Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

New Years Eve is the busiest night of the year, because of all the parties and traditional celebrations, and this year would be no exception. I was apprehensive about the night, since the moon was going to be full on top of everything else. However, what I didn’t realize, was that it was a blue moon as well. So I braced myself for an insane night of transporting drunken passengers to and from bars and parties. While I was waiting in the office for the day driver to come in with my cab, a couple of the drivers were talking with John, the swing shift dispatcher, before he took over.

Number 54 was talking about some nut that he drove once, who asked him the following question. “What would you do if I pulled a gun on you?”

He said that he responded by telling him “both of us would die, because I’d floor it.”

Then John added “ you have to let them see it in your eyes that you’re crazier than them.”

I hit the street a little after 4:00 PM, to begin my 12 hour shift, with a torrential downpour blotting out any chance of seeing the full moon. I knew that you didn’t have to see luna, to feel it’s effect, which was something that I learned years ago, when I finished my shift one morning. That particular night had been unusually strange, with bizarre episodes occurring all night, while a couple of inches of rain pummeled the valley. Then as I pulled into the cab lot, at the end of my shift, the rain subsided and the clouds parted to reveal a silver circle overhead.

At least there wouldn’t be freezing rain like there was last New Years Eve, sending cars and cabs careening into each other on ice glazed hills, in South and West Salem. All in all the night wasn’t bad, maybe the second full moon of the month cancelled out Luna’s power. My passengers were all well behaved and even docile, compared to the usual loud rowdy obnoxious drunks that comprised my New Years Eve fares. One year, when I had a van full of celebrants at the magic hour, they all pulled out horns and noisemakers, and at the stroke of midnight, when fireworks were exploding in the south western sky, my passengers all let loose in unison with an ear drum exploding barrage of noise. I nearly drove off the road, but this year my cab was empty as I sped towards my next call, in the south, while watching rainbow colored spider webs crawling across the blackness of the torrential midnight sky.

The night passed without event, until my last call, at 3:40 AM. Once again the pattern repeated itself, weaving itself into the fabric of my taxi driving career, with another memorable last call. For some reason, last calls are frequently the best, or most memorable of the night. I can’t remember how many times I would pick somebody up, just before or after I gassed up for the night, and they wanted to go to Portland, which is a $100.00 minimum. Other times, like the junkie going through withdrawal in my cab a couple of weeks ago, my last fare is the most memorable.

Tonight it was the latter category, but like the rest of the night, it was a subdued version of what could be a bad situation. When I arrived at the address Doty gave me in South Salem, there was a party still going on, and a young woman, in a red dress, who appeared to be in her late twenties approached me, as I walked towards the front door.

“I called for the cab,” she said. “We’ll be right there,” then she turned around and walked back towards the house.

I turned around and went back to the sedan that I was driving and sat there watching the activity on the porch in front of me. There were three young men standing there and one of them was jumping around. The woman in the red dress put her hand on the shoulder of the jumping man, and he stopped. There seemed to be some sort of discussion, when a car pulled up, and two young men got out and walked towards the house. At this point the man that the woman was talking to started jumping around again, like he was a boxer in a ring. I rolled down my window, and heard him shouting.

“I’ll take anybody on who has the guts to stand up to me!” At the same time he continued to pummel the air in front of him. Then he stopped and shouted to the house. “That goes for any of you chicken shit mother fucker’s in there. I’ll take anybody on.”

At that point the woman and two men started directing the haranguing harbinger of violence towards my cab. She opened the back door and began coaxing the man, who was her husband to get into the cab, while I waited. She’d get him in, and then he’d get back out and start yelling out his challenge to take anyone on. This went on, until I finally started the meter. At that point the woman managed to force the man into the back seat and close the door. Then she got up front with me, and told me their address on the East side.

As I started to drive, the man became alarmed because of something in the back seat. When I looked back, I saw the rubber molding that surrounds the door, to make it water tight, hanging inside the back seat. I became alarmed and drove up the curb before I stopped the cab, to see what happened. The woman said to ignore it, before her husband got upset, so I took off, and drove across town. The man in back would periodically threaten to beat me up, or kill me, but the woman would tell him to shut up and he would be quiet for a couple of minutes, until he started threatening me again.

When we arrived at their house, the meter read $22.90, and the woman told me to shut the meter off, so her husband wouldn’t see it, because it would make him mad that it cost so much. I immediately shut the meter off and she paid me the fare with a $5.00 tip. After they got out, I looked at the molding and managed to fit it back into the door without any trouble.

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