The world is going crazy and taking me with it.

I started my day pretty well, actually.  A short work meeting, then lunch with a friend.  After lunch I stopped my car by a field because there was a large sandhill crane grazing and I wanted to take some photos of it to post a goofy “omg an ostrich” message on my friend’s facebook wall.  While I was doing that, it made some cool noises and flew off pretty majestically.  On the drive home I saw three more flying over me.  I was all, “I should totally do that blog post about how awesome the wildlife in Madison is.”

The best laid schemes, etc.

I finally mounted my bike lights on my new-to-me bike right before work so that I could ride it home with some safety.  As I started my ride I noticed some police cars at the end of my street, at the intersection of East Washington (a major artery of the city).  Traffic accident, I figured.  It should clear up within the hour, but it might make traffic heavy for a little bit.  I start work at 3pm, so it should be clear by Friday rush hour.  Detouring cars make some street crossings on my bike slow, so I can’t really test the brakes or get used to how it handles.

I got a little delayed at the office with officey work, so I was hopeful the assumed accident was cleared up.  My first ride was a regular rider.  She was going from a coffee shop to her home, and she asked me, “Is that murder all cleared up yet?”

Apparently it was a murder that was clogging traffic?  I asked if it was a gun (twice, she’s hard of hearing), and she said she thought so.  Most of her route was completely unaffected by the traffic, but you could see the opposite direction was much heavier than normal.  I got her home, helped her in, then decided to get some coffee from a drive-thru place near where the source of the traffic jam was, just to check it out.  Traffic inbound on East Washington was clear, which was working in my favor, but traffic outbound was diverted.  A whole block of East Washington was cordoned off, wrapped with yellow tape, and blinking blue and red.  Flares were scattered around and police officers were directing cars.

I took a woman to the airport, saw the line of taxis was longer than I like, then left to try my luck uptown.  I ended up getting a call at the elementary school right next to my house.  The energetic girl who got in had a bright orange cast on her arm, she said she broke her wrist roller blading.  She’d been wearing a helmet, but not her wrist guards or elbow pads.  She was really upset she’d be missing gymnastics and she wants to be a cheerleader soon.  Did I hear about the huge fight at East High School (two blocks away from the elementary school)?  The elementary school was on LOCKDOWN today!  No one could even leave their classrooms unless it was an emergency!  Gymnastics and cheerleading go hand-in-hand.  There are 32 signatures already on her cast, and she’s only had it for one whole day!

I end up sitting for an hour on the west side of town.  It’s a little surprising.  I eventually got a call from a massage salon to a towing yard.  I little bit quirky, but not the weirdest pickup-destination combination.  I ended up waiting 15 minutes at the pickup with two calls to their cell phone before giving up on the passengers.  They called back three minutes after I left and insisted they were really on the way out this time.  The ride was long, the bill was about $30, and I got a $3 tip along with an “we’re sorry” for making me wait so long the first time.  10% with a less-than-sincere apology, on top of me overhearing that someone’s dad’s card is paying for the ride anyway.  Whatever, I was in my zen.  It wasn’t like they were rude and I had the whole night ahead of me to make some money.

Business still seemed slow, so I decided it was a good time to go home and eat some leftover homemade soup that I made earlier in the week.  My heater was spitting cold air into my apartment from the basement instead of just being off like I told it to be.  My half hour break turned into an hour and a half while I try to figure things out with my (awesome) landlord who was out of town.  We ended up setting an appointment for someone to come by the next day, mainly because the weather was supposed to get down into the thirties again over weekend.  In May.  Hurray Wisconsin.

I had a group of 5 loud college kids going to a bar from their apartment.  One of them noticed “Paradise City” by Guns ‘n Roses on the radio.  “I LOVE THAT SONG!” One girl exclaimed.  She was obviously younger than the song.  Then she sang all the words wrong, told me that I was the best, most “chill” driver she’s ever had, then tipped $1.  At least I was chill enough to laugh and shake my head instead of let it annoy me.

Another group of 5 girls from apartment to bar:  They were super nice, if a little loud.  They were passing around a perfume roller one of them had.  Apparently it was a pheromone thing where the perfume reacts differently and smells differently for each person… but guys really like it?  The girl with the perfume was excited to have me put some on.  She said she works as a server and whenever she wears it she gets more tips.  I was willing to try it.  If the pheromones didn’t work, at least I would smell pretty.  After they left, I rolled the windows down a bit to air the cab out, though.  Six freshly perfumed ladies were a bit much.  It certainly was a unique tip, though.  Who else can say they were tipped in pheromones?

After a few wild goose chases where people canceled as I pulled up or just weren’t there anymore (which were starting to piss me off), I finally loaded someone going from downtown to the west side.  Along the way I see traffic pulled over, loads of hazard lights, and dark obstacles in the middle of an intersection.  It’s 10 or 11pm and there should be no traffic.  Several people are outside of their cars with their lit cell phones in their hands, waving traffic to a different street.  As I pulled closer I saw three different mangled cars.  I rolled my window down and asked one of the cellphone-wavers if everyone was alright.  He said that there was a first responder already and ambulances were on the way.  I heard sirens and let myself be diverted.  I figured if I “helped” there would be too many cooks in the kitchen and I’d just make myself upset.  I alerted my dispatcher of the blocked intersection.

At this point, I’m going to step out of my night’s summary and try to describe something to you.  I’m pretty sure everyone has places where something bad has happened and every time that place is visited an echo of that experience shadows their current mood.  An example of this is several years ago my brother called me while I was working.  I had a passenger in my cab and I asked if I could call him back.  After several minutes I dropped off my passenger and parked my car in a nearby parking lot.  When I called my brother back he let me know our mom had passed away unexpectedly.  A random blood clot, a complication from a surgery the week before.  Everytime I drive by that parking lot, which is on a street I travel fairly regularly, I either don’t look at the parking lot on purpose, or do and feel a pang of complex emotions that shadow my mood for a period of time.  Because it’s in a common place, the ache is dull and gentle.

Last night, right after seeing this bad accident, I was sent into a hidden little neighborhood where I always avoid.  I might have been there twice in the past 8 years.  The infrequency of it made the effect of this emotional echo much stronger and it really pissed me off.  The incident I had there is private and I’m not going to get into it, but the addition of these frustrated, angry emotions greatly affected the rest of my night.  The ride out of there was pleasant enough, but I wasn’t really paying attention to it.  After the ride I had to take a moment and scrub my face with my hands.  I got a big whiff of the pheromone perfume and wondered if it was only making me moody instead of getting me more tips.

I struggled with my dispatcher on a couple calls.  One that should have been dispatched to me (in my eyes) and one that I didn’t feel like driving 6 miles to go get because I was closer to downtown where most of the action was.

I was dispatched a call for a lady.  When I pulled up, she reached for the handle as I was rolling down the window.  A dude stepped up and said the cab wasn’t for her.  He said her name, which was the name on the call, and said she wasn’t getting into the car.  She looked away as he gripped her upper arms and moved her back, yelling at her, getting into her face.  She asked, “Well what am I supposