Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Can People Live Like This?

In a previous post I wrote about taking a fare to *Starkville.I grew up in Starkville,and lived in the area for over 30 years.It was a borough of the big city back then,and has since become a city its self,with an approximate population of over 700,000 people.
But how things have changed,Starkville has become notorious for  gun crimes and gangs,some people now refer to it as Canada's version of Detroit.
After dropping off my fare at about 2:30 that morning, I needed fuel for the trip back to town.
Starkville though still a very clean and well-lit community, is pretty eerie at this hour of the day.
Maybe it was all the bad press in recent years that was coloring my perception, but I still hesitated about stopping for fuel.
I thought I might wait till I was out in the country side to fuel,but decided to suck up my apprehension and stopped in a at a Shell station.
I was prepared to pay first at the kiosk,before being allowed to fuel,as I have encountered this in other large metropolitan areas in the past.A requirement unheard of, where I live.
To my surprise the clerk-who was visible from the pumps-did not require me to do this,maybe because I was driving a cab,with the name and phone number in clear view.
After fueling I sat in the cab for a few minutes and completed some info on my trip sheet.
While I was doing this a young guy on a bike road up-with the typical attire of todays youth,a hoodie,baggy pants etc.
I noticed when he tried to enter the store the door was locked.Apparently the clerk-and the many surveillance cameras surrounding the place-scan customers before allowing them in.
I saw that the clerk was checking this guy out-and then I heard a buzzer go off,releasing the locks and allowing him to enter the store.
At this point another fellow came walking up towards the direction of the door,but saw me,and instead headed towards my cab.
He tried to get in the back seat-I wisely keep my doors locked- and when that failed he knocked on my passenger side window.
I powered the window down a few inches,and he asked me for a ride up the street.
I told him no,I was not from around here,and not licensed to pick up fares in the city.
That was true,though my chances of being caught by a licensing official at that hour of the day were slim to none.
I felt a little silly about be so cautious with the dude,but I figured this isn't the Starkville that I grew up in-so better safe then sorry.

    The Starkville of my youth was rough around the edges.I went to a tough Catholic school were brawls were an everyday occurence.Guys would fight with chains,screw drivers,whatever was handy,or what ever they brought to school tucked in their jackets.
But most of the time it was just knuckles, and no serious injuries were inflicted.
Though a few of the guys I went to school with did end up in motorcycle gangs,in jail or both.
But gun crime's were almost unheard of,and if one did occur, it made the front page of the paper.
You could still walk the streets at any hour of the night-which my friends and I often did-with out the fear of being accosted.
It was pretty much an atmosphere of  "if you minded your own business,and didn't go looking for trouble-you wouldn't find any".
I can't imagine ever-living their today-it seems every time you open the paper,there is another story about the violence in Starkville.
Murder,armed robbery,and police chases, are now occurring on a regular basis.
It would seem that as every day passes,our big cities are becoming more and more like those in the U.S.A.
I have a friend who lives in the southern U.S.She was relating to me one time about her shopping trip to a Wal-Mart store in Alabama,where they have "armed guards" at the front door!
I was stunned-"armed guards at a department store??" I had never heard of such a thing-I mean at our Wal-Mart we have senior citizens with pasted grins standing at the door.
She went on to tell me that in the apartment building where she lives,there is an armed guard in the lobby 24-7.
Now that to me, is some scary shit.Is that what we here in Canada are destined for? Unfortunately,at least in our large urban areas,that may very well be the case.

*I have used a fictious name here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Brotherly Love.

