Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Three-Way on the Freeway - Part One

A few days ago, one of my loyal fans, and best friend, Johnny Wraith, left me a message saying, to the effect, that he'd like to see me post a story about women changing their clothing in the back seat of the cab. At that time I had to refuse, because up until that point in time, I'd never had the experience of having women, or even just one woman, change her clothing in the backseat of my cab.

So here we are today. Up until a few minutes ago, I was getting ready to go to work. My morning ablutions were complete. All I needed to do was get dressed, grab the keys to the cab, and hit the door, ready to start a new day of schlepping people around the Phoenix Metro area. But, for some reason Johnny's request kept turning over in my mind. He really wanted to read a story about women changing their clothes in the back seat of the car.

And I really wanted to give him that story! But, I didn't want to cheat. I didn't want to make up a tale, and pass it off as the truth. I'm just not built for that kind of dishonesty. (Oh, don't worry, I'm no saint. When a situation calls for it, I'll be as dishonest as I need to be to get the job done. But this wasn't one of those kind of situations.) And I couldn't just provide a fiction story of this type, because that would not have fulfilled Johnny's purpose.

You see, Johnny Wraith is a writer himself, and a good one. If he wanted to read a story about women changing their clothes in the back of my cab, I suppose he could have just written it himself. But he didn't. Not that he's lazy. If I asked Johnny to write me a story about women changing their clothes in the back of his car, he'd whip one out in about ninety minutes. Flat. So he clearly has the ability to produce such a tale. But like I said, such a story would not have fulfilled his purpose, which was to be titillated by a true story, one that happened to me, in the back of my cab, involving women changing their clothes.

You know, maybe titillated is the wrong word to use here, because it implies that Johnny was looking for some sort of sexual fulfillment by the reading of a story like this. Nothing could be further from the truth. He just really likes to read, or for that matter, hear, about weird situations that happened to other people. He says that they stoke his imagination, and make him feel more alive, as if he has had the experience himself, and has therefore received some sort of blessing from God in the form of an expanded consciousness. At least that's his explanation for what's going on, as near as I can tell. Whatever.

Frankly, I think that Johnny is a voyeur. Now, I don't mean that in some sort of a creepy, Peeping Tom, sort of way, skulking around bedroom windows at night, hoping to catch a view of some unmentionable goings-on. I mean that he likes to watch life, to experience it as fully as he can. He knows that he can't have every possible experience himself, but if he hears or reads about an experience, he is able to consume it, to take it within himself, so that he can have something of the experience. He says that this allows him to be more fulfilled as a person....

Damn it! Now I'm starting to do it! Here I am, making rationalizations for the behavior of another person, simply because that person happens to be my friend. Folks, it's time to face facts: my friend, Johnny Wraith, had a mild kink. He loves pornography, in all its forms, but especially the written word. I don't really think that he's addicted to pornography, though. His love of the genre is not debilitating. It is not all consuming. As far as I can tell, pornography has no negative impact at all upon Johnny Wraith's life. He functions as an otherwise normal person. Who just happens to like porn.

There, I've said it. It's out in the open: Johnny Wraith likes porn! Sorry, Johnny, for outing you! But it was inevitable. If not me, then someone else would have flung open the door to that particular closet. Don't you feel better, Johnny? I know I do!

So, anyway, with all of these thoughts in my mind, I sat down before my computer, still somewhat moist from my recent morning wake up shower, and began to bang out this post. Everything that I wrote up to now is a prelude to what will follow.

The story that you are about to read is dedicated to my best friend, Johnny Wraith. But, wait! Before you get all hot and bothered, keep in mind that it is not a story about something as mundane as women changing their clothes in the back of the car. But, this story might be just as good, maybe even better than a clothes-changing story. I call it...

The Three-way on the Freeway
About six years ago, in the summer of 2001, in those halcyon days predating the September 11 Attacks and the fall of the Twin Towers, I was working the night shift, driving a cab. Not that it's absolutely germane to the story, but I believe that it was late July when the events that I'm about to relate transpired. I had just started working for a large Phoenix-area cab company. But I wasn't a newbie in the biz, because I had just left another large cab company, for whom I had worked about four years. Because I had put in about five or six shifts per week over those four years, I had about 1100 to 1200 shifts under my belt. I'm not going to say that I had seen it all, because, even to me, it was clear that I hadn't. But I had seen quite a lot of "it."

So, on the night before the night during which the event that this story is all about occurred, I was at my favorite perch, a place where cabbies hang out waiting for fares. Several other cabbies were there with me, including a woman driver who at the time was a friend of mine. I'll call her Patsy. It's not her real name, but to prevent possible legal action (don't ask why; she's just that way), I've changed it.

I don't know how it happened, but we all started talking about things we either did, or did not, want to see happening the backseat of our respective cabs. I don't know who, but someone brought up the topic of people having sex in the back seat, while the cabbie drove. I don't remember if this person was pro or con, but I do remember Patsy's reaction.

"OH, I think that would be so cool!"

Do tell. I can't say that this surprised me in the least. I had known Patsy for about six weeks at the time, and had formed the conclusion that if it was weird, kinky or unsavory, she was into it. But don't get me started on THAT topic; it's the subject for another story. Or now that I think about, her story would probably fill a book. Yes, definitely a book.

I had to disagree with Patsy, and told her so, in a very pointed fashion.

"Let me tell you something. If there's one thing I hope I never see, it's anyone having sex in the backseat of my cab. And that includes all possible combinations and numbers of participants: man and woman, man and man, woman and woman. Man, woman and another woman. Man and dog. Woman and dog. Man, woman and dog. Woman, donkey and a parrot. Sixteen tiny reindeer and a horse that sweats. It just doesn't matter. I don't care who they are, in what combination, or what kink. Or no kink at all. If it's sexual in nature, I don't want to see it!"

Now I'm no prude. I have my preferences, and I'm sure you have yours, and I do not tend to make judgments based on those preferences. But I don't want an audience when I'm engaging in my preferences, and I don't want to be your audience when you're engaging in yours. Look: my cab is my office. Would you want me coming over and having sex in your office, on your desk? Messing up your paperwork? It doesn't matter what your answer is, you are not doing it in MY office, messing up MY upholstery. Frankly, to me, people having backseat sex were my nightmare.

Naturally, having said all this, my nightmare came true, the very next night.

On that fateful evening, at about midnight on a Wednesday, I got a call to do a pickup at the Tiajuana Country Club, a nightclub at the intersection of Ray Road and 32nd Avenue, in Ahwatukee, a Phoenix suburb. As luck would have it, I was only about five minutes away, so I was Johnny-on-the-spot. It turned out that it was a young, college aged-couple that had called for the cab. They must not have been expecting me to arrive so soon, because when I arrived to pick them up, the door host, a cute young thing herself, told me that they were waiting around to the side of the building.

"This can't be good," I said to her, as we both started walking to the side of the building.

"Why's that?," she asked in reply.

"Well, it's been my experience that when people are waiting for me around the side of the building, then trouble's abrewin'. Either they're drunk and passed out, or they're hiding something that they don't want me to see, or, they're puking their guts out. This last is usually not a problem. Better they puke on the side of your building than the inside of my car. But, sometimes they puke on themselves, and when that happens, then I've come all the way here for nothing."

"Why's that?"

"Well, when someone wears their bodily fluids on the outside of their body, I don't let them get on the inside of my car. If I don't let them in, then I don't make any money. So be it, the alternative is too gruesome to contemplate."

"Yeah, I see what you mean."

At this point we came to the corner of the building and looked around the side, but there no one was to be seen. But, I heard voices. Odd. Where were the people? I decided to solve this problem by asking in a loud voice,

"Did anyone call for a cab?"

A disembodied voice replied,

"We did!"

The door host and I both looked around, but couldn't see anyone.

"Down here!", said the voice.

I looked down. Where I saw my customers. On the ground. Both of them. A man and a woman. He on top of her. Doing you know what. Nice... But not really.

"Take your time," I said. "I'll wait over by the cab."

I turned and walked back to my car, the door host at my side.

"This ought to be an interesting trip, don't you think?." I asked her.

"I don't know, maybe it'll be fun!," she replied.

Maybe it'll be fun? Somehow, I had the feeling that we weren't EVEN on the same wavelength.

To be continued...


The Cab Guy

Click here to read "Threeway on the Freeway - Part Two"


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Get Rich Quick

Hello again, Gentle Reader. A couple of days ago, I was sent this e-mail, purportedly from The Desk of: Mr. Kim Chun, offering me the opportunity to earn almost ten million dollars. What would I have to do to earn this windfall? Well, why don't you just read the e-mail yourself.

I have not modified Kim Chun's e-mail in anyway, and (except for line-width: my blog is narrower than his e-mail, which got "scrunched-up") have left all errors of spelling, grammar, and formatting intact:


Shop 1110-1011, G/F,
Yiu Sing Mansion,
14 Taikoo Shing Road

I am Mr. Kim Chun, Manager, foreign operations dept of the Hang Seng Bank
Ltd, Taikoo Shing Branch. I have an obscured business suggestion
for you. Before the U.S and Iraqi war our client Colonel Sadiq Uday who was
with the Iraqi forces and also a business man made a numbered fixed deposit
18 calendar months, with a value of Nineteen Millions Five Hundred Thousand
United State Dollars only, in my branch. Upon maturity several notices was
to him during and after the war with out any response from him.

We later find out that the Colonel and his family where killed during the
war in a bomb blast that hit their home. After further investigation it was
also discovered
that Colonel Sadiq Uday did not declare any living next of kin in his
official papers including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also
confide in me the
last time he was at my office that no one except me knew of his deposit in
my bank. So, Nineteen millions Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars is
lying in my bank and no one will ever come forward to claim it.

