing chess, and some gambling.

It turns out that Johnny is a great cook. When I first met him, all he could do was run a microwave oven, and make espresso. Prior to my arrival Friday, he put half a turkey breast, some cream of mushroom soup, peppers and other vegetables in a crockpot. It was a very delicious meal, accompanied by flaky bisquits, and some Franzia wine. Okay, sure, Franzia is a boxed wine, but what the hell, drink enough of it, and you won't care at all. I know I didn't.

As to the chess, Johnny used to regularly kick my ass. I've gotten better. He's gotten drunker. I beat him five games to one, and we drew our seventh game. Go Franzia.

As to the gambling? I don't want to talk about it. Although the casino did buy us all our cigarettes!

And now here's Roy's story. I've left his open comments to me, and his style and formatting intact. Please visit him at his website when you get the chance.



I've just found your site , great stuff! I've added it to the blogroll and
would appreciate if you could do the same.


If you use this please credit to

Naas (35km) and Back! Good......not!

I wasn't planning on working tonight, my wife just got back from her trip to
Chicago and I'd planned to stay in and have a chat, maybe watch a movie, Jet
lag intervened and by 9:30 she was hanging on by a thread, at 10:15 she was
in bed asleep, by 10:45 I had resolved to head out to work, another night
looking at the TV/PC would have done me in.

First job after a week off, was from the rank in St Stepens Green, She was
being held up by him, an inane grin on her face, as we say in Dublin "she
was locked", "out of her bin" , "twisted". I must have been soft after the
week off, because normally I'd have said she needed a walk to sober up first
but I allowed them in..."Naas" he said, Oh shit, I thought, she'll never
last....."Grand" I said, "Naas it is".

She fell asleep instantly and he talked about nothing in particular, there
were a few funny smells emanating, once I thought she'd shat herself, but it
didn't last long enough, thank god!

We arrived in Naas.... €51 paid, checked over her ass and the back seat, no
dampness, so all clear there as well!

While taking the photo above, a lad appeared out of no-where, gave me a
shock! Said he'd had a row with his girlfriend, had gotten out of the car
for a pee and she'd driven off, his wallet and phone were in the car and
would I please bring him into Dublin town. Now I really must be going soft,
because I knew this was a chancer but thought; ah I'm going back anyway, I
ll give the eeegit a lift.

He asked did I believe him? And I said "no not a word, but I'm feeling
generous", he admitted to lying and said he'd just left a party, said he'd
leave a glowing report on his Bebo page, I said "you won't, you'll leave a
glowing report on my Blog, that's the fare!"

I gave him the address on the back of a receipt, I bet he doesn't do it!


I liked Roy's story for at least two reasons: the lady didn't foul his cab, and he took a chance on the 'eeegit'. He's a better man that I am. Don't get me wrong... I'd have given the fellow a ride. It's just that I would have made him ride on the hood. Tied down like a dear I'd just bagged on a hunting trip. Don't worry... I wouldn't have gutted him. But I probably would have rubbed him down with salt.

I'm sorry. Ignore everything after 'He's a better man than I am.' It's the Franzia talking. It overstimulates my imagination. And debilitates my internal censor. But it's a cheap drunk.

Just like me.

I hope to see you out there on the road.


The Cab Guy


Friday, November 30, 2007

Down Time and Weather Report

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 the 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 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!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cleaning, Mom, and Pizza

[Since this post was first written, Ralph died, and Ralph's LaHacienda Pizzeria, run by his surviving family members for a few years, closed. The end of an era. Requiescat in pace, Ralph!]

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, Glendale, [Now closed for several years], on the southwest corner of Greenway Road and 59th Avenue. I've been going there for over thirty years, ever since high school, and whenever I was 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

The Cab Guy Jumps Ship

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 ax. 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 been 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


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Update to 'If It Walks Like a Duck...'

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 fate. 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 a 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

Hit or Stay? What Say You?

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 to 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 at 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 its 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 like to 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 table bet. 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

Big or Small, I Take 'Em All

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 from 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 downwards.)

If I were to adopt a business plan that demanded I refuse to make 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 do 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 minimum 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 am 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. I 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 It Walks Like a Duck...

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 Gambling Tip for the Common Man

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 win at slots? For instance, if I have $100, do I just put it on 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 egomaniac. 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 its 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 finished 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 gets passed down.

5. Laugh until you cry.

I did.


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.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Holiday Plea for Sober Driving

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 in 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 below.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 below.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 impairs 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 thousands 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

Thanksgiving Wishes, and a Wild Ride to Boot!

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 wrote 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 [Mike L.]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 hundies, 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 asks.

'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 whiff 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!' Then he opened the curbside door, and jumped out of the car.

'Holy Shit!,' I’m thinking, the guy just jumped out of my moving car!

I look in the rear-view mirror, and see him tumbling end over end. I brake to a stop as quickly 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. 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 really 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 wack-o out of here!'

So, at least now I know the official medical term for what was wrong with the guy! He was a wack-o!"

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 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

You Want to Go Where?

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

I Don't Remember the Name, But the Face Rings A Bell!

Have you ever met someone, started a conversation with them, and then have to come to the realization 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 p.m., 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 thigh bone.' 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 what exposing 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, DiscoBisquit ( I asked him if he knew where 'Tom Ryan's Bar' was. As it turned out, TRB was his destination. (Shocking... That a day drinker would go from one bar to another!) It also turned out that he knew that the previous name for the TRB was 'Group Therapy.' Which began 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's 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 acknowledged 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 its name almost ten years ago.

Thankfully, the trip finally ended, without me swerving the car into oncoming traffic, or pulling over and beating the living 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 to 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

Life Imitates Art

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

Steffan's Walk

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 overloaded 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 was 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 backtracking. Having not walked any distance greater than three miles at any 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 said 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, 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 website 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!

Godspeed, Steffan!


The Cab Guy


How About A Flat Rate?

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 types 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 something 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 was 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.)