Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Wishes, and a Wild Ride to Boot!

Hello my friends, thanks for calling on me, business has been a little slow lately, and I could use a few more 'personal' trips like this. At the time I wrote this, the Thanksgiving pig-out is still several days away. I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict I will probably consume about three times as many calories in a single sitting as I usually do in an entire day. And since I am a pretty big guy, that is, quite frankly, a scary thought.

I hope all of you reading this have a pleasant Thanksgiving season, and are truly grateful for all that you have received in your life. I know that I am, although I don’t always remember to consider it so.

Now, although I am not a character in the little tale to follow, it is, in fact, a true Taxi Tale. As a matter of fact, I happen to think it is one of the best Taxi Tales I have heard in a long time, and I’ve heard hundreds of them. The protagonist, whoops, I’m sorry, I guess I should have said main character or hero, is currently a truck driver, but he used to drive a cab in Seattle. His name is Mike L., and I met him while playing poker one night out at Gila River’s Wildhorse Pass Casino. Although the poker game was fun, Mike’s telling of his story was the cherry on top. Anyway, sit back, relax, and enjoy Mike’s story, in his own words. I call it…

“How Much to Wenatchee?”
"As I [Mike L.]was saying earlier, I used to drive a cab in Seattle. I did this for about ten years, and really enjoyed it. Probably the story that most sticks out in my mind is the time I got a call in the middle of the night to go to a convenience store that I knew was closed at that time of the night. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I decided to check it out. Anyway, when I got there, I didn’t see anyone right away, but as I pulled around in the parking lot, this guy jumped out of the bushes on the side of the building. He had to be one of the dirtiest, filthiest people I had ever experienced in my career. His clothes were filthy, and he had quiet an impressive bush of hair growing out of his head. He wasn’t the scariest person I had ever seen, but he was right up there, I’ll tell you!

Anyway, I roll down the window, and ask him if he was the person that called for the cab. He said that he was, so I asked him where it was that he wanted to go. He said that he needed to get to Wenatchee, and wondered if I could give him a good rate. Now, in case you don’t know, a trip from Seattle to Wenatchee takes about four hours, and involves a trip over the mountains east of Seattle. That’s a pretty good run, and if a person was serious, I’d really be up for it, because even allowing for the round trip, I’d still have several hours left of my shift, and with the fare to Wenatchee, plus whatever I could make when I got back to Seattle, I’d have a pretty good payday. I figured this guy was whacked out, and having a little fun at my expense, but I went ahead and offered him a pretty good rate of two hundred dollars.

I really didn’t think that he had that kind of money, so imagine my surprise when he hauled out a wad of cash that would choke an elephant. He handed me the two hundred dollars, and I unlocked the doors, and let him in the car. Now, just as soon as I let him in the car, I knew that I was going to earn my two hundred dollars, because this guy really smelled bad. And what’s worse, it was the dead of winter, so driving to Wenatchee with the windows rolled down was going to be a test of my endurance. But, I thought about the two hundies, and decided to tough it out.

As soon as the guy got settled in, I got on the radio to let dispatch know where I was going, and made a few calls on my cell phone to some of the guys I worked with, to see if they had any information regarding the weather conditions along the route I planned to take through Stevens Pass.

At this point the guy sits up real close to the back of my seat and asks me,

‘Do you have to always be talking on the phone and the radio?’

Yes, I tell him, it’s part of the business, I need to keep my company informed of what I’m doing, check on the weather, stuff like that. I’m sorry if it bothers you, I say, but it is part of what I do. Why don’t you just sit back and relax?

At this point the guy kind of leans back, falls over, pulls his feet up, and starts to cry. Great, I’m thinking, I’m really going to earn this fare! I’m already thinking that this trip can’t end soon enough, and we’re only about five or ten minutes along the way.

After a few minutes of crying, or moaning, or what have you, my passenger sits up, leans forward, and asks,

Are you going with me all the way?'

'What?', I say.

'You’re gonna go with me all the way, aren’t you?,' he asks.

'Yeah, of course, you’ve paid me, I’ll get you where you’re going.'

This must have pleased him, because in the rear-view mirror, I could see a big smile on his face and he leaned back in the seat. And proceeded to take off his shoes. Revealing the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest feet I had ever seen! I really didn’t think that after getting a whiff of those beauties that things could get any more interesting, but I was wrong.

For a little while, the guy stayed back in the seat, alternately crying, laughing, and moaning. This was a little freaky, but I didn’t mind, because we were making pretty good time, and I preferred what he was doing, to all the other things that he could have been doing. But, these fun times were too good to last, because after a while he sat up, and again asked me,

‘You’re going with me all the way, aren’t you? You’re really with me all the way, right?’

'Right,' I said, 'whatever.'

All of a sudden, he sat back on the seat, sat up real straight, and asked me if I also practiced the ‘Black Arts.’ I could practically hear the capital letters in the way he said it.

'You practice the Black Arts don’t you? You’re going to take me all the way aren’t you?'