What bothers me most is that according to the banking laws of my country at
the expiration 5 (Five) years the funds will reverts to the ownership of the
Kong Government if nobody applies to claim the funds. Against this
backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a foreigner to
stand as the next of
kin to Colonel Sadiq Uday so that you will be able to receive his funds.


I want you to know that I have had everything planned out so that we shall
come out successful. I have contacted an Attorney that will prepare the
documents that will back you up as the next of kin to Colonel Sadiq Uday,
all which is required from you at this stage is for you to provide me with
your Full Names,
Address and telephone number so that the Attorney can commence his job.
After you have been made the next of kin, the Attorney will also fill in for
claims on
your behalf and secure the necessary approval and letter of probate in your
favor for the move of the funds to an account that will be provided by you.

There is no risk involved at all in the matter as we are going to adopt a
legalized method and the Attorney will prepare all the necessary documents.
endeavor to observe utmost discretion in all matters concerning this issue.
Once the funds have been transferred to your nominated bank account the
ratio will be 50-50, though, open for negotiation be you.

Should you be interested please send me your full names and current
residential address and I will prefer you reach me on my private email
address below . I shall provide you with more details of this
operation after I get the requested information from you.

Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.

Kind Regards

Mr. Kim Chun.

Well, Gentle Readers, what should I do? This offer is certainly tempting on it's face. I'm sure that Mr. Chen has only the purest of motives on my behalf, as evidenced by his willingness to allow all of the money to be deposited in my back account, before he gets his due share. Why, he's even willling to negotiate how we share the proceeds, though he does suggest a fifty-fifty split.

And it certainly makes sense that he would ask for all my private residential information, as he will need it in order that he may send me any necessary doccuments for my signature.

But I wanted to be absolutely certain that this was on the up-and-up, so I Googled "HANG SENG BANK LTD." to see if it really existed.

It does. HANG SENG BANK LTD. comes up first on Googles search engine, one of over a million entries with variation on the phrase HANG SENG BANK LTD.

I didn't bother to go the the first entry, as I was more interested in the second entry, which I have linked

If you read the information on the linked page, you might come away with the impression, as I did, that Mr. Cheung Pui ranks higher up in the hiearchy of the Hang Seng Bank, Ltd., as he has found an account with an even greater stash of loot.

Which leads me to ask several questions:

Should I curb my greed, just accept Mr. Chun's offer, and be content?

Should I contact both Mr. Chun and Mr. Pui, work with them both, thereby earning even greater wealth?

Should I decline both offers, knowing that with riches such as these I would probably discontinue driving my cab, thereby making this blog irrelevant, which would deprive you, my loyal readers, of the great joy you obtain by reading my words of wisdom?

Or should I just remember something that my mother taught me: "If it seems to good to be true, it probably is!"

What should I do?

What would you do?


The Cab Guy


Monday, October 29, 2007

A Lame-Assed Excuse

Hi. Thanks for stopping by. Glad you're here. Too bad it's all for nothing, if you were expecting to see a new post for this date. It was my intention to have a new one ready, and call it "Three-Way on the Freeway." It was going to be dedicated to my friend Johnny Wraith. But that post isn't ready, so all I have to offer is this lame-assed excuse. I know that I really didn't have to put anything up, and you would have never known the difference. The problem is, I would have known. And Johnny would have known.

Yeah, like some writers are wont to do, I discussed the debut of a story before it was ready for publication. This is always a mistake. As a matter of fact, I was talking to Johnny just a few hours ago, and told him that he could look forward to reading it bright and early in the morning. Early being the operant word: Johnny typically gets up at about five a.m. each day. I knew he would log on to read it well before dawn, seeing as how it was dedicated to him, and involved one of his favorite topics. Probably the one at the top of his list. Sex. Involving humans, not lab rats. Though Johnny apparently likes to watch lab rats go at it. Whatever. Different strokes, and all of that. But my story is one involving humans, not lab rats, so I knew he was looking forward to it.

But as I wrote the story, it started growing. Exponentially. By leaps and bounds. It started to scare me, it was getting so big. As a matter of fact, even though it was no more than two-thirds finished, it became obvious that I would have to pare it down. A lot. Which isn't a bad thing. As it turns out, all the parts that I have to cut out will become gist for another story. So it wasn't all wasted effort.

So really, this story isn't for you. Most of you will never see it, because the post that should be here will arrive before you do. But I know that Johnny will read this. Which is why I offer this lame-assed excuse. So here goes...

Johnny: hey man, I'm sorry. I'll finish the story as soon as I can. Please be patient. It'll be worth the wait. Guaranteed.

Hang in there, Tiger. Sorry for making you wait. Meanwhile, stop touching yourself.


The Cab Guy


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thanks for the Tip!

I used to be a regular contributor to a Phoenix area entertainment guide known as Fast Lane Magazine in a column called "Road Rage: Tales from the Taxi." The following story first appeared in my column published in the January 8, 2004 issue. This keep this in mind while reading it, as there are some less than timely references to Christmas and Saddam Hussein.

I decided to post this piece here, at this time, because I thought it would be a nice complement to my last posting, which involved roast beef sandwiches and bumper-stickers, but also included a rant about how some people don't tip. Okay, the part about Saddam Hussein isn't really germain to the whole tipping thing, but it was in the column then, and for the sake of artistic integrity (giggle!) I've left it in here. Here goes...

Hello again, my friends, it’s certainly good to see you! I’m glad we’ve had this opportunity to get together, as I hope that what I have to say will bring some joy into your lives at this most festive time of the year. Here we are, near the end of yet another year. My year was certainly full and blessed, and I hope yours was, also. Although, for personal reasons of belief I do not celebrate Christmas, I do so enjoy this time of year as people make plans to celebrate with loved ones, and also make plans for the New Year to come.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I do think that we have quite a lot to celebrate about. For one, everyone who is reading this column has, at the very least, survived another year, and had at least that opportunity to improve their situation, and that of their loved ones. For another, although, sadly, America is still virtually at war in Iraq, that arch-enemy of peace, Saddam Hussein, has been hunted to the ground, quite literally, and captured, thus bringing us, and the Iraqi people, just a little bit closer to closure in this matter. As your Cab Guy, I was amused at the news that there was a taxi parked outside of the house where Saddam’s hidey-hole was discovered. Apparently, he had been using it to get around during the time that he was on the run. I wonder if he was a big tipper? My instinct tells me that if the driver even asked for the fare, let alone a tip, he would have received a bullet in his head for his troubles!

I don’t know about you, but I wonder how Saddam felt in his last few days of freedom. In moments of quiet reverie, I pretend I am he, and imagine what he would think:

“You know, I never would have thought it would come to this, trapped in this shitty little hole in the ground. I mean come on! I’m Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, chief of what was once the fourth largest army on the planet. For over thirty years I’ve done things my own way. If someone didn’t like it, tough shit, I fed them a bullet."

"Where did I slip up? Was it Iran? Kuwait? The Kurds, damn their eyes? What? What went wrong? Those puissant Americans! Who would have thought a couple of Bushes could have brought down a might oak like myself?"

"And so here I am, stuck in this shitty little hole in the ground, sharing a blanket with about a million lice, down to my last $750,000 dollars. Shit… this really sucks!”

I wonder if Saddam Hussein ever thinks about me? I don’t know, maybe Fast Lane Magazine makes it to Iraq every now and again. If that’s the case…

“Hey Saddam… think your little grotto in the desert sucked? (Pointing to my crotch) Suck this, you miserable little canker sore!”

Alright, enough about that guy, I’d better shut up before I really get started. Let’s move on to the actual humor section of this edition of Road Rage. Allow me to bring to you an amusing little tale of whimsy, entitled:

"Thanks for the Tip!"

The other day I was talking to another cab guy that I know. (Notice how he is “cab guy” in lower-case? There can only be one upper-case “Cab Guy”, and he is me!) After chipping our gums for a few minutes, he told me that yet another cab guy had just told him a story that he thought would be perfect for my column. Smart-ass that I am, I told him that I was the sole judge of all things perfect for my column, but he could take his best shot. So he told me the story that the other cab guy had just finished telling him.

I had to admit, that it would, in fact, be perfect for my column. Always desiring to hear the story straight from the horse’s ass, I mean, mouth, I gave him my card, and asked him to have the other guy call me when he next saw him. Well, last night the other guy called me to tell his tale, and since I was still scraping around for something to put in this edition of Road Rage, I welcomed the timeliness of his call. Anyway, the fellow’s name is Alan P., and like me, he has driven a cab in the Valley for a number of years, and has seen a lot of crap in those years. I have to admit, I have never heard anything like this story before, so I’m going to let Alan tell you in his own (paraphrased) words:

“Well, the other day, I picked up this lady who told me that she needed to get home. She told me where she lived, so off we went. Had I’d know what was going to happen, I would have asked for the money up front, because I knew it was going to be about a $30.00 fare, but as she was reasonably well dressed, and wasn’t acting weird, I didn’t even consider her to be the type of person who would “cab and dash.”

"As we pulled into her apartment complex, she told me that the speed bumps were really terrible, and that I needed to slow way down. As we came up on a speed bump, she reminded me to slow down, which I did, almost to a full stop. When I did that, she was out of the car like a shot. By the time that I put the car in park, got out of my seat belt and got out of the car, she had already made her way between two buildings in the complex, and was gone.'

"Well, obviously I was more that a little pissed, and disappointed at the loss of thirty dollars, but, it wasn’t the first time ever that I was stiffed, and probably won’t be the last time, so I sucked it up and went back to the car. When I got to the car, I went ahead and checked out the back seat, like I always do after every passenger, just to see if she had left anything of value behind. Imagine my shock when I saw a lady’s clutch purse there on the back seat."