Just when you think the shift is going to be a total loss-you get lucky-then not so lucky-then lucky again!
I was in the office around mid-night debating with the dispatcher whether I should call it a day.With only a dozen fares since coming in @5pm and a gross of  a little over a hundred dollars,it was not looking good.
My buddy had already given up at 11pm and went home, and some others were just hanging out watching T.V.
I was standing there counting out what little cash I had,hoping to make the final payment on my cab tonight,and still have enough left to pay the company their split.
Mean while the phone rang,and after hanging up,Jimmy the dispatcher says "well I guess if your calling it a night you won't want that call".
Where's it going I ask? It was the Police he says, "they want a cab @ 7-11 to take a woman to *"Starkville".
Starkville...shit...thats at a least a $180.00 run I tell him.Yup he says and your top on the board,"do you want it or not?"Well hell yes I said.
When I arrived at 7-11 there were two police cruisers there, a women with a dog and, a fellow in the back of  one of the cruisers.
The officer comes over to my cab and asks how much it would be to take the lady and Fido to Starkville.
I give him the estimate of $180.00,and he balks and says "that's an awful lot of money".No shit Sherlock I say to myself ,and so is the $75.000 a year they pay you for policing this mickey-mouse town.
Can you not give her a flat rate he asks? No I said,I'm an owner/operator, and just as with any other business when you factor in all my costs $180.00 is a fair price.
I also tell him I want the money up front.So he goes back to his car and asks the guy in the back if he has that kind of cash on him as  the lady is refusing to pay-so eventually they let this guy out to use the bank machine-I get my dough and a way we go.
We are two miles down the road,when she says "pull into that coffee shop and let me out,keep $10.00(the fare to this point was $6.00) and give me $170.00 back."
~Just my Irish fucking luck~ So I give her the money back,and radio into dispatch with the bad news, and tell him he better inform the police.
A half hour passes, and low and behold I'm sent back to the coffee shop, where once again the police are on scene.
One officer is inside with the women, and the other approaches me and asks why I let her out.
What was I supposed to do I ask? I couldn't very well  hold her against her will.
Thats true he says,"I guess you did the right thing-but listen he says "just get her out of our hair,at least get her out of our district.
The other officer brings her out-and then "he" proceeds to grill me as to why I let her out!
Now I'm getting pissed off. I tell him "no disrespect sir,but I'm just a cabbie, you're the ones with the authority not me.
So he turns to the woman and tells her "if you get out of this fellows cab again, before you get home,he is going to call 9-11 and you will be arrested,is that understood?" I promise I won't she says.
He turns back to me and says"now, are we all on the same page here?"  Yeah no problem I replied.
~Like "duh" did he really think I wanted to lose a $180.00 fare!~
So once again we set off for Starkville,and now I'm itching to know just what the hell this was all about.
She wasn't offering,so what the hell I thought,I'll be nosey and ask.
Well she says, that was my brother in the back of the police car,they arrested him for domestic violence.
She went on to tell me how they were on a day trip up from the city, to see their sister and her family.
When apparently her brother started going ballistic on her for not wearing a seatbelt ,and criticizing her on her driving abilities.
So they pulled into 7-11 and started fighting,he pulling her hair,and banging her head on the steering wheel.
She fought back and managed to call 9-11.Why then,I asked,are you taking a cab, and not driving your car home?
Oh she replied, when the police  ran my license it came back as suspended
So to sum it all up,her brother was off to jail,she was off on a very expensive cab ride home,and I had a really interesting night,and paid off my cab to boot!

Friday, February 19, 2010

How To Take A Perfectly Good Business & Snort It Up Your Nose.

The demise of "Acme Yellow Cab" began the day it was purchased by *Hans  Nozecandee.Hans purchased the company from *Robert Jones in December 1998.
Rob had owned and operated Acme since 1986,and he ran a tight,no-nonsense operation.Being the only cab company in town at the time,Acme was a cash cow.
I was hired by Rob in 1995,to say that he was an old school tyrant,disliked by almost everyone who crossed his path, would be an understatement.But at the end of the day, hate him or not,Rob was a business man,and the company flourished under his rule.