'Yes, of course, I’m going to take you all the way to Wenatchee!,' I said. 'Please just sit back and relax, we’ll be there in just a little while!'

Man, this guy was really starting to freak me out. We were coming up on Stevens Pass, so I really had to concentrate on my driving, and wasn’t paying real close attention to the guy.

Now remember, it was wintertime, and it was cold, and in Washington you have to know that it’s wet and icy on the road. All of a sudden, completely out of the blue, the guy says,

'Come on, let’s go, you said you were going all the way with me!' Then he opened the curbside door, and jumped out of the car.

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

I look in the rear-view mirror, and see him tumbling end over end. I brake to a stop as quickly as I can, and back up to check on the guy, but already, in my mind, I’m thinking that I’m going to be calling in to report a dead body to the police. As I back up, I see the guy get up, and stagger around a bit. I’m so relieved to see that he’s okay, that what happened next took me completely by surprise. He kind of shook himself off, and started running across the highway, towards the cliff-side edge. I couldn’t believe it! He didn’t slow down at all, he just ran up to the barrier, and dove over. Headfirst. A pretty long drop!

Well, I got out my flashlight, but when I looked over the edge, I couldn’t see him at all. Since we were deep in the mountains, neither my cell phone, nor my two-way radio, were working. I had to drive up the top of the pass to use a pay phone at a gas station that was closed. Then I drove back to the place he jumped, and waited for help.

Because it was such an isolated location, it took a while for a Sheriff’s Deputy to arrive on the scene. When he did, I relayed the story, just the way I’ve told you. Then I got his nasty, smelly shoes out of my car, and gave them to the deputy. I told the deputy that if the guy survived, he’d probably want his shoes back. I then got back in my car, and started driving back to Seattle.

When I got back into range, I got a message on the two-way that dispatch had been informed by the Sheriff’s Department what had happened, and I was to call dispatch, to give them the details. So, I got out my cell phone, and called the company. The dispatcher said that he had only one question for me, because everyone was really curious, and wanted to know: did I get the money up front, or not?

I couldn’t believe it! After all I went through, the guy freaking me out, jumping out of the car, jumping over the cliff, and then disappearing, and all they wanted to know was if I got the money up front. What the hell could they be thinking?

I’m a professional! Of course I got the money up front!

But, that isn’t the end of the story.

A few hours later, I was told to call the Sheriff’s Department, which I did. The deputy I spoke to told me that my passenger had been found. Naked. That’s right… naked! He was just walking around naked, apparently physically unharmed. He was taken to the local looney-bin, and checked in for a little rest.

But… that’s not the end of the story.

A few weeks later, I picked up a doctor at that same mental hospital. I asked him if he had heard the story, and asked me if I was the driver. I said I was, and asked what happened to the guy.

He said, 'Oh, we shipped that wack-o out of here!'

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

Thus ended Mike's story.

There you have it friends. Just remember, contrary to what Forest Gump said, life is not like a box of chocolates. It’s more like a jar of jalapeno peppers: what you eat today could burn you in the ass tomorrow! See you next time.

Sincerely,

The Cab Guy

(A version of this posting previously appeared in my Fast Lane Magazine Column, "Road Rage - Tales From the Taxi!")

7 comments:

Kyt Dotson said...

“I told the deputy that if the guy survived, he’d probably want his shoes back.”

No kidding! This is almost a Vexations story… Mm, Dark Arts.

Run into many straight-up touched people over the years yourself?

The Cab Guy said...

Kyt,

First of all, I want to thank you for being such a loyal reader of my blog. My original motivation for creating RR&TT was to reach a wider audience than I might find in my cab. In the ten years I have been driving a cab, starting just after Thanksgiving of 1997, I have found that people are fascinated by cab stories. I am equally fascinated by their reactions to my stories as I tell them. Thank you for validating my theory that people really do want to know about "The Cab World", and are not just making small talk when they ask from the back seat, "What's the craziest thing that's ever happened in your cab?"

As to your specific question, I interpret 'touched' to mean merely separated from reality, and 'straight-up touched' to be completely divorced. Under this guideline, I must tell you that at least once a day I meet someone that I consider touched, and at least once a week meet someone at the remote end of the scale, straight-up touched.

Remember the two sex-fiends from "Three-way on the Freeway?" They were touched. Obviously Mike's Bushy Haired Guy from "Wild Ride" qualifies as straight-up touched.

As you have probably seen, sometimes I write about something that just happened; other times, it's a bit of history. I don't really have a list of 'history' type stories that I want to tell. Usually, I write one when I remember it due to my memory being jogged by one thing or another.

Believe it or not, things tend to blur together after ten years and approximately 60,000 fares (easily over 100,000 people, when you consider that a significant number of trips include more than one person in the back seat). Even the most outrageous events tend to sink into the subconscious after a while. Maybe it's a defense mechanism, to keep me relatively sane.

Maybe your comment will jog my memory, and I can soon give you a story about a person who was completely around the bend. I know they're in there; I just have to root them out.