"I opened the door to retrieve the purse. Imagine my delight to see, upon opening the purse, that not only was my passenger’s picture ID was in the wallet, but the address on the wallet was for the complex where I had let her off! But wait, there’s more! Guess what else was in the purse? $65.00! What a stupid lady she was, to run out on a thirty dollar fare, leaving her purse, ID and sixty-five dollars behind!"

"The way I figure it, she probably was just a little pressed for time, so rather that hold it against her, I took the money, put into the wallet a note that said, “Thanks for the big tip, I appreciate it!”, and turned her purse in at the complex office!”

I couldn’t resist telling that story to several other people, who all agreed that it was definitely worthy of inclusion in Road Rage. But wait, there’s more! Cab drivers are as a group, like many other groups, subject to telling war stories. Put two or more cabbies together at one location, and sooner or later, one of them will say, “Hey, I got to tell you about this fare that I had the other day!”, and then proceed to tell a story that the other cabbie has likely lived through. (You know what I mean, it’s like Hollywood: although the actors may be different, the plot rarely changes.) When he’s finished, the second guy will probably tell a story, and likely as not, try to top the first guy’s story.

Well, in this instance, I was not surprised to hear someone tell me what they would have done, had Alan’s story happened to him. This guy, let’s just call him “Pete” says he would have tacked a different ending on to his story. Really, I say, do tell! And so he did. Here’s Pete’s version:

“Well, if I had found that broad’s purse, I’d have taken the money alright, but I wouldn’t have stopped there. I would have wanted her to suffer a little bit, just like me, and I would have wanted to watch. So what I would have done, after stashing the cash, would have been to call the cops, had them come over, and bang on her door. I think it would have been a real hoot to see her sweat, having to explain herself to the cop who told her she had to pay up or go to jail: ‘But, Officer, I had sixty-five dollars in that purse. You should be arresting him for stealing thirty-five dollars from me!’ Man, I would have loved seeing her in the hot seat! It would have been sweet. Of course, after a little while of watching her squirm I’d have told the cop I couldn't waste anymore time, I needed to get back to work, and let her off the hook!”

I told Pete that I thought he was a true gentleman, but I don’t really think that he grasped the irony of my statement.

Well, yet another cabbie, “Jack” seems like as good a name as any, heard me tell Alan’s story, and Pete’s rejoinder, and I guess he just couldn’t resist having a little fun himself, because he said that he had something to throw into the mix.

“Well, I’ve got to agree with Pete. I’d have taken the money, stashed it away, and then called the cops, also. It would have been sweet to see her squirming around like a worm on a hook. I live for shit like that. But there is no way I would have let her off the hook that easy! You’ve got to teach people like that a lesson, one they’re never, ever, going to forget. I call that lesson, ‘Stick it in me, and I’ll break it off in you!’ What I’d have done, when the cops got there, is let her go through her song and dance about having money in the purse. I’m sure that at some point the officer would have said something like, ‘If you had sixty-five dollars in your wallet, why didn’t you just give him thirty of it and be done. Now you owe him the thirty that was on the meter when you ran, plus whatever’s been rung up since then. From here, I can see that the meter is up to sixty dollars, and it’s still running. I suggest you give him that amount, or I’ll have to arrest you for theft.’ I bet she’d have paid up. Now, that’s my idea of justice!”

I’m sure that somewhere, right now as you read this, some cab guy is telling Alan’s story to another cab guy, and throwing in his two cents. I’m sure that sooner or later, one of these jokers is going to claim he would have done all that and more, up to and including hounding her until she ate a gun. One thing about cab guys: through us the milk of human kindness flows quite cold! Until the next time we meet, stay safe, and stay sane! See you next year!


The Cab Guy


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Do You Need A Job? How's My Driving?

A couple of nights ago, Thursday, I believe, I picked up a very nice lady named Sheila at a local grocery store. As I normally do, I opened the trunk by pushing the "Trunk Open" button on the dashboard, and then got out of the car to help her move her groceries from the cart to the trunk. After all the bags were out of the cart, I noticed a Kit-Kat candy bar in the bottom of the cart, and pointed it out to Sheila. She told me that it must have fallen out of an open pack, and said I could have it if I wanted. I thanked her for it, commenting that I was a little hungry, as I hadn't eaten my dinner yet. She said she'd make me a sandwich, if I liked roast beef, after I helped her to take her groceries into her house.

Now, unless a person specifically refuses help from me, I always assist them in getting their luggage, groceries or whatever out of the cab and into their hotel, house or wherever. Not only does the cab company expect me to do it, I think that it's really the right thing to do, even though I know that in some cases it won't increase the size of the tip.

You might be asking how I could possibly know if this courtesy could negatively affect the size of a tip if refused, or increase it if granted. After all, how could I possibly know how much a person planned to tip in either circumstances? Well, most of the time, you'd be right, as there is no way I could possibly know what part of any tip was for the safe ride, and what part was for schlepping baggage, short of asking the person.

But, I stand by my statement: sometimes the extra help does not increase the size of the tip. The evidence? Believe it or not, some people just don't tip, regardless of the circumstances. There have been times when I have moved dozens of grocery bags up as many as three flights of stairs, and have only received the amount that was on the meter when the car stopped, even though I am legally entitled to collect for any additional time charges that may accrue prior to the car being emptied. The meter might say $5.00 when we stop, and $7.00 when the car is empty. Many's the time I've only been given a fiver for my efforts.

So now you might be tempted to say,

"Ah, hah! What you said was, 'I know that in some cases it will not increase the size of the tip.' This is a predictive statement. How can you predict that you won't be tipped?"

It's easy. If the car stops, the meter says $5.00, and the passenger hands me a fiver before I even open the trunk, I know I'm not going to be tipped. I didn't have to predict that I won't be tipped; I can see that I haven't been tipped.

Some people, no matter how much I've gone "above and beyond," just won't tip. But I don't take it personally. I figure that they probably never tip anyone. The rat bastards.

But I digress. It wasn't my intention, when I began this story, to go off on a tangent, and rant about how some people don't tip. I'm sorry it happened. I just felt an overwhelming need to vent. Thanks for your patience. I feel better now. May I now finish the story in the manner that I had originally intended? Okay, here goes.

Now, notice that Sheila said she'd make me a roast beef sandwich after I helped her carry her bags to her door? Wasn't she being somewhat presumptuous, assuming that I'd carry her bags for her? Why, the nerve of some people! At least she could have asked, rather than just assuming...

I'm just kidding! I'm not going to go off on another rant. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Actually, she'd already told me she was going to give me an extra five dollars for helping her, even before she mentioned the roast beef sandwich. So that's that. On to the rest of the story.

After I helped get the groceries into her house, Sheila invited me to sit at her kitchen table, and proceeded to assemble a sandwich for me. Actually two. On dark rye, with cheese, mustard and mayonnaise, just the way I like it. Accompanied by a nice, big, cold glass of milk. She made one for herself, and joined me at the table. We had a pleasant conversation while munching our sandwiches. The roast beef was delicious, and really hit the spot! It was a nice change of pace for me, and I was grateful for Sheila's hospitality. We talked for a few minutes after the sandwiches were but a pleasant memory, and then I said that I really had to go back to work. She walked me to the door, and then to my cab.

But, just like my tip rant, this wasn't supposed to be a story about roast beef sandwiches, milk, and a nice conversation. You probably already knew this by the title of the story. It just turned out that way. The story of Sheila's hospitality is my way of compensating for my little rant about tipping. And also to explain how is was that Sheila came back to the car.

Because she came back to the car, Sheila was able to see the rear bumper. What she there prompted a short discussion which lead to the idea for the story I had intended to tell, several hundred words ago. So let me tell that story. You might think it's funny. Then again you might not. Either way, you'll know in just a few seconds, because it is a short story. I promise. I think it's best if I just start over. Here goes.

The other day, a passenger of mine, Sheila, pointed out to me the incongruity of a couple of bumper stickers on the back of my cab. One said "Do you need a job?", while the other said, "How's My Driving?" Each one had a phone number on it, but they were different numbers. Obviously, the cab company wanted the public to give feedback on my driving, as well as attract potential new cabby's, or other employees. I'd seen the stickers, but never really gave them much thought.

Sheila thought that it was funny that they were side-by-side. She said she doubted that a job seeker would call to complain about my driving.

"Why's that?", I asked.

"Well," she said, "What if they did report you, and then got the job? I think they'd be afraid of what you might do if you found out they snitched you off!"

I thought about it for a moment, pondering the possibilities. I told her that maybe she was right, I never thought of it that way. We both chuckled at the absurdity. But then the cynic in me took over. I had a much more sinister view, and told her so.

"Or maybe," I said, "someone might call the complaint line, with a horrendous, but phony, complaint, just to get me fired!"

"Why in the world would someone do something like that?", she asked.

"Don't you see? To create a job opening. To make it easier for them to get a job. Driving my cab!"

We both laughed. It's funny, don't you think?

I guess you had to be there.

By the way, not withstanding my earlier comments about people who don't tip, I really don't care if any particular person doesn't tip me. The generosity of others helps make up the difference. I'm not saying it's okay not to tip your cab driver. I'm just saying it's no skin off my nose. But remember this: if you stiff me this time, be prepared for what might happen the next time I'm assigned as your driver. I'd bring something to read, if I were you.

I've got a standing offer to come over to Sheila's anytime I want a sandwich.


The Cab Guy


Friday, October 26, 2007

In Loving Memory...

Yesterday, while tooling around in my cab, just trying to make a living, I happened to spot a sign that said something like this: "This stretch of highway maintained In Loving Memory of John Smith." Now I've seen similar signs like this for years, but usually they say something like, "This stretch of highway maintained by Boy Scoot Troop 316" or "This stretch of highway maintained by the employees of Wal-Mart number 1234."

