Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Releases

There are times that I think to myself, “I have enough stories God, I don’t need any more.” Then another one happens. You would think that by this time I would have learned that it doesn’t do any good to suggest to God what He should do, but I’m a slow learner, I’m only 62. Some weekends there are an inordinate amount of jail releases, or maybe it’s just part of the same roulette wheel that supplies all the taxi cab driver’s fares. Anyway, this particular weekend gave me three jail releases who all went far enough to make it worth my while.

The first was a skinny Black man, who looked to be about 40 years old, that I picked up on Friday night around 11:00 PM. I picked him up at the Safeway downtown, and he wanted to go to Dayton, which is 20 miles out of Salem.

“Whenever I go out of town I need money up front,” I told him, “and Dayton is at least $40.00.”

He handed me $30.00 and said that it was all that he had, because he just got released from jail, but he had more money at his house. I took his money and called it in, as I headed towards across the Marion Street bridge. On the drive to Dayton he told me that he was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court for a traffic ticket that he contested.

“The cops broke in my front door,” he told me, “and they threw me on the floor and handcuffed my hands behind my back. I told them that they couldn’t treat me that way, but they just laughed and said that they had a warrant and could do whatever they wanted. Is that right?” He asked me, “can they really do that?”

I wasn’t sure whether to answer him, so I remained silent, which ended up being the right thing to do, as he continued questioning the legality of the arresting officers actions. I told him about one of the jail releases that I took to the impound yard one Monday afternoon, after she spent the weekend in jail. She got resisted arrest after being stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, after leaving a bar, at 5:00 PM, when she got the apartment keys from her roommate, at a bar. My story didn’t console him, but drove him deeper into despair, so I remained silent for the duration of the trip.

He directed me down a dark road, with no street lights. Every time that I drive a released prisoner down a dark road, my mind begins paint ugly pictures that I force myself not to see, while I continue driving. I asked him if he was sure that he had money to pay me the balance of the fare, since the meter read nearly $50.00.

“Yeah, I got the money,” he said. “Don’t worry I’ll pay you, I’m not a crook.”

He had me turn down a dirt road that led into a trailer park, and he had me stop in front of his trailer. He had to open the door with his key, so it didn’t look broken, like he said the police left it. He said that he would be right back, and closed the door to the trailer, but I could see inside after he turned on the lights, through the open blinds. After I watched him walk around in circles for 5 minutes, I knocked on the door and he told me to come in. I opened the door and he told me to sit down and asked if I wanted anything to drink. I told him that I need to head back, since we were backed up with calls. At the same time I was suspicious of being in his trailer, since he could easily rob or attack me. You never knew what to expect with a fare, and after 6 years of being a hack, I had passengers attack both me and other passengers. After a couple of minutes he pulled up the couch cushions and pulled out a torn $20.00 bill that had one corner missing. After he handed it to me I got in my cab, and headed back to Salem, still savoring the metallic taste of adrenaline.

Saturday afternoon, my first call was to pick up a release from the jail named Jenna Smijikowki. She appeared to be in her forties, had short blonde hair, was petite, dressed in a pantsuit with a heavy overcoat. She was going to North Salem, and since it’s SOP to collect up front from jail and prison releases, I asked her how she was going to pay and ran her credit card for $25.00. On the way to her house I found out that she got a DUI, and was married to a Polish man who was originally from Chicago. She didn’t want to talk, so the trip was silent, and when I got her to her house, which was nearly in Brooks, it came to nearly $35.00, so she gave me a $10.00 bill to cover the difference, and leave me with over a dollar tip.

Around 8:00 PM, I got another call for the jail. This time it was a guy in his forties, who weighed over 200 lbs, with a beard, wearing a short sleeve shirt with no jacket, in 40 degrees. He was heading to West Salem, and handed me a $20.00, when I told him that I needed money up front. He talked nonstop all the way to his home. He told me that his wife called 911 after she discovered a sawed off shot gun under the couch, that a friend had given him.

“I was trying to figure out what to do with it,” he told me. “Now I don’t have to worry anymore, since the police have it.”

He told me that this was the third time in the last year that he was in jail, but he wasn’t a bad person. He just ran into a string of bad luck and it would soon turn around in his favor. His fare only came to $16.10, but he told me to keep the change.

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