Tuesday, January 5, 2010

From The Worst To The Best

The emotional roller coaster that comprises a taxi driver’s shift, in the form of the question – how much will I make tonight? was never better illustrated than in the following back to back fares. It was the first Monday of the New Year, and it had been a slow weekend, after the subdued celebration that brought it in. The waning full moon was sometimes visible in the eastern night sky, when the rain clouds that brought the fine spray requiring my wipers every thirty seconds, subsided.

Around 9:00 PM, I picked up a fare at “Papa John’s Pizza” on Center, off Lancaster, who wanted to go to the mini-mart on Commercial and Mission, with a stop at the police station. He told me that he was picking up a confiscated Christmas gift for his daughter, that he wanted me to witness him giving it to her. As we drove he told me that he usually uses Affordable cab, and was stranded in the middle of nowhere by a cocaine addicted cab driver, after a $200.00 trip.

“After that I was picked up by a cocaine using cop,” he told me and continued, “After he arrested me we worked out a deal, where he let me go. The police don’t do that, but this guy was with the Sheriff’s department, and he should have taken me to jail and put me in the holding room, like they usually do.”

I was beginning to think that this guy was either on something or needed to be. We were on Court Street going past the capitol building, when my passenger told me that there was a city underneath the capitol mall, that was made up of 14th century wooden planks. It was a combination torture chamber and insane asylum, he insisted and looked at me sternly for agreement. I ignored him until we turned into the underground parking lot at city hall, where the police station was. Then my passenger said that he would be 15 minutes and to wait for him. I told him that the policy was that we needed to hold some money whenever a passenger left the cab with the meter running. He pulled out a half empty pack of Marboro’s, drew out a personal check for $100.00, that had a burn mark on it, and handed it to me.

“Don’t you have any cash?” I asked him. “We don’t accept personal checks.”

No he said, and then started asking me if I was an independent contractor, and I told him it didn’t matter, because I will not accept a check. Then he said that he wanted to go to the hospital in Corvallis, which is 35 miles south, because he was having a heart attack, unless I just wanted to call 911. Rather than making a scene by asking him to get out of the cab, since there was a police officer exiting his patrol car, I drove him to the mini-mart he originally wanted to go to, which was only a couple of blocks away. On the way there he demanded that I either take him to the hospital in Corvallis or call 911. When I reminded him that he didn’t have any money, he exploded in anger and said not to treat him like a child. Then he got out telling me to wait 10 minutes and the police would be here for me to talk to. My passenger went into the store and somehow convinced the clerk behind the counter to give him a cell phone, which he began talking on, as he glared at me out the window.

I picked up my microphone and called Erin, the dispatcher, “number 25 has a nut case that doesn’t have any money, and owes me $11.90”.

“Then get the emergency room for Sandra” she told me.

When I arrived at ER there was a middle aged woman, with what appeared to be a broken arm, in a sling standing outside waiting. When she got into my cab, she told me that she had to go to Portland, and I told her that I needed $100.00 up front, and she could pay whatever was additional on the meter when we got there. She handed me a hundred dollar bill and asked me to drive her as fast as I could to get her to Portland, so she could get away from Salem, because of all the bad memories. As we drove I asked her how she broke her arm and she told me that it happened while trying to open a bottle of Sprite. The twist off cap was on so tight that she snapped one of the bones in her forearm. Then she immediately said that some people are accusing her boyfriend of doing it, but he’s innocent she insisted. They gave her three percocets to kill the pain, so she was buzzing.

On the way there she asked if we could stop to get something to eat, so I decided to take my lunch break and we got it to go from Taco Bell, at the Brooks truck stop off I-5. After we ate, we drove in silence up to Portland, except for Sandra asking me couple of times how much farther it was. She wanted to go to a Shell gas station off Martin Luther King Boulevard, so we had to cross the Willamette River, to get to the the Rose Garden exit. She became deathly afraid and put her head between her knees, as we passed over the water. When we were back on land, she explained that bridges always terrified her. When I dropped her off the meter read $133.20 and she asked if it would be okay if she just gave me $30.00 more, and I told her okay. I got back to Salem at around midnight, and only had three more calls, totaling around twenty dollars over the remaining four hours of my shift.

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