Signs employing the latter format are ubiqutous, and I seen them around in various locations for years. I usually don't pay much attention to them, except to the extent that I am gratified that some people are truly taking an interest in keeping some small, specific areas of America clean and beautiful. I guess what attracted me to yesterday's sign-spotting was the "In Loving Memory..." format.

I've seen such "In Loving Memory..." postings before. However, the vast majority of these previous sightings were painted or decaled onto the rear or side window of a pickup truck or car, usually in a hard to read font such as old English, or Gothic, and they tend to look like this:

In Loving Memory
Juan Valdez
You will Be Missed!

I think that it's great that some people have, while they lived, made such an impact upon those around them, that when they died, their friends and relatives proclaimed the impact thus made by posting various "In Loving Memory..." memorials. Of course, the cynic in me can't help but think that at least some of these memorials so displayed are for the aggrandizement of the one who displays it, rather than the deceased, but that is neither here nor there. I'm just saying that sometimes I wonder about the sincerity of such sentiments.

Now, I said all of the above just to set the stage, to provide some context, and to allow what I'm about to say below make sense.

Suppose that, while he lived, John Smith was a prick, a real thoroughgoing bastard, thoroughly despised by all, both near and far, all across this great land of ours. What type of memorial would be posted for him then? Would his friends and relatives felt the need to tell the world of how they really felt about him, to the extent that they would have posted a different sign over a different type of property? If so, would such a sign be posted somewhere more appropriate to the sentiment?

I think that maybe they would, and it might look something like this:

This Garbage Dump Maintained
In Spiteful Memory of
John "The Prick Bastard" Smith
1923 to 2005
May He Rot Like All The Other Crap Here!

I guess the moral of this story is, if you think your friends and neighbors are the type to memorialize you when you are dead, maybe you should treat them better while you're alive!

Furthermore, were I to see such as sign, I would have no doubts at all as to its sincerity. Would you?


The Cab Guy


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Light Rail Blues - Part Five

Okay, I have finally gotten around to writing Part Five of this series. I really don't think there is a need to recap the other parts of the series. If you've gotten this far, you know what I said in parts one through four. If you're not familiar with what I've said, and you're really really interested, just go to the archives and read those posts.

As readers of this series can tell, I am not in love with the Light Rail system that Phoenix is getting. Among other things, I think it has design flaws that render it a less than optimal system. I want to discuss this, and contrast it with my preferred design.

For example, the placement of the rails in the middle of city streets means that it will have to compete with already existing traffic, and change traffic flow patterns in the neighborhoods that it transits. I have stated that because of this, travel on the Light Rail system will not be any faster than travel on the city bus. With the rails in the middle of the street, the Light Rail will be competing for space with other traffic, and will have to flow along at roughly the same speed, as it will use the same grade-level intersections, and therefore must respect the traffic lights. However, during rush hour, since it has it's own dedicated corridor, it won't be subject to slowdowns simply because of traffic volume. I am guessing that because of this, transit times along the Light Rail path will be fairly consistent, regardless of the time of day. But one must still consider what will happen when a train comes upon an intersection that is not clear due to blockage by cars that have not cleared the intersection between traffic light cycles. We've all seen cars enter an intersection late in the green part of the light, or even yellow, but not exit it before the red because of stalled traffic. This leads to gridlock, and unless this bad driving habit is somehow changed, the Light Rail will be subject to the same gridlock.

So the light rail trains will have to compete with automotive traffic, which is already a mess during rush hour. So let's, just for fun, throw in the mix the fact that Phoenix appears to be the red-light running capital of America. Do you think that this bad habit that many drivers have will tend to negatively impact the Light Rail system? I sure do. I'm wondering how many trains and cars will collide with each other due to the negligence of drivers, or even train operators. I feel fairly confident in guaranteeing that this number will not ever be zero, except, of course, prior to the first collision.

Another effect of placement of the rails in the middle of the street relates to passenger access. With the rails in the middle of the street, so, too, will be the stops. Passengers entering or exiting the system will have to cross the path of automotive traffic to use the system. I personally don't feel very comfortable while crossing streets in the Phoenix Metro area, and I am a very careful pedestrian. I always wait for the the appropriate crossing signal, look both ways before starting to cross, remain aware of potential danger while crossing, move as quickly as I can, and still feel like I'm taking my life into my own hands when I do it. So what? Well, I see people crossing in an unsafe manner all the time, and wonder how they can do it. Yes, I know that the law grants pedestrians the right of way in crosswalks, but let's face facts: the laws of physics grants cars the "right of mass" in any car-pedestrian collision, with the usual result people that the pedestrian is usually injured, many times fatally. How many people will become maimed or killed by automotive traffic (due to pedestrian negligence, granted, but it still must be considered) while trying to enter or exit a train stop? Or what about people who habitually cross the street between intersections? Look for pedestrian-train collisions to be a less than rare occurrence in the future.

But what are some of the other effects of the design characteristics of a rail system? To start with, because it is a rail system, once in place, it is inflexible. It goes where it goes, even if, at some time in the future, ridership patterns change. If a bus route experiences a change in ridership, it can be discontinued, modified as to specific path, or even expanded or reduced (by increasing or decreasing the frequency of buses along the route), allowing the system to take advantage of the changed preferences of its patrons. Certainly the frequency of trains along the Light Rail path can be changed, if need be. But the path cannot be changed. It starts "here" and goes "there." If the patrons of the system demonstrate that they want a different "here" and "there", well, too bad. It is where it is, and it goes where it goes. Make no mistake, if ridership increases, the frequency of the trains will most certainly increase. But if ridership falls, even to practically nil, it won't, in all likelihood, be abandoned. To much money will have been invested in the system.

Also, as I stated in a previous part of this series, specific traffic patterns along the Light Rail route will be altered because of raised traffic barriers separating the train from automotive traffic. Left turns and street-crossing access will be severely impacted by these barriers. In some places already the distance between these access points has increased to up to half a mile, from the previous stretch of a block or so. This won't be good for traffic flow at all. If you've ever seen the intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt, in Mesa, lately, you'll know what I mean. At any time of the day, traffic piles up to turn left, or make U-turns to access the other side of the street, creating a hazard. During rush hour, the situation is positively nuts!

So allow me to recap my complaints regarding the design of the Light Rail system: 1. The trains won't really move any faster than the bus, or other traffic, except possibly during rush hour; 2. Collisions between cars and trains will occur; 3. Collisions between people and trains will occur; 4. Routes, once in place, are inflexible. 5. Existing traffic patterns will be negatively, and in some places, severely impacted.

So, what if we started from scratch? What if we agreed that, because of the traffic situation he in Phoenix, we decided that something had to be done? What would we do? Would we just throw something together, and applaud ourselves because we had done something which had to be done? Or would we take a more thoughtful approach, and critically examine the problem, and come up with an optimal system? Well, of course, from here on out, everything I say is just "spit balling," because we have what we have, and that's all there is to it. However, that does not mean that after the first line is completed that we must continue on, and expand the system according to the same basic design. Things can be done differently in the future, because I agree, something has to be done.

Now I'll grant you, once your design of choice becomes a rail system, your decision as to where to place the rails comes down to three choices: 1. Underground, as in a subway; 2. Grade-level, as we are getting here in Phoenix; and 3. Above ground level, as in the elevated train in Chicago. Each design has it's merits and it's flaws. A subway, because of all the excavation, cost significantly more than a grade-level or elevated system. I presume an elevated system costs less than a subway, but probably more than a grade-level system, and it may be esthetically unpleasing. I'm sure a grade-level system is much less expensive, but it has negative impacts such as those I've discussed. Would it have been a better option to pay more for a subway, or put up with the esthetic effects of an El? Would the costs have outweighed the benefits? Who knows.

Now I suspect that a grade-level system was cchose primarily due to cost factors, but esthetics probably also played a part. So with this in mind, rather than builing a light rail system, with it's problems, why wasn't the option of expanding the bus system chosen? Now, as I've stated previously, I'm no real fan of the bus system. But really, given it's operational limits, is the Light Rail system really superior to the bus in any great way? I don't think so. Not only does it shares the same streets, and move at about the same speeds, but it is inflexible as to route, and deeply impacts traffic patterns around it.

Why not just expand the bus system? Trains need operators like buses do, so would expanding the bus system have a greater employee cost over the train, for the sme given volume of ridership? Probably not to any great degree. Buses cost less than trains, so additional capacity for the bus system from a capital standpoint must be cheaper than the Light Rail system. Sure, a two-car train may carry more people, but what about the extended two-unit buses that I've seen tooling around certain parts of our city?

My bottom line is this; if the Light Rail system really can't accomplish it's task any better than the bus, why pay so much more for it? I say stick with the bus. But update the design. Here's where we get to the part where I fulfill my promise to show you my idea of a system that might have been better.

A couple of decades ago I had the oppotunity to stay in Vancouver, British Columbia, for a few days. I was up there for the 1984 World's Exposition. When not actually at the Expo site, I spent quite a bit of time moving around Vancouver itself, which, by the way, is a very pretty city. I got around by bus. But these weren't ordinary buses. They were electric. But they did not run on battery power. Along each side of the road along a bus line, there was an over-head electric line, just like you'll see over the Light Rail path. On top of each bus was a device that reached up to the electric line, enabling the bus to draw electric power. This device was not static; it had the ability to swivel in several dimensions, which allowed the bus to not negotiate curves and turn corners, but also change lanes, which enabled the buses to make both right and left hand turns. The ability to change lanes also allow the buses to bypass any obstacles in its path, and so the buses had the potential to move very quickly. The interior of the buses were similar to those we have in Phoenix. It seemed to be a very capable system.

At the very least, Vancouver's bus system was cheaper than the Light Rail to build, probably less costly to maintain, was more flexible, and didn't have near the negative impact on traffic that I'm prediting the Light Rail will have. It did the same job our Light Rail system is supossed to do, but it probably cost far less. I don't believe our Light Rail will out perform Vancouver's then-extant bus system. Too bad we didn't buy something similar.

