Friday, February 12, 2010


“Did you read about the guy who jumped off the roof of the three story Salem parkade?” My passenger asked me.

I tried to recall if I had or not, but before I could respond he started to tell me all about it. “Three years ago I lost my job, my visitation rights for my little girl and my wife had just finalized our divorce. I wanted to die, so I threw myself off the top of the parking lot, but all I did was break my arm and leg and cause a bunch of internal damage.”

I just picked him up at the emergency room, where a nurse wheeled him out in a wheelchair, as she rolled her eyeballs, when she saw me waiting. This guy was a real flake, with a demented world view. Later, I found out that number 42 was friends with his mother, but it made it no easier to deal with him. Tonight the hospital was footing the bill, which the nurse gave me a signed charge slip voucher for.

“I broke my arm in 14 places,” he told me. “My leg was nearly shattered, but they managed to reconstruct it with pins and by keeping me in traction for a month. Now I have to go in to have my gall bladder removed. I wish that I had died.

Suicide is a hot potato, when it comes to having an objective discussion about it, and the thing is, even the Bible doesn’t really condemn or condone it. The five examples that come to my mind when I think about it are Abimelech, Sampson, Ahithopel, Zimri and Judas. They were all in a bad way physically, mentally, spiritually or all three.

When I pick up suicide attempts that are released by the psychiatric unit, they usually have a signed voucher, so I don’t have to worry about collecting, when I get them home. Then almost every time that I pick someone up there, they start telling me about what happened. I guess that trying to kill yourself, purposely, or accidentally makes you want to talk about it. After all it is a life altering experience.

The worst case that I saw unfold before me, took place over a two year period, beginning shortly after I began driving cab in 2004. The first time that I picked the woman up was in the early afternoon, and she had just purchased a dozen crystal punch bowls, that I had problems fitting in the Dodge Spirit, that I was driving. As we drove to her domicile, she was reticent, and I finally gave up on conversation. When I arrived at her address, in a large apartment complex, she had me carry everything up to her place, on the second floor. When I walked in the door, it looked like a warehouse, with boxes and clothing stacked and strewn everywhere. After I brought it all up, she asked me to wait for her, so I could driver her to the court house downtown. Then when she came out, she was in high spirits and talked nonstop, as we travelled downtown.

“Don’t you just have to go out and buy yourself something, just to do it, once in a while?” My passenger asked me.

“It depends on whether I have the money to buy it, and need it,” I responded.

She ignored me, and began telling me, “I love this time of the year, fall is my favorite season.”

As we drove she asked me questions, and found out that I was a freelance photographer. She wanted to set up an appointment for a shoot in Bush Park, but first she said that she needed to get back in shape. She said that she used to swim laps at the YMCA, but had slacked off the past couple of years. She had a charge account with Yellow Cab, and paid with a voucher

I drove her many times after that and she remembered that I was a freelance photographer and brought it up a few times. Then one time in December 2006, I picked her up in the downtown mall parking lot. When she got in the cab, her eyes were glazed and she could barely give me her address. It was different from last time and was in West Salem. When I got her there, she paid on a charge voucher, and acted disoriented when she exited my cab. The next week there was a photocopied notice on the bulletin about her being missing, and reward offered for information. Three months later there was a newspaper clipping on the bulletin board about her death. Her bloated body washed up on the banks of the Willamette River in March 2007. Memorial services would be held the next week at the same Catholic Church that I used to pick her up at, when I worked the day shift, on Sunday.

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