Thursday, January 14, 2010
Most nights have a dead period in them, as the ebb and flow of humanity diminishes into the vacuum that exists between daytime and night time, even on a Saturday night. I pulled into the vacant parking lot of “Vacuum World”, and parked across two parking spaces with my nose pointed towards the driveway leading onto South Commercial. I was feeling tired and welcomed the lull for a chance to put my seat back and close my eyes under the blinders of my “Yellow Cab” baseball cap. It was close to 9:00 PM and the bar crowd would start heading out any time, but with New Years, just a week past, and no respite in the bad economy, as job losses continued, it was hard to predict. I had the radio on but the music was little more than white noise to my ears, as I drifted off to that place that lies in between the conscious and unconscious mind, when suddenly there came a rapping on the driver’s window, that nearly made me jump out of my skin. I ripped the cap off my face and looked out the window to see a police officer standing outside with a flashlight in his hand, as I rolled down the window.
“Are you all right?” He asked.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I told him. “I was just relaxing while I was waiting for my next call.”
“I saw a reclining body that wasn’t moving, and this business is closed, so I couldn’t tell if you were dead, robbed or sleeping.” The policeman told me.
“Thanks for looking out for me officer,” I told him, “but I’m okay.”
After the policeman drove off, I sat up and began thinking about driver number 14, Michelle Howard, who was shot in the head and killed when she drove a fare from Bob’s books, when it was still on Portland Road, to Brooks, on Columbus Day, in 1998. The guy was just released from prison a couple of days earlier. The assailant claims that he didn’t know that the gun was loaded, and it accidentally went off when they hit a bump in the road. Howard just started her shift and she only had the $20.00 starting change that “Yellow Cab” requires. The prosecutor claimed that the defendant shot number 14 because he was angry about the lack of money, and also had suspicions about the possibility of a rape attempt. The guy only got 4 years, I found that out one night when I drove one of Howard’s former good friend’s, who told me. The deceased cab driver was a writing teacher who was gathering information for a book based on her taxi cab driving experiences.
Then there was the “Affordable Cab” driver that was shot in the head over the Memorial Day weekend in 2008. He survived and they caught the tweaking shooter with the same 38 that he used for his attempted murder. Back in 2006 driver number 41 had a heart attack while he was driving a passenger north on Verda Road, in Keizer. He pulled up to a stop sign and slumped over in his seat. The passenger had to call the dispatcher on the cab radio. Just last month a little before Christmas, driver number 16 had a heart attack and died in his cab while waiting for a call at Amtrack, early one December morning. Death comes to us all, and I’d rather meet it in the driver’s seat of my cab, than in a hospital bed. Then again, in my sleep at night, in my own bed would be okay too.