Tuesday, March 16, 2010

From Hand Kissing To Ass Kicking

Professor Marshall called for a cab at Midnight, and I was dispatched to pick him up at Copper John’s, his regular hangout. To some it might seem unusual to see an eighty year old man sitting at the bar in a gang banger dance club, drinking martini’s to deafening hip hop and rap music blaring through throbbing speakers. Copper John’s was just the latest incarnation of the former bank, on the corner of Court and Commercial, in the middle of downtown Salem. When I first moved to Salem in the mid 1980’s it was called the Night Deposit, and catered to businessmen, lawyers and graduate students from Willamette’s law school. Since then it’s been everything from a Bistro to a Blues Club, until it finally evolved into one of the most popular 21 to 30 year old clubs in town.

Harold Marshall taught history and philosophy at a number of prestigious schools, including Willamette University over his 40 year plus career. Sometimes he would try to explain the correlation between Dostoevsky and Nietzsche by using dialectical reasoning, while other times he would rant about how the youth of today are ignorant of history, and could care less about anything that happened before Michael Jackson was born. Tonight he was a little drunker than usual, and required my supporting help to get him into the cab.

He was in a melancholy mood and talked about how much the world has changed since he was a child in the 1930’s. He talked about how technology has increased exponentially, until he was left in its wake, as he watches the new generation live their lives through their cell phones. After he paid me and gave me a nice tip, he asked me to help him to his front door, and not drive off until he flashed his light. After I got him to his front door he kissed my hand that was supporting him, and said, “I appreciate all people who work in the service industry and help people like me.”

As I drove off, I thought to myself, how nice it was to have passengers like Harold, to offset the nightmare ones, when Dotty told me to get Von’s Tavern. She didn’t have a name, but said to talk to the bartender. I don’t like Von’s, because along with Big Shot’s, it’s one of the roughest bars in town, and I have more no shows and problem passengers from them, than anywhere else.

As I drove into the parking lot a pickup truck was pulling out and stopped next to my cab, as I got out. The driver, who was a Mexican woman waved at me, so I walked up to the Passenger side of the truck, as she rolled down the window, and another drunk Mexican woman was sitting there and she said, “I’m gonna kick your ass, bitch! Get the fuck out of my face bitch!

I ignored the drunk woman and asked the driver, “did you want to talk to me?”

“She was the one who called the taxi,” the driver said and continued, “I’m taking her home, so now she doesn’t need a cab anymore, but there may still be someone in there who does.”

“I’m gonna kick your God damn ass if you don’t get the fuck out of here,” the drunk woman continued ranting.

So I turned around and went into the bar. The place was packed with Mexican’s, like it usually was, on fight night at the Flamingo, across the street. Somebody was singing Karaoke with “Guns and Roses” “Sweet Child O Mine”, as I walked to the bar and finally got one of the bartmaids attention.

“Who called for a cab?” I asked.

“Let me check,” the barmaid said, as she talked to another bartender. After they talked, I found out that the woman who wanted to beat me up, was supposed to be my passenger, but her brother was ready to leave and he may need a cab. So against my gut impulse to walk out the door and tell Dotty that it was a no show, I waited until the bartender talked to a young man, who said that he would be right out.

In a couple of minutes the guy, who was dressed in skin tight black pants, with cowboy boots, and a button up black shirt, with silver threads lightly decorating it, opened the passenger door and got in. He had grease laden coal black hair, combed straight back, with a fish net covering it, and a pencil thin mustache.

“Hey, how’s it going man?” My passenger asked me and said,“I’m gonna give you a big tip, if you can get me to my girlfriend’s place fast,”

“What is the address?” I asked.

“Wait a minute, let me call her and ask,” he said. Then after he talked on the phone a minute he told me, “2940 Hyacinth.”

“The apartments behind ‘Jack In The Box’?” I asked.

“Yeah, those are the ones,” he said.

As I drove him there he talked on his cell phone, on and off, like he was auditioning for Al Pacino’s part as Tony Montana, in “Scarface”. When we pulled into the parking lot of the apartments, he had me stop as he called his girlfriend that lived there. He didn’t have any money he told me and she was going to pay.

“She’ll be down in 5 or 10 minutes,” he told me.

“I can’t wait 5 or 10 minutes,” I told him, “unless I run the meter, because this is the busiest time of the night, and were stacking calls.”

“That’s your problem Holmes,” the Tony Montana audition indignantly told me.

Rather than responding I asked him where to park, and he had me drive next to the office to wait. He asked if he could smoke, and I told him that it was a non smoking cab, so he got out and lit one up, while we waited. I turned on the time meter, but his girlfriend came down quickly and got in the cab next to me, as she handed me a credit card and her driver’s license. Her credit card, which didn’t work, so we had to drive to an ATM, at Plaid Pantry, to try it there. Tony Montana tagged along, and brought his lit cigarette into the back seat with him.

“I said that this is a non-smoking cab,” throw out that cigarette, I told him.

He threw out the cigarette and complained about how I was the worst taxi driver that he had ever had, because of my rudeness. He continued belly aching, because he lost face and had to show how macho he was, but his girlfriend told me that he was an idiot. She was a beautiful tall brunette who was half Mexican and half Irish, she told me. She was wearing 2 inch hoop earings, and a short tan dress that exposed her long slender legs that rose up to beautifully shaped hips. She had on a loose fitting dark brown sweater shirt that matched the shade of her large brown eyes. When we arrived at the store they both got out, and the woman came back out a minute later with a $20.00 bill.

“See, I told you I had money in my account,” she said.

“I believed you,” I told her, “but for some reason sometimes our machine has problems.”

“Where is he?” She said, as her boyfriend lingered in the store for another 5 minutes.

I was tempted to just drive off and let him walk, but I decided to just wait. When he finally came back and got in he pointed his cell phone at me and it flashed. He was taking pictures of me while I was driving back to the apartments, so he could have a record of me to complain about how rude I was. He demanded to know my name, and I told him that I was #25. When I pulled into the parking space at the office, the woman paid me and gave me a $4.00 tip as she apologized for her boyfriend, while he continued to complain and flash his cell phone. After they got out and I told Dotty that I was clear, she sent me to Big Shots for Romeo.


  1. I love how you offered up their address in this blog, I am half tempted to go lob rotten produce at their front door. Calm down, I'm only joking! This was a fun read, thanks for writing it! From one Salemite to another.

  2. My addresses are never the actual ones. I could get in trouble for that. I change names and addresses, to protect the innocent and myself, unless I have permission or in some cases I actually did an interview with the subject.

  3. I figured as much, I'd do the same myself if I had stories to tell like yours. I have to say, yours are quite enjoyable, thanks for sharing them!

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