   Enter Hans,who from day one I could envision putting Acme into a free fall,and sadly that vision would become reality.
Hans was the polar opposite of Rob.Where Rob came from humble beginnings, and knew the value of a dollar,Hans was a spoon fed rich man,who literally, at the age of 45 had never held a job.I use the term "Man" loosely here,as in reality,he was more adolescent, then  he was adult.
Hans came from a very wealthy family,a family who had actually given him a quarter of a million dollars to buy the cab company,in order to give him something to do.To bad they didn't just buy him a hobby farm instead.
Like any over indulged child,Hans soon grew bored with his new toy, and became less and less interested in the day-to-day operations, and especially the inherent responsibilities involved in running a business.
In just over a year Hans had begun to seek other forms of stimulation.He would go on to piss away vast amounts of company money acquiring race horses,stock cars and other assorted toys for big boys.All of which after a short time he would become bored with, and discard   at random.
  This is about the time Hans took up a new hobby,snorting cocaine.Our office became party central,booze and drugs became readily available.For the longest time we had a resident drug dealer hanging around the office on a daily basis.Hans introduced this fellow to the staff as being his best friend,but in reality he was a fairly high level drug dealer,and Hans' sole connection to cocaine bliss.
This individual became a regular fixture at the office,pulling up everyday in his Mercedes with his two loyal pit-bulls always at his side.  He didn't work, dealing drugs of all kinds, was his full-time occupation,and he knew a good mark when he saw one,and Hans was a mark with lots of cash.
Eventually Hans would spend less and less time at the office,and ultimately becoming an absentee owner.
I was lead driver at this time and the brunt of the operation now fell on me and an excellent staff of drivers and dispatchers.
This was Hans' only saving grace.The staff was like family,we loved our jobs and worked hard to keep things going.
The staff would later approach Hans and ask him to promote me to general manager,in hopes that with my background working under Rob Jones,I would know best how to run the place as a business and not as an "anything goes drop in centre".
Hans agreed to this arrangement,and the only time he would make an appearance would be when he needed to dip into the safe for some cash, to feed what was rapidly becoming, an increasingly expensive addiction to cocaine.
His need for more and more cash to finance this sickness finally got so great, that if he continued draining the cash flow, we were going to end up bankrupt.
So at this point I had the lock's to my office and the safe changed,with myself and the book-keeper, being the sole key holders.
Hans must have had a moment of clarity on how serious his addiction had become,as he never overruled me on this rather brazen undertaking.I mean how many business owners have to go through their manager in order to "access their own money"
From that day forward I  limited Hans  to two hundred dollars a day in cash.He would never ask how business was going,or even pass the time of day.He just came for the cash and left,it had truly become a bizarre situation.
  All things considered the staff and I had everything else running smoothly and business was good.Then of course the bomb fell, in the guise of the tax man walking in the front door.
As it turned out, unbeknown to us,Hans owed hundreds of thousands in unpaid federal taxes.
How he had escaped paying them for so long, with out the government taking immediate action,is beyond me.
But I don't have to guess where the money ended up...
In ten years Hans had managed to drive a 30-year-old thriving cab company into the ground-or should I say up his nose.
25 hard-working people lost their jobs after that fateful day-all due to a man/child, raised with absolutely no  sense of responsibility,and a horrible addiction to cocaine.
What a waste and what a tragedy.

*Names and dates have been changed for privacy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Romance & The Night Shift.

Actually I should have titled this "lack of romance on the night shift".As any eligible ladies seem to be few and far between.
Of course I meet a lot of "bar stars",and the twenty plus, piss tanks,neither of which hold any appeal.
Firstly I'm not interested in bar flies,and the latter are obviously to young.
Their is obviously a shortage of single, forty plus age women  taking cabs at night,what a shame. ;)
But then again the hours a cabbie must put in to make a living, are not really conducive to  a decent relationship.
    This is a far cry from my last job,where I was the general manager for a cab company.I felt like I had finally arrived,working a 30 hour week,making good money,and having a company car to boot.
There was no shortage of  available single women at that job.But then the cynic in me thinks that had a lot to do with the title and my income.With out going into detail,my last relationship there certainly bore that theory out-and they say men are shallow.
The good things as well as the bad ,don't last forever,everything in life is subject to change.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Looney Toons.

