Sunday, May 23, 2010

Taxi Cab Wars And Beyond






Something is going down. Lines are being drawn and another taxi cab company hit the streets of Salem this week. Amanda’s Taxi was started by a disgruntled DC Cab employee. Right now there are 5 taxi cab companies in Salem, including Yellow Cab, which also has Checker Cab. Affordable Cab came on the scene after A-Cab went under, back in 2007, which includes Santiam Taxi, Keizer Cab and Economico Taxi to name some. Then DC Cab started up in 2008, and A-2 Cab came around in 2009, now Amanda’s Taxi manifests itself in 2010.

At the same time rumors abound that Affordable Cab is ready to file bankruptcy, but then they were going on for A-Cab, from the time that I began in 2004, until 2007 when it finally happened. It’s tough to begin a new taxi cab business in Salem, since Yellow Cab has contracts with all the major businesses, from Salem Hospital, and the pharmaceutical companies, to car dealerships and Willamette University.

Even though Yellow Cab is the biggest, most reputable and successful with a 60 year track record in Salem, we still use antiquated equipment, like the CB radio that drivers communicate with the dispatcher on, as well as over the radio credit card transactions that take forever. That was all on my mind, as I started my shift on Saturday, after a relatively uneventful and busy Friday night.

My first fare was a woman who appeared to be in her early 30’s, who was asking me advice about what to do with her boyfriend who wanted her to only have sex with him, while he wanted to have sex with other women. This is a very dangerous situation, because when the subject of sex, with the opposite sex comes up, you’re walking on shaky ground. You could get called into the office the next day to be told you’re fired for propositioning a passenger. Or the female could be picking up her boyfriend who she will tell your advice to. If you criticized him, he might get mad and even attack you, so it’s best to keep your mouth shut or be evasive. In this case, I answered in generalities about love and commitment. When we arrived at the bar, her boyfriend paid me, after she went into the bar to get him.

When I cleared my fare, I went to the Amtrack station to sit, in case a train came in. Number 52 was already there, so I pulled up behind him and since it was raining, I got in his cab. “Hi Trevor,” I told him, as he smiled and greeted me with a hand gesture, and answered “how are you Bob?” He was listening to some radio talk show that was talking about developing technology for space travel.

“You know it’s funny how we landed on the moon 41 years ago, but we’ve never gone back, or beyond it,” I explained.

“That’s because of the Overmind,” #52 said.

“Why don’t you explain this Overmind theory of yours to me some more,” I told him.

“Every sentient planet has an Overmind,” Trevor explained. “The Overmind is the essence of sentience that contains all the energy that is appropriated to the sentient beings that inhabit the planet. The Overmind feeds the Collective Consciousness, and has a symbiotic relationship with it, through the unconscious minds of each individual. What you call the soul comes from the Overmind and returns to it when it has fulfilled its potential. The Collective Consciousness is made up of all the living beings that inhabit a planet. The Collective consciousness is fed by the Overmind, and communicates with the unconscious mind of all living beings. This communication is how technology is developed, the over mind knows all the secrets of the universe, and reveals them to the collective consciousness, when the time is right, from which individuals unconsciously appropriate that knowledge. The reason why man has never ventured back to the moon, or beyond, is because the Overmind knows that to do so would be unhealthy to the evolution of Earth, at this time. This is good, because it indicates that the planet is evolving normally, and may be allowed to achieve completion.”

“Number 52, go get Nobles,” Larisa, the dispatcher announced.

“I confirm,” Trevor answered and then told me goodbye, as I got out of his cab and back in my own. The rest of the evening was slow, so when I got a call for the Flamingo, on Portland Road, I was hoping for an out of town trip. The Flamingo is a Hispanic club, and on occasion I’ve picked up non English speaking passengers who went to Portland or Woodburn for anywhere from $50.00 to $100.00. When I arrived, a middle aged Hispanic man wearing a straw cowboy hat and a young woman, who didn’t look old enough to get into the bar were standing there. “Did you call for a cab?” I asked, and they both got in, with the guy up front with me and the female in the back seat, of my sedan. “Where to?” I asked.

“Canby,” the man answered in English with a strong accent, that was hard to understand. Then the young woman in back told me that the address was 666 Ash, in Canby.

“I’m going to need $100.00 up front, before we start going,” I told the man, who balked at the amount and insisted that I call my dispatcher for an estimate. The dispatcher told me that it was estimated at $70.00, but would be less since we were at the North end of town. The man pulled out a handful of crumpled bills that counted out to 3 singles and 1 five dollar bill. I told him that I couldn’t do it without money up front, but he said that he had $100.00 at his home in Canby. Since it was a slow night and I needed a good fare to turn it around, so I took a chance and decided to drive him.

I got on I-5 on the North Portland Road entrance, and my passenger began to complain that I was taking the long way. When I told him that I didn’t know the best way to get to Canby, he told me to get off the freeway and take Highway 99. So I got off in Keizer on the Chemawa Road exit and hit 99. Just about the time that I hit the stretch that the last Yellow Cab driver was murdered, my passenger, who had been complaining about the meter already reading $20.00 told me that he was going to cut my throat. I immediately pulled over and looked him in the eye and asked him, so you’re going to cut my throat? To which he answered that he was just kidding. I pulled down my collar and showed him the scars on my neck from my endarterectomy to clean my carotid arteries and told him that I already had my throat cut twice. Then he pulled up his shirt to show me his multiple abdomen scars from knife wounds.

We proceeded, with him alternating between complaining how much the meter was reading, to telling me that he was only going to pay me $20.00 when we got to Canby, to telling me that he had a very bad family who were going to steal my taxi and murder me, while the young woman in the back sat there silent. At one point he wanted me to drive him to Longview, Washington, after he paid me $20.00 for the ride to Canby. He told me that he was poor and couldn’t afford to pay me, then he asked me how many children I had.

“Seven,” I told him.
“I have 7 too,” he told me.

Then he began questioning me about how much I made each night and how much gas it cost to drive to Canby, and I told him that I had to pay $100.00 lease and $30.00 in gas each night, before I made any money. He advised me to steal the taxi and drive him to Longview for $50.00, to which I told him that I was a Christian and couldn’t steal my cab. He asked me what kind of Christian and I told him “Foursquare.” Then he told me that his wife wouldn’t be able to buy tortillas for breakfast tomorrow if he paid for the taxi ride. I ignored him and kept driving, but the funny thing is, my gut told me that it would work out, and I was more afraid of not getting paid than I was about him killing me.

By the time that we arrived at the apartment complex that they lived in, the meter read $72.30. the young woman in back got out and ran to the apartments, while the guy stayed in the cab telling me that I was only getting $20.00, to which I told him that I would call the police, if he didn’t pay me $65.00 with a discount for my detour. We went back and forth for a few minutes, until the young woman returned with a $50.00 bill. I took it and told him that I wanted the $8.00 that he showed me as well, to which he protested, as he pulled the bills out. I pulled them, one by one from his clutching fingers, until one bill remained that he pleaded to keep for tortillas tomorrow. I gave in and he shook my hand profusely and asked, “no police?”

“No police,” I said, as I called in a $57.00 clearance, and headed back to Salem.

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