Stay tuned.

The Cab Guy

The Cab Guy said...

Kyt,

After leaving my last comment for you, curiosity forced me to I Goggle "Vexations." The first several entries referred to a musical composition from the 19th Century. Not seeing any kind of logical link between this "Vexations" and "Wild Ride", I decided to jump several pages of links, to see what else I could find.

My first (and only jump) was to the (then) 93rd entry. Which led me to "Gothic Angst Webzine", and thence to "Chandler Police Report."
I think I hit a vien of rich gold ore.

I didn't have a lot of time, so I was only able to "CPR" it, but I liked what I saw. When I get a free afternoon, hopefully real soon, I'll read it in full, as well as the other "Vexation" stories. I purely love "alt-fiction" or whatever the fashionable name of the genre is.

You might want to check out my other blog, "Disco Bisquit" (link on sidebar of this blog), which I describe as "a compendium of wacky fiction." If you do get a chance to go there, I'd love your comments on the stories I've already posted there.

The "Disco Bisquit" stories are part of a novella "A Night of Group Therapy", which is itself part of a much larger epic that "grows" backwards and forwards in time from the night cited in "ANoGT".

By the way: may I place links to your site from RR&TT and DB?

The Cab Guy

Kyt Dotson said...

I have to apologize for not leaving a link to what I was talking about. That partially happened because I am timid of advertising my things (with links) on other people’s blogs—even when they’re subtly relevant—and also me accidentally hitting “post comment” when I meant to hit the preview button.

I would absolutely welcome links to Mill Avenue Vexations (the full proper name I should use when I’m not typing as fast as I’m thinking.) Just be sure you’re okay with what you see, it is the most risqué thing that I write…which I guess doesn’t say too much as I write children’s books normally. I’m not exactly that controversial.

I started reading your blog because I was wandering around the net just looking for anything Phoenix related, and also adding a few taxi related at the same time, so it was a happy meshing when I found yours which combined both. I added it to my favorite RSS reader in Flock and away I went.

I’ve been lurking for a while…but I’d figured that I would poke my head in. I cannot say how much it helps to know people are reading, so I figured that it would only be good and proper for me to jump in once and a while, and these stories have definitely piqued my interest! That last one in particular.

I find myself looking forward to reading the next post. So, yeah, I think I’ll wander on over to Disco Bisquit blog.

Thanks for the words, I’ll certainly be back.

Johnny Wraith said...

Now this was a kick-ass story! The passenger’s question, “Are you going with me all the way?” The destination of Wenatchee, and the disappearance make for quite a riddle I’ll be pondering all day. And the meaning of his concern that the driver is talking on the phone or to dispatch must be the passenger’s insistence the driver pay attention. Curious. The driver is paid to take the passenger on a journey, yet the driver is really the one being taken on the journey.

The Cab Guy said...

Kyt,

Thank you once again for your comments. I'll get the link posted as soon as I can.

I finished "Chandler Police Report" last night, and I must say that I was impressed with not only the story, but the way you told it. I previously worked in the law enforcement community, and have read literally hundreds of police reports. I can attest that you have captured the language and flavor of the typical police report, down to the peculiar grammatical style, jargon and misspellings that cops typically use, which I found often left me with a feeling of "who actually did what to who?" Good job.

I guess now I'll have to post one of my favorite stories, about the time I found a dead body while on the job. Look for it soon.

By the way, I love what I've seen of "Mill Avenue Vexations" so far. I think it will make a fine addition to my sidebar links.

The Cab Guy

The Cab Guy said...

Johnny,

Thank you for your comment; I always appreciate it when you check in. You know I love you like a brother, but I must admit that I think that you've over-thought this one.

Mike says that this was a true story, and that he did not exaggerate in the telling of it. Unfortunately, Mike was not available to review the story after I wrote it, but many of the people present when he told it to me think that I captured it very well. They also believed it to be a true story, with little, if any, exaggeration. As a matter of fact, after I wrote the story, I found myself wishing I had done a little less laughing, and a little more probing into the details of the Bushy Haired Guy.

I really don't think there's much of a riddle here: the BHG was just a total wack-a-doodle-doo. He was your standard nut-job, who probably went off his meds, and decompensated as a result. I would love to know his back story.

I don't think that the BHG was concerned about safety, and was thus worried about Mike's radio and phone use being a distraction from his driving. I think that he was just paranoid about Mike communicating with unseen people.

However, I do get a chuckle out of the way you've spun it. Imagine a person being concerned for his safety because his driver is on the phone, only to see that same person later completely disregard his safety by jumping out a moving vehicle!

What the Hell, you may be right, now that I think about it! Maybe the BHG did feel that his safety was threatened by Mike's radio and phone use. His later act of jumping out of the car would just show the extreme cognitive dissonance inherent in his nutty world view.

Damn it! Now the whole story has become a riddle to me! Well, at least I'll have something to think about today.

Love ya, man!

The Cab Guy