Its a nice place,two Mercedes are parked in the driveway.The fellow comes out gets in the cab,and in  what I assume is a mid-east accent,tells me "you take me to liquor store".
It smells like he has already had a few, but what the hells a few more.
As we are pulling away I mention to him what a nice place he has.Yes he replies, "I am architect",ah that must be interesting I say."Not interesting now,I have bad back" he says.I don't make the connection here,but then I don't really care,I'm just making conversation-which I will soon regret.
Buy the time we hit the store he has informed me that not only has he designed half the town,but that he also owns 18 gas stations,played football for the BC lions,has a 6th degree black belt in karate,his wife is a bio-chemist,and his son is a world champion lacrosse player.
Uh-huh,now I'm think'in this dudes a french fry short of a happy meal-a genuine looney toon.
Now he wants me to go in the store with him,and carry out his beer,two six packs!
I start to make a minor protest,about that not being in my job description..."you must do this" he says,"then they know  I am not driving".I'm thinking how does my presence in the store prove he is not driving-its not like I have a freak'in uniform on.Not that the staff even cares,their only concern is that he be sober enough to buy booze,and he was.
But not wanting to prolong this whacky situation any further I agreed to go in with him and carry the beer.
Now were in the store and he starts making bizzare comments to the other patrons about their choice of booze.
He goes over to one guy,picks up a bottle of whisky right out of the guys buggy and tells him "this is not whiskey,this is pony piss!"
Great I think,now he is going to get his butt kicked,"why me..why do I always end up with the wingnuts!"
Thankfully this guys reaction was to just grab his bottle back, roll his eyes and walk away.
Before he has a chance to have any further confrontations,I grab his beer,he pays for it,and I hustle him back out to the cab.
When we arrive back at his house he wants to pay the 13 dollar fare with a fifty dollar bill,which just my freaking luck,I had no change for.
"You come in house he says,I get you a twenty."Once were in the house,he insists on showing me around.
So I do the "oh ya,this is great,nice gym,yes beautiful furniture" routine-thinking the whole time"buddy please,just pay me, so I can get the fuck outta here".
During this tour we come across a dog walking around with a leash attached to its collar.The guy says,"I not here,this dog kill you." I almost burst out laughing-it was a bloody pug,it didn't even so much as bark!
But I humour him and tell him,"ya thats one mean look'in son of a bitch."
After begging off his invitation of a drink,and a lesson on how to make a million dollars,I finally got my money,and was able to make my leave.
As I walked back to my cab,I wondered how he had managed to acquire the nice house and all the toys,cuz he sure had some marbles missing!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bowl & The Drive By Cabbie.

Super Bowl Sunday,I have no idea why American football is so popular in Canada,but it sure as hell created a frenzy in town tonight.We went non stop through the whole shift,and at one point, had to call in extra cabs.
No doubt their will be a lot of folks waking up today, with super hangovers.
I was dispatched to one particular house party,and was not getting any response.I radioed the dispatcher and told her to move me on,as no one was coming out.
She replied that it was going to be a good fare-a $50.00 flat-to a town north of us.It doesn't matter I told her,"I'm not waiting here any longer".
I have a reputation for having absolutely no patience for people who call for a cab,and then take their sweet bloody time coming out.Thus they call me the the "drive by cabbie","if they are not standing on the curb when Joe drives up,he will just drive on by".
Actually I am not quite that bad. But it really does piss me off that people can not get ready "before" they call for their cab.
So she moved me on."We will wait for a call back on that one she says."
I do a couple short runs,and when I'm clear,being the sweet and fair dispatcher that she is,she radios me that the fare going north,is now ready to go.
"Car 14 do you want to head back to that address?" I don't want to see you lose a good run ,she says.
No I replied,"you know me,if I go back and their still not ready,I'll be really pissed off."
Yes "drive by" she says,I know." The call then went out over the air to another driver.
The fellow that took it was "Fast Eddy",a part time company driver and a good friend of mine.
Eddy and I happened to meet up later and he remarked "you should have gone back for that call".
Why is that I asked? "The guy threw me a hundred dollar bill,and told me to keep the change" he replied.
A $50.00 dollar tip! Not to shabby at all,very nice I tell him,"its all good Eddy you deserve it".
Ed's a hard working guy-who puts in a lot of long shifts,often on short notice.I was happy for him.