This is my idea of a better way of doing things. If "more expensive" does not out perform "cheaper", I say go with cheaper everytime. It may not be as sexy, or look as pretty, but the money left over will compensate for this.

Thanks for paying attention. I've pretty much exhausted what I have to say about the Light Rail system. My little rant has grown into a big rant. It won't change things. We're still going to get the Light Rail system. But maybe when it comes time to expand it, the powers that be will put in a little more time considering a more optimal solution for our transportation problem.


The Cab Guy


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Light Rail Blues - Query From A Reader

Recently, one of my loyal readers, Johnny Wraith, in the comments section, asked me a couple of questions that I thought were particularly pertinent to the subject that my series, Light Rail Blues, addresses. Additionally, he made the request that I write a particular type of story. Rather than just post my answers in the comments section of this blog, I decided to make his questions, and my answers, more visible to the general readership.

On Sunday, October 21, 2007, at 7:11 AM, Johnny asked,

"How will the light rail affect the taxi business?" and "If you could earn more by being a light rail operator, would you rather be a light rail operator?" This was his story request: "Please tell us a story about ladies changing their clothes in the back of your cab." Well, at least Johnny knows what he wants!

Here are my responses:

Johnny, you have a asked a couple of very good questions. Unfortunately, right now, I'd have to say that the answer to both is, "I don't know."

As to the first question, there are too many ridership variables to easily quantify the solution.

Here's one example: how many people, who are currently using taxis to get around, will use the light rail instead? Any positive number would tend to decrease taxi revenues.

Here's another: how many people, who are currently using their cars for an entire trip, will take a cab to a light rail stop, use the train to their destination (or to a system system exit point, and use a taxi for the balance of their trip)? A positive number here would tend to increase taxi revenue.

Taken all together, will the net effect of all the possible variables result in increased taxi revenues? Well, we're back to square one: I don't know. I think you'd agreed a simple answer to this question will require significant study and calculation.

My gut feeling, based on how low I predict ridership will be from the start (and for at least a few years) is that the net effect on the cab economy will be negligible overall. This is especially true for me, as especially to me, as I work the whole Valley; the Light Rail corridor is a small segment of my market. However, I do think that those drivers who specialize in serving areas adjacent to the light rail corridor may have to make adjustments.

Would I want to be light rail operator, instead of a cab driver, presuming I could make more money? Hell, I might do it for less money, if the benefits package is favorable. Right now I work about twelve hours a day, six days a week, and any benefits I get are paid for directly out of my pocket. This is because I am an independent contractor, and not an employee. As a light rail operator, I presume I would work a standard forty-hour week, as an employee, with benefits. Yes, I know that the cost of benefits are paid by employees, in the form of a lower gross salary or wage, but after all is said and done, net disposable income is what really counts, as it is what buys a lifestyle.

So, I think johnny's question really becomes, if you could have a better lifestyle as the result of becoming light rail operator, would you make the change? Probably. At least, as a light rail operator, I'd probably work quite a few less hours. And my chances of becoming the victim of an act of senseless, random violence or robbery would probably be substantially smaller. That's got to count for something, wouldn't you say?

As for me writing a story about ladies changing their clothes in the back of my cab? Well, I'm willing to produce such a story, but right now it will have to be fiction. Such an event hasn't taken place in my reality. Yet. But who knows? Maybe with time... be patient. And check back with me on a regular basis. I can't predict when ladies will want to change their clothes in the back of my cab. Or what I will do if it happens!

Thanks for your questions and request, Johnny. I'm glad to see that someone is paying attention.


The Cab Guy


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Light Rail Blues - Part Four

You know, when I first started this series on the Phoenix Light Rail system, it wasn't supposed to be a series at all. My original intention as for it to be a relatively short rant about how inconvenient the construction of the system was for me, and probably a lot of other people. But, during the writing of that rant, I came to realize that I had a lot more to say about the situation. Naturally, having this forum, I decided to expand upon my little rant, and the result was this series.

Previously, I had promised that here in Part Four of Light Rail Blues, I would describe a system that I think might have been a better option over the current plan. However, I am writing this series as I go along; there was no grand design, no overall plan as to where I would go with it. Therefore, I have granted to myself a certainly flexibility in fulfilling my previous promise, and have decided that in this segment I examine how the Light Rail system might fulfill its promise, at least along a part of the line. My thoughts on a better design will have to wait.

Now look, I'm no expert when it comes to transportation issues. So many of you may think that I'm not really qualified to discuss our Light Rail system in any critical manner. But I am an expert on ME, which means I am qualified to discuss whether or not it will meet my needs, whether or not I would use such a system, and to describe a system that I think would meet my needs. You, too, are probably not an expert on transportation issues. But you, too, are an expert on YOU. Therefore, you, too, are qualified to have an opinion in the matter, even if it differs from that of the experts.

As a cab driver, I've have had the opportunity to discuss the Light Rail system we are getting with literally dozens, maybe hundreds (who the Hell knows, I haven't been keeping records) of my passengers. A fairly large majority of these people have expressed many of the same sentiments that I have written about. Here and there a few of people have told me that they think the Light Rail system will be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or canned beer. Or readily available porn. Or whatever. However, when I ask those same people to think about the system from the point of view that I have, quite a few of them have come over to my way of thinking, and expressed the same kind of doubts that I have.

You see, once you get past the hype, and really start to examine certain aspects of an issue, it is possible to look at something and decide it won't provide the benefit that it is supposed to, regardless of what the experts say! Everyone has the ability to look at the world around them, and come to some pretty certain conclusions as to how it works, or doesn't, whichever the case, even in the absence of hard numerical data and complicated, rigorous studies. This ability even allows you to make some pretty good predictions about the future, with regards to how the world works. This allows you to open your mind to the possibilities of "what if."

Allow me to give you an example of what I mean. I admit, it's a pretty disgusting example, but it will tend to prove my point. Actually, I think you should just agree with me: you can look at the world around you, think for yourself, and come to reliable conclusions on your own, even in the absence of hard data. If you did this, you could skip the next three paragraphs, to the fourth, which starts with "Welcome back." You could completely ignore my example, and really not miss much. I would recommend that you do this. Right now. Don't read the next section. I'm warning you: my example, although it really makes my point, is gross. Really gross. I mean it. You really would be better off not reading it. Trust me, it's true, and it really, really, makes my point, but you will be a long time getting over the experience. Still with me? Well, here goes...

Did you know that every time you use the toilet, you are flushing away some pretty valuable nutrients? It's true: the waste product of the typical American diet is rich in potential nutritional value. I can prove, through rigorous scientific analysis, that a certain percentage of human waste consists of undigested fats, carbohydrates and proteins, which are the essential components of food. Upon seeing my data, unless you thought I had jiggered said data, you would have to agree that, if properly processed, people could eat poop.

So if I processed human waste, and turned it into food, would you eat it? Do you think others would? I know that your answer to both questions is, "Hell, no!" You know why I know this? It's because, regardless of what the experts say, people won't eat poop!

See, you really can think for yourself, and you really didn't need to look at my "expert data" to do it. You knew the right answer all along. You are qualified to be critical about something, even if you're not an expert on that something.

Welcome back. Either you skipped down to this section, or you just returned from hurling. Either way, allow me to continue, under the assumption that I can be critical of a situation, and, even in the absence of expert data, come up with some valid conclusions. I've shown that you know how to do the same thing, if you're willing to do so.

I want to be open-minded, and re-assert a previous statement of mine: I am in favor of a mass- transit system, if it really will work as advertised. So will the Light Rail really prove to have the benefits that are promised, and actually grow into a system that will move a significant portion of our population from here to there? Maybe. I think that the potential is there, at least along part of the line. So, let's apply a little "what if?" What if the experts are right?

It is presumed by the proponents of the Light Rail system that, once in place, the patterns of civilization will tend to gravitate along the line, which is to say that people will want to live, work, and conduct the business of their lives closer and closer to the line. This probably will happen if the system proves its utility, or people think that it will have utility to them. To be fair to the proponents of the Light Rail system, I actually do think that population density along the line will increase. The evidence?

Well, in Tempe alone, the Light Rail line cuts right through several high-density neighborhoods. Starting on the east, near Arizona State University, the line goes right through the heart of a neighborhood that houses several thousand people, mostly apartment dwellers. Most of these people are students, and live within about a quarter of a mile of the line, so convenient access is certain. Further west, in downtown Tempe, a high-density, 26 story, condominium tower is under construction, virtually across the street from the line. A few blocks further west from this project, within walking distance of the line, several other high-density apartment/condo projects have been completed and are occupied.

Across the river, north and further west, on Washington Street, still in Tempe, even more high-density residential properties have been completed, fronting right on the line. Keep going further west and you will see that downtown Phoenix itself is experiencing tremendous growth in the number of high-density residential properties. I have to believe that, at least along this segment of the line, this trend in residential population density will increase.

Also along the line, the number of high-density commercial properties, such as office buildings, appear to be on the increase, complementing several other high-density properties already in the area, such the headquarters of the Salt River Project.

Along a corridor less than two miles long (Mill Avenue to 48th Street), and a few blocks wide (Salt River to Van Buren Street), probably ten thousand people, or more, already work, with thousands more soon to follow.

And let's not forget the cultural amenities available already in place. Every day, several tens of thousands of people attend Arizona State University, which is right on the line. Access to downtown Tempe, with it's plethora of restaurants, shops, and nightclubs (a virtual Mecca for the party crowd on weekends) is very convenient. In the core of Phoenix, just to mention two venues: Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark, or Bob, a much friendlier name... but don't get me started) and the US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena... but who the Hell cares?) are right on the line. Also easily accessible are numerous nightclubs and other entertainment and cultural venues, such as the Convention Center, the Herberger, Dodge and Orpheum theaters, the Science and Technology Museum (to name a few), as well as several high-density hotel properties. Further north we have the Phoenix Library, Art Museum, Heard Museum, and the whole of the Central Avenue high-rise corridor.

