Sunday, February 14, 2010


As the economy has grown worse, rather than better, gambling has run rampant. I drive thousands of people, thousands of miles, each year, mostly on the streets of Salem, so I get to see the big picture, and know what businesses open and close. Some bars have changed ownership 3 or 4 times in the past 6 years, but they keep reopening. Then, along with the bars, which all have video poker machines and keno in them, are a couple dozen Deli’s, like Joe’s, Dee Dee’s or Cooper’s, which, also have keno and video poker machines, and most have opened in the past 2 years. The cab company lost some gambling business because of the bus line offering bus rides out to the casino, for only $5.00, instead of $70.00 by taxi. Believe it or not, there were people who took a cab out to the casino, regularly

One of the regulars who took a cab out to Spirit Mountain casino, almost weekly was a double divorced middle aged legal secretary, named Glenda, who lived in a mobile home park. She was originally married to a charismatic pastor of a church, who was having regular affairs with female parishioners. After they got a divorce she married a State police officer, who was faithful, but had other issues, and divorced her after he retired. Now she stayed single and spent her free time involved in a casino ministry.

“The reason why I go out to the casino,” she told me, “is because there are a number of people that go there that I minister too. It’s like having church, because we all have regular spots at the slots and video poker machines, and pray for each other’s needs, while we gamble. I have one woman, who is in a horrible abusive marriage, and she comes to the casino to escape. Then there is an elderly couple who have wayward grandchildren that they have me pray for. I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as I walk in the front door. One time when I didn’t go to the casino for nearly a month, I found out that one of my parishioners committed suicide, after they lost their house and their divorce was finalized. That was when I promised God that I would do everything in my power to come out, at least once a week, and God is faithful to somehow miraculously provide the money for me to fulfill my promise to him.”

One time I got a call to pick Glenda up, out at the casino, and when she got in my cab, she told me that she didn’t have any money, but would write me a check. When I told her that the company didn’t accept checks, she assured me that the check would be good. Every time that I have ever accepted a check, it’s been a problem, and if a check bounces, I get stuck with a $20.00 penalty fee, from my bank, plus losing the fare. Sometimes when I call them, the number is disconnected, and they don’t even live at the check address anymore. In the best case scenario, I have to become a bill collector and go back to their house and knock on their door. Then there are the rare times that the person leaves an envelope with the money in it at the cab office, but no matter what happens, checks are a problem. The solution to not having to pay the penalty, is going to their bank to cash the check, or at least see if there are sufficient funds to do so.

Since she said that she didn’t have a debit card, and we had talked about spiritual things all the other times that I drove her, I was forced to become a hypocrite, or possibly eat the $60.00 fare. I chose the latter, and the next day, the bank told me that there were insufficient funds in her account. After leaving her phone messages for the next two weeks, the dispatcher sent me to her address, where she gave me $125.00 to cover the money that she owed me, plus have me drive her back out to Spirit Mountain casino, and leave me with a $5.00 tip. Later when I was talking to Driver #1, he told me that she used to be his personal fare out to Spirit Mountain, until she burned him a couple of times. He always collected, but it’s a hassle that you eventually get tired of.

I’ve driven some big winners, home from the bar, like the time that I picked up a guy at Player’s Lounge, who just won $4,000.00 playing video poker. He lived over by felony flats, near the main post office, and on the trip there he bragged about how smart he played the machines to win today. Then he confessed that he owed over $50,000.00 on his credit cards, that he lost gambling, so today’s winnings wouldn’t really help too much. When we arrived at his address, the meter was at $9.90. He pulled out wads of cash from his pockets in the form of $100.00, $50.00, $20.00 and finally a $10.00 bill.

“Keep the change,” he told me, as he handed me the ten spot.

“Thanks,” I told him, as I thought to myself, “maybe I should give him his dime back and tell him that he needs it worst than I do, like number 44, told me that he once did.”

One night I was sitting in front of the Greyhound station, waiting for the buses to come in, when a guy who just arrived in town, approached me to see if I was available. After I loaded his luggage and got his destination in West Salem, we started off. He was coming to visit his brother he told me. Then he told me that his brother’s wife had accrued over $80,000 in credit card debt, playing video poker, on line, on her home computer. When we arrived at his brother’s house, it was dark, but the front picture window curtains were still open. As we pulled into the driveway, we could see a woman sitting at a computer, in the living room, playing video poker.

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