Of course a lot of my fellow cabbies think I have a screw loose.For the sake of waiting five or ten more minutes,I could have had that nice windfall.
I'm certainly not adverse to making money,but its just a means to an end,its not my God.
As long as I make enough to pay my rent and buy groceries,I'm content with that.
I love the freedom driving cab offers me,especially as a broker.I make the decision's on what I want to do, or don't want to do.
My philosophy is "that I work to live-not live to work",and that suits me just fine.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cabbie Camaraderie

It was a rather slow night in Beanville,not much money to be made.Maybe all the boys and girls were at an AA meeting,because they sure as hell were not out drinking.
Which left most of us sitting in empty parking lots,shooting the breeze.Sharing some taxi tales, and having a few laughs,usually at each others expense.
Some of the cast of cabbie characters out tonight included Kenny "the copper" a retired Police Officer and good pal. Ken's a great guy, and can always be counted on to regale the crew with some fascinating stories from his many years on the Police force.
Then we had Sammy "four eyes," a semi-retired scam artist, and full time sociopath.This guy can spew the most outlandish bull shit and have you almost believing it.He is definitely in the wrong business,he should be selling used cars.
Mike "the biker" was there as well.Mikey looks just like an outlaw biker,with all his tattoos,leather garb, and Harley gear .The fact that he has never even been on a motorcycle,seems to be just a minor detail...hmmm.
Then we have yours truly, an ex-trucker,former- and very temporary - Private investigator,and now in my 15th year,the longest serving cabbie in town.Oh and lest I forget,according to some, an incorrigible skirt chaser.
With a cast like that-and thats only a fraction of them-sharing some war stories,the night, though not very profitable,was at least entertaining.

Note: Names and places have been changed,to protect the innocent...and the guilty.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day's vs. Night's.

Another week or so and my Cab will be finally paid off .Which has had me thinking about switching to day shift.
Over all the gross average per shift would be the same,but the tip factor drops significantly.
Sober folks are not as generous with their money, as they are, when they are out on the town, drinking and partying.
I have also gotten spoiled-or just lazy-working nights.Very few grocery runs, and no seniors to help in and out of the cab.
No walkers, wheel chairs,or baby strollers to lug in and out of the trunk.
My butt rarely leaves the seat for the entire shift.That alone isn't very heart healthy,let alone all the road food (or is that road kill?) that I scarf at the drive-thru's.
Day shift does have its advantages.A calmer quieter, and more rational clientele, is a big draw.
Being able to see house numbers, and street names clearly, would be a nice change,especially out in the country.(You folks with LED house numbers,I love ya!)
Though in town,one quickly learns,that the only house on the street, sitting in complete darkness,is the one that called the cab.People can be so bloody clue-less.
The potential for violence also decreases when running day shift.I make no comparison here with my fellow cabbies who operate in large Metropolitan areas.These Men and Women are at much greater risk, then those of us in rural areas.
Though we do live in a relatively crime free area,it is still very much a red-neck town,and thus we take our share of shit.
None more so then our Indo-Canadian drivers who are often the victims of racial slurs, and hassled by local punks.

I think the allure though, of running nights,is the freedom it offers.Having the town to ourselves,no traffic,lenient coppers who turn a blind eye to us speeding.The cops would much prefer the cabbies whisk the drunks off the streets before the fights and vandalism starts."Better off going with us then the cops" I tell the ones itching for a scrap in a bar parking lot.
The coppers don't treat these guys with kid gloves,and if they want to fight,the cops are more then willing to oblige them.
After its all said and done,I think that though the day shift has its advantages,I  might very well die of boredom.