So ridership potential is certainly there, at least along that part of the line (starting at the intersection of Apache Boulevard and Road in Tempe, and ending at the intersection of Central Avenue and Camelback Road in Phoenix). Even people who don't live along the line could certainly commute to a convenient point on the line, and continue their travel to any of a number of destinations along it. However, with all that the Light Rail appears to have going for it, will really use it to any great extent? Well, to be fair and frank, I certainly hope so, if only because some much money and effort has already been expended on its behalf. And because the promise is so tempting.

But... I have my doubts.

As I have stated in a previous segment, people, being people, are creatures of narrow habit. We have gotten into the habit of using our cars to get us from here to there, even if it is not necessarily convenient, or expedient, to do so. Witness the traffic jams on the freeways during rush hour. You and I know darned well that any number of the people in the cars trapped in the jams live on a bus line that can favorably compete with a car, at least as far as transit times and fare costs are concerned, especially where "park and ride" stations are available. But these people still use their cars.

Yes, yes, I did previously describe how I would use the bus, if it was more convenient, but don't do so. Am I being hypocritical? I don't think so. Remember, it was a theoretical example. I do live right on a bus line; the cab company base is on another line; one transfer allows me to get from here to there. But I don't make that commute on any kind of a regular basis. I drive a cab for a living, and my cab is with me, wherever I am, twenty-four hours a day. So I might not make that particular commute for months, maybe years, at a time, and then only then when I am dropping off the cab for an extended period of time, say for a vacation.

And I certainly didn't mean to imply that any great number of people do have a situation where the bus is competitive. But for those who live and work along a freeway corridor, or even along a surface street line with no transfers, the bus can certainly be competitive. But no tremendous numbers of people appear to be taking advantage of it. Is this your situation? If so, are you taking advantage of the bus? If not, why not? Keep in mind, that your reasons are probably not all that different from those of everyone else who shares your situation.

I know that automobiles are an ingrained part of our culture, especially out here West, where we have tended to grow out rather than up. Being able to get in our cars, and go where we want, when we want are huge factors that come into play when it comes to the personal choice of which mode of transportation is likely to be employed in moving from one place to another. But personal choice tends to become a habit, even when circumstances change. The Light Rail system will be a change of circumstance. But will it cause an appreciable change in habit?

Quite a few of you who live, work and play along corridors where the bus is competitive with your car don't use it, whatever the reason. Isn't it fair to assume that the people living along the Light Rail corridor might have the same resistance to using it?

Do you currently do live, work and play along the Light Rail line currently under construction? Will you do so in the future, either along the current line, or any future line? If so, let me ask you a question.

Will you walk from your house, or place of business, or entertainment venue, to a Light Rail station, and wait for the next train? Don't be so quick to answer.

What if it's the middle of Summer, and it's over a hundred degrees outside? Which will you choose?

Car or train?

Sure, it's a rather extreme example. But you're tough. You'll gut it out, for a while at least. But then, maybe, just maybe, you'll go back to your car, at least until it's cooler. But what's cool enough? 90? 95? 85? Okay, let's be brave, and say 90. Anytime the temperature is below 90, you'll wait for the train. If it goes above that, use the car. Seem fair?

So how many days during the year does the temperature rise above 90 degrees? I'll wager that the answer is north of 35 percent. Want to bet against me? How will this play into the habit of using the train? I don't know for sure, but I know that it will have a measurable impact. Thirty-five percent of the time, in my example.

And what about all the other excuses that otherwise reasonable people might have for not using the Light Rail? Will their resolve to use the system prevail? That remains to be seen.

So, "what if" the experts are right? What if a significant number of people really will use the Light Rail system, proving them right and me wrong? Actually, I hope that this is the outcome. You see, the cost isn't much if I am wrong. My pride is damaged, perhaps, and I am out the hours that it has taken me to compose this series. I've been wrong before, and squandered my time in less fruitful ways. It's no great loss to me, or anyone else, for that matter.

But, "what if" the experts are wrong? What of the costs then? Will the system have been worth it?

Just remember: something had to be done!


The Cab Guy

PS - I have re-read, and re-written, certain parts of this piece, over and over and over again, and I'm still not completely satisfied with how it turned out. It kind of rambles around, here and there, in ways that I did not expect that it would when I started it. So be it. I am hoping, though, that you will forgive me for my imperfect expression of feelings on a subject about which I am passionate. At least I didn't end the last sentence in a preposition. That's something, isn't it?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Light Rail Blues - Part Three

In Part One of this series I examined why it was the the Phoenix Metropolitan area came to have a Light Rail system. Part Two examined the flaws in the execution of the Plan. Here in Part Three I wish to demonstrate that I am not opposed to a mass transit system, per se, and would use a good, useful system. (I realize that in Part Two I said I would describe a better system, but decided that would be a fairly large task, so I decided to break into more manageable parts. Here in Part Three I'll define some terms, and describe the circumstances under which I would use a transit system. In the next installment of this series I'll give you some of my ideas for a better system).

First, allow me to explain to you what I perceive to be the differences and similarities between a transit system, a mass transit system, and a rapid transit system.

To me, a transit system consists of one or more modes of transportation combined with a systematic network of routes, enabling a percentage of the population of an area to move around that area, without having to possess or employ their own private means of movement.

Such as system might involve public and private ownership of any part of the system, and/or public or private management of the system. Modes of transportation could include, but not necessarily be limited to, buses, light rail, subways, elevated trains, and even minibuses or vans. A network of routes could include regular, scheduled service along various corridors, available to whomever might show up at a station or stop. But, it could also include ad hoc , point-to-point, service for various-sized, coherent groups that travel in concert at specified times. This last sentence is really just a long-winded description of something we've already heard of: carpools and vanpools.

I was non-specific as to the percentage of the population to be moved. It is conceivable that it could range from a tiny fraction of the population, to a quite sizable majority, depending upon the perceived utility of the system to the population it serves.

Mixed private and public ownership or management of such as system is not a radical idea. Here in the Phoenix area, various governmental agencies own some of the modes of transportation, while some of the management and operation of the system is accomplished by private companies who have contracted to provide such services. Oversight and planning for our system is the purview of committee made up of representatives from the governments of the various municipalities served by the system.

I define mass transit as a system designed to move a significantly large portion of the population, and may even be the primary, or close secondary, method of getting people where they are going. The New York subway is my idea of a mass transit system.

A rapid transit system is clearly what it implies: a way to get people from here to there in a rapid fashion, but excludes personal operation of the mode of movement. Thus, the New York City subway system would qualify as such, because to my understanding, it is probably the quickest way to move around in that city. San Francisco has it's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which implies that it is relatively speedy. Personal cars and the like are excluded from this definition.

To my way of thinking, how a population, and how much of a population, utilizes any transit system is a function of several factors, including, but not limited to, coverage (does it get me where I want to go?), convenience (can I go pretty much when I want to?), ease of use (are access points within reasonable walking distances?), and value (does the cost compensate me for any lifestyle compromises I might have to make?).

Value is a particular sticking point: it doesn't matter how low the fare is if I don't think the system will serve my needs. For example, I used the bus just two days ago to accomplish a particular task. My personal car was at the taxi base, where I had left it after picking up a cab that I expected to keep on a fairly permanent, 24 hour per day basis. Not wanting to leave my car at the base unattended, I parked the cab at my house, walked about 75 feet to a bus stop, and got on a bus. The trip, which was about twelve miles, took one transfer and about 75 minutes, not counting the initial 20 minute wait for the first bus. I had to walk about half a mile to the taxi base, which took an additional ten minutes. A cab ride would have cost about $24.00 and taken, at most, 15 minutes. On a one time basis, I thought the $1.25 fare was a huge bargain, even at the cost of over an extra hour of my time, which worked out to five times as much time as it would have taken in my car, or by cab.

However, if I had to make that same commute, every day, twice a day, five days a week, for as long as I was employed, if I had another option, such as using my personal automobile, I wouldn't use the bus. In my mind, the extra time expended would far outweigh any money saved over using my car, even after factoring in all the costs of private car ownership.

But let's make some adjustments. Suppose the time could be reduced by, say, 60 percent, making the transit time approximately 30 minutes. Now because a faster system would probably have higher capital and operational costs, let's suppose that the fare was increased by 400 percent, making it five dollars. Now we're entering the realm where it really does make sense to for me use the transit system. The fare would be a total of fifty dollars per week. I'm pretty certain I could recoup that in reduced fuel, maintenance and insurance costs, or at least come pretty close. And now I'd view the time on the bus, or train, or whatever, as a benefit, not a burden: a relatively short time to relax on my way to and from work, rather than a tension filled period of "fighting traffic."

So have I demonstrated that I am in favor of having a useful transit system available, and would use that system if it served my needs? Well, I hope I have. And honestly, I think that many people, certainly not all, or even majority, but a lot, think the way I do. Will a significant population served by the Light Rail system really use it? I don't think so. But I might be wrong. We'll see.

So, the bottom line is that Light Rail is indeed a transit system. But, based on what I said in Part Two, I do not think it can be described as a mass- or rapid-transit system.

What about you? Are you waiting with baited breath for the debut of the train? Or are you, like me, yawning from a lack anticipation?

Next time I'll describe a system that I think might have been a better choice.


The Cab Guy


Monday, October 15, 2007

Light Rail Blues - Part Two

In "Light Rail Blues - Part 1" I examined the genesis of our now under construction light rail system here in the Phoenix Metro area. But here's a brief recap anyway, just in case you haven't read that article, or in case you have read it, but forgot what I said. By the way, if you did read it, but forgot what I said, there's no need to feel ashamed. I wrote it myself, just twenty-four hours ago, and have already forgotten what I said. Hold on a minute while I go back and read it.

Okay, I'm back. Here's the gist of what I said:

1. A long time ago, Phoenix had a trolley system, the rails being in the streets.
2. Cars became more popular, and started to need more of the street.
3. Something had to be done.
4. The trolley was perceived to be irrelevant and inconvenient, and was removed.
5. The streets became clogged with cars, and travel became impeded.
6. Something had to be done.
7. A freeway system was built. It soon became clogged.
8. Something had to be done.
9. New freeway funding was authorized, but light rail had to be built.

Here is my description of the light rail system, the result of the most recent assertion that something had to be done.

"Our light rail system is being built at grade level. In the middle of the street. Along currently existing bus lines. Where traffic is already crowded."

So let's examine what all of this means to us, the citizens of our fair Metropolis.

First of all, grade level is commonly meant to mean "on the surface." So a light rail system at grade level, in the middle of the street, will obviously take up room that was previously occupied by automotive traffic. In most places, the streets are not being widened to any appreciable degree, so there will be less room for cars. Less room can also be translated into "slower speeds." The light rail trains will also have to move at slower speeds. Which is not much of an inducement to get people who wanted to get there five minutes ago to get on the train.

The design of the light rail system, being that it is in the middle of the street will have other effects that will impede traffic. Moving a car from one side of the street will become problematic. Where previous medians allowed crossovers to occur perhaps every block or so, the barriers separating the light rail from the cars will generally increase distances between crossovers, to as much as half a mile in some places.

Not very convenient, is it? But, keep in mind, something had to be done.

Now, although I commented that the light rail is being along currently existing bus lines, I must apologize if I have given you the impression that I consider this to be a design flaw or defect in the system. I don't. To me, it makes sense to build transportation systems along already existing traffic corridors, as these are the very corridors that people are already using. We already know that people along these corridors want to get from wherever they are to wherever they want to go.

But will people eschew the bus, and hop on the train? And more importantly, will people along the corridor who are not already using the bus get on the train?

Well, that all depends on certain factors. If the buses are left in place, maybe current users will remain on the bus, especially if there is a fare differential. Also, people, many times being creatures of narrow habit, have a tendency to continue to use something that works, unless the new thing is clearly superior, and provides additional desired benefits.

Yes, I know that many of you may wish to argue with me on this point, citing how fast many people trade in their cars, or buy new computers, or cells phones, etc., using this as evidence that I am wrong about people resisting the adoption of a new system, and therefore argue that people will drop-kick the bus and hop on the train.

However, keep in mind that "superior" and "additional benefits" are subjective. I think we all know someone who traded a three year old car with fifty thousand miles, for this year's model, because to them, "subjectively", a car with fewer miles and more cup holders, is "superior" and provides "greater benefits" such as "enhanced reliability." But let's be objectively honest: a new car is really no more reliable than a well maintained three year old. Let the odometer turn 100K, and then we'll talk.

So, I still think a lot of people will stay on the bus.

But what about the people not currently using the bus. Will they get on the train? Talk to anyone who tells you they will use the train. Ask them why they aren't currently using the bus. Whatever excuse they use to justify not using the bus, ask them how the train will be different as to that aspect. Show them why they are wrong. Then laugh at them, on the inside, mind you, as they start to squirm.

Here's an example of such an exchange:

Q: "Why don't you ride the bus?"

A: "It doesn't go where I want to go."

Q: "But doesn't the train follow existing bus routes?"

A: "Well, yes, I guess so, but..."

Q: "Why else?"

A: "It's so inconvenient, I'll have to walk to a stop, and wait for it to come."

Q: "Won't you have to do the same for the train?"

A: "Well, yes, I guess so, but..."

Q: "Why else?"

A: "It takes so long to get where I want to go."

Q: "But won't the train move only as fast as the bus?"

A: "Well, yes, I guess so, but..."

Q: "Why else?"

A: "Well, I don't like associating with the kind of people who ride the bus."

Q: "Doesn't this make you an elitist, possibly racist, person?"

A: "Well, yes, I guess so, but..."

Try it out yourself. It's fun.

But people will still claim that light rail is good, because something had to be done.

As for traffic crowding, well, do you really think that, given people's fascination with cars, light rail will take enough cars off the street to appreciably change this? I don't.

But what the heck, isn't it true that something had to be done?

Sure, but was this the right way to go about doing something? In part three, I'll give you my opinion as to what might have been a better way to accomplish that something.

But keep in mind, opinions are like armpits. Everyone's got a couple, and they usually stink.


The Cab Guy


Light Rail Blues - Part One

As a professional cab driver, I am really starting to become revolted by the traffic hassles being caused by the construction of a light rail system here in the Phoenix Metro area. As near I can tell, even when the first line of the system is completed, the situation will not improve to any great degree. Allow me to explain.

A long time ago, when the earth was green and the air was fresh, which is to say prior to World War II, Phoenix had a trolley system in the downtown area, with some extensions into what were then the suburbs. It was no technological wonder by any means, but it worked well at doing what it was designed to do: moving people from here to there in a relatively efficient and convenient manner. The tracks ran down the middle of various city streets, but were not much of an impediment to other street traffic, mostly because cars were not as widely common as they are today.

As our country in general, and Phoenix in particular, became more affluent, personal automobiles became more and more common, even for those in the lower socio-economic classes. So more and more and more people came to own more and more cars, competing for space on the city streets. But even though there were more and more people and more and more cars, there wasn't more and space on the city streets. For a while, this wasn't a problem, so nobody thought that something had to be done.

Over time, as the population of our fair city increased, so to did the population of automobiles. People, being people, are generally not content to stay where they are. They want to go places. And people, being people, are generally not content to be patient about getting to wherever it is they want to go. They want to leave now, and get there five minutes ago. I don't know why they wanted to be there five minutes ago. Surely nobody else would be there yet; they were probably stuck in traffic. So they'd just have to stand around and wait for everybody else to get there. But that's want they wanted.

Now cars, being cars, are more than happy to fulfill the function for which they have been designed, which is of course to move people from here to there. Right now. If properly cared for, they are more than willing to drop whatever it is that they do when they are not moving, and take their owners to wherever it is that their owners want to go. Right now. Of course, being cars and not time machines, they cannot get there five minutes ago. But, cars understand their shortcomings, and do not fret over the time concerns of their owners.

The natural result of all the people going places, and all the cars taking them there, was that our city streets became more and more crowded. The situation became intolerable. Something had to be done.

What was done was the trolley system was removed. I do not know exactly where this occured, but I'm pretty sure that the last trolley bell was rung in Phoenix over fifty years ago.

But of course, the population of both people and cars increased. Traffic became more and crowded. All the space created by the removal of the trolley was used up. People did not want to drive less; they wanted to drive more. They wanted to go now. And get there five minutes ago. Something had to be done.

So, about twenty years ago, or so, a comprehensive freeway system began to be built in the Metro area. Today, most places in the Phoenix Metro area are within just a few miles of a freeway on ramp. But of course, at the same time that more and more freeway miles were built, the population, people and cars, increased. More and more. And more. And then, of course, some more.

The freeways were becoming more and more crowded. But the sales tax enacted by a vote of the people, enabling the freeways to be built, expired. But people wanted more freeways. Something had to be done.

What was done was that additional funding was approved. But it came with a couple of caveats. The bus system was to be expanded. And a light rail system was to be built.

Now, I have written a brief thumbnail sketch of the situation, and to be fair, I may have gotten some of the facts wrong. But, as I understand it, the essence was that if people wanted more freeways, they would also have to have light rail.

I am not opposed to mass transit. I am also not opposed to light rail. I'm all for it. In theory. To be sure, I would much prefer a rapid transit system. But we are not getting "rapid transit." We are getting "light rail."

Our light rail system is being built at grade level. In the middle of the street. Along currently exisiting bus lines. Where traffic is already crowded.

But, something had to be done.
Will this being an improvement to our current traffic woes? I'll examine this issue in my next installment.

Meanwhile, try to increase your store of patience. Upgrade the sound system in your car, and buy more CDs. With longer songs. Maybe get some books on tape. Try walking short distances, or getting a bicycle.

Here's an idea, self-serving as it may be: call a cab. I'm all for that.

But don't imagine that travel times are going to get shorter any time soon.


The Cab Guy


Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Busy Season Begins...

Well, here we are deep into October, which is supposed to be the first full month of Fall. However, here in Arizona, most days are still warm, so that it really feels like an Indian Summer. Don't get me wrong, I have no complaints about the weather, especially this time of year. I think that it is beautiful at this time of year, but not for the reasons that most people think.

You see, the cab business, like a lot of other businesses, I guess, has its slow and busy seasons. For reasons I can't truly comprehend, things really seem to slow down during the summer months. Okay, you caught me. I'm lying about my lack of comprehension. I know why the cab business slows down in Phoenix during the summer. It's just so frisking hot! No sane person who has a choice in the matter voluntarily comes to Phoenix after about May 15, or much before about October 1. Unless they just can't afford a sauna back home.

Now me, I've lived in Phoenix for over thirty-five years, and I have gotten completely used to the heat. I didn't say that I liked the heat, I just said that I've gotten used to it. I have my little methods of adjustment and compensation. I drink plenty of fluids. I stay indoors as much as possible. I run my car air-conditioner at all times, and keep a very careful watch on the maintenance of that handy little device. I fantasize about places that are much cooler, such as Hell, and the sunward side of the planet Mercury. But mostly I just keep a running commentary in my head, which consists of but a single sentence running over and over and over: "Remember... it's a dry heat!"

So why do I think that Phoenix is beautiful at this time of the year, if not for the weather? The fact that other people think that the weather in Phoenix is beautiful at this time of year. Yes indeed, the cooler it gets in other parts of the country, the more visitors our fair city gets. Some people drive here, but most visitors arrive in our town via the airport. To get out of the airport, quite of few of these visitors take a cab. Now, I don't work at the airport, the reasons for which I won't go into here. But anyone leaving the airport in a cab didn't rent a car, so that means, to get around, for the most part, they're either going to ride the city bus, or call for a cab.

When was the last time you visited a city not your own and relied on the city bus system to get around? Maybe that's not a bad plan in other large cities with well developed public transit systems, but here in Phoenix, it's not only a bad plan, but an extremely bad plan. Unless you have a lot of time to spend waiting for the bus, and can stomach the thought of sitting next to whomever you might run into on the bus, or just plain love torturing yourself trying to figure out the schedule, taking a cab is a superior alternative. Unless you don't have a lot of money, in which case you just need to wait for the bus. Deadbeat!

So the winter visitors are starting to flood into our town, the cab company I work for is getting a flood of calls, and money is starting to flood into my wallet.

Don't you just love the way I managed to use the word 'flood' three times in a story about Phoenix, Arizona, one of the driest cities in the world? And all in one sentence, no less! No? Tough... I already wrote it, you already read it, so there's nothing that can be done about it.

But seriously... Welcome to Phoenix... stay a while... see the sights... take a cab ride or two... have a wonderful time! And, if you've been given good service, please tip your driver...

But if he's a surly son of a gun who won't even lift your luggage, feel free to stiff him. You have my permission.


The Cab Guy


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Brain Farts and Dirty Jokes

Well, hello everyone, so glad you were able to make it to this end of the internet. Here we are in the early part of October. The summer heat finally seems to have abated for another few months. We’ve had a little rain since I last took pen to paper, or should I say, fingers to keyboard. The cab business has been a little slow lately, so I don’t have any actual “Taxi Tales” for this edition. However, I have accumulated quite a few random thoughts that I would like to share with you, as well as a couple of my favorite jokes. So go ahead and sit back and relax while I share my…

Brain Farts and Dirty Jokes

Seems fair to me! - The other day I was reflecting upon the various differences between men and women. For example, some women will put up with sex, so that they can have some cuddling, while many men put up with cuddling, so they can have some sex. If necessary, I’ll tell a woman that I’ll cuddle with her if she’ll have sex with me. Hell, why wouldn’t I make such a promise? I’m just going to fall asleep when we’re done, anyway!

The late night gourmet - Why do so many fast food joints advertise on late night television? If I see a commercial for Wendy’s at midnight, I’m not leaving my house for a burger, regardless of the fact that “Wendy’s rules the night!” If I’m that frickin’ hungry that I just have to have something to eat, I’m going to improvise. Let’s see what’s in my cupboard: ramen noodles, ketchup and allspice. Spaghetti sounds good to me!

Some funny names – I used to work in a government office, and to alleviate to occasional boredom, I would create phony phone messages for my co-workers, using those little “While you were out” forms. These are some of my favorite funny names: Dick Gozinya, Ben Dover, Heywood Yablome, Harry Areola, Phil McKraken, and Seymore Butz. Some of you may find these names to be offensive, and may wish to sue me. That’s okay, just send service to my lawyers: Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.

I have my standards! – Some men will make love to any woman, no matter how repulsive she may be. (Of course, the sme thing might be true for women, with respect to men. But I'm a man, so this is from my point of view.) Now, with all due respect to women everywhere, I have to draw the line at “hideous” and “titanic.” I understand that with my high standards, I’m not going to get laid as often as I could. But what the hell, like the sign says at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, “Quality Beats Quantity Every Time!” I have to agree, because I remember every woman I have ever made love to, and the way I look at it, if I’m going to be creating a memory, I want it to be a good one!

Why prostitution should be legal – Now, I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with me, some violently so, but I’m going to declare here and now that I think that prostitution should be legal everywhere in America, not just most parts of Nevada. I know that a lot of folks think prostitution should be illegal, because to them it demeans both the women involved, and their customers. Come on, think about it! Working for minimum wage at the Burger Barn isn’t demeaning? Not all women have the opportunity to go to college and get a really great, high paying job. Swing shift manager at the local eatery may be as far up the ladder as a lot of women can get. That may be fine for some, maybe a lot, of women, but options should be available. Oddly enough, in a lot of places where prostitution is illegal, you can hire a woman to perform sex in exchange for money. As long as you’ve got a camera, lighting, and cheesy music. Remember, it’s a performance!

That time of the month – When a woman won’t have sex with me, because she’s near her period, I figure she has PMS, which means I will have to Pleasure My Self!

Filthy language – I think that some people use way too many curse words, such as “fuck” and “shit” in their everyday speech. What the fuck is up with that shit?

Fast food blues – The other day I went into a local fast food restaurant. You know, it’s bad enough that I have to put up with a cold hamburger and limp fries, but I really hate it when I get surly service. Sometimes I feel like yelling at the counterperson, “Hey asshole, you really think I want to be here, either?”

Sexual frenzy – Do you ever smoke after sex? I don’t. I’m usually done long before friction can develop enough heat for fire to be factor to contend with.

Say what? - The other night I was sitting at the bar at my favorite watering hole, drinking my usual club soda. Two women were seated a couple of stools down. At one point, the juke box was changing songs, and during the lull in the music, I overheard one lady say to the other, “Well, that’s just titty bar economics!” I don’t know about you, but I would purely love to have heard the rest of that conversation.

Come again? – That same night, during another lull in the music, I heard one guy talking to another guy about a woman he’d just met, saying, “I’d like to fill her out like an application!” I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about job opportunities.

What do Popsicles and Politics have in common? – The answer to this riddle is, “Ben and Jerry’s All Natural Ice Cream.” Just in case you haven’t heard, these two aging hippies sell ice cream. And I’ll admit that it’s really good ice cream. But I really don’t need a lecture every time I want to have a cool refreshing snack on a stick. Here’s the best example of wasted ink on the label of an ice cream bar I’ve seen in recent days:

“We oppose Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. The family farmers who supply our milk and cream pledge not to treat their cows with rGBH. The FDA has said no significant difference has been shown and no test can now distinguish between milk from rGBH treated and untreated cows. Not all of the suppliers of our other ingredients can promise that the milk they use comes from untreated cows.” (This appeared on the side of a ‘Vanilla Peace Pop.)

What in the hell are these two Hippie Capitalists trying to say? It sort of sounds like they oppose rBGH, whatever the hell that is, enough that they feel that have to make a statement against rBGH, and want you the consumer to know that they want to protect you against this scourge.

Okay, fine. Allow me to retort. Hey, Ben and Jerry, listen up! If you think rBGH is something that I should not consume, don’t just tell me that you oppose it. Keep it out of your friggin’ ice cream. If it’s bad shit, I want no part of it! If you think it’s so freakin’ important that I don’t eat rBGH milk, then DEMAND that your suppliers pledge not to use rBGH, and hold them to their pledges! Don’t tell me about how you would like to be virtuous. Show me that you are virtuous. Or shut the hell up. Maybe next time I’ll just get Hagen-Daz!

Okay, I promised you some dirty jokes, and here they are. Mind you, I did not write these jokes, I read them in Drew Carey’s Book, “Dirty Jokes and Beer - Stories of the Unrefined,” which, by the way, is a very funny book. Drew says that he didn’t make these jokes up, so I guess it’s all right to repeat them here. The titles are mine.

What a Pair! – A woman is at a bar, drinking and depressed. A man walks in and sits next to her. He, too, is drinking and depressed. After a time, the man asks the woman, What are you so depressed about?” She says, “My husband left me because he thought I was too kinky.” He says, “Really? My wife left me because she thought that I was too kinky!"

They order another drink, and she says to him, “Hey, listen we’re both adults here, and it looks like we may have a little something in common… whaddya say we go back to my place and see what happens? ”He says, “Sounds like a great idea!” And they finish their drinks and leave.

When they get to her place, she says to him, “Wait right here, I’m going to change into something a little more comfortable.” She goes to her bedroom and puts on some black leather boots with six-inch heels, a leather miniskirt, a rubber bra with the nipples cut out, a dog collar and a leather hood. She then grabs a riding crop and some handcuffs and saunters seductively out to the living room where she sees the guy putting on his coat and hat and heading out the door.

“Where ya going?” she asks. “I thought we were going to get kinky!”

“Hey,” he says, “I fucked your dog, I shit in your purse… I’m outta here!”

Oops! - There’s a guy who lives in Ohio. One morning, he hears a voice in his head. The voice says,

“Quit your job, sell your house, take all your money, and go to Las Vegas.”

He ignores the voice. Later in the day, he hears the voice again.

“Quit your job, sell your house, take all your money, and go to Las Vegas.”

Again, he ignores the voice. Soon he hears the voice every minute of the day.

“Quit your job, sell your house, take all your money, and go to Las Vegas.”

He can’t take it anymore. He believes the voice. He quits his job, takes all of his money, and flies to Las Vegas. As soon as he steps off the plane, the voice says,

Go to Caesar’s Palace.”

He goes to Caesar’s Palace. The voice says,

“Make your way to the roulette table.

He goes to the roulette table. The voice says,

Put all your money on red 23.”

He puts all his money on red 23. The dealer spins the wheel. It comes up black 17.

The voice says, “Fuck.”

Okay, well that’s all there is this time around. I hope you enjoyed yourself. I appreciate having this opportunity to relieve a little of the pressure that’s been building up inside my skull.

Until we meet again…

(A version of this work first appeared in the October 16, 2003 edition of "Fast Lane Magazine" a bi-weekly, Phoenix area entertainment magazine, under the byline of "Matt 'The Cab Guy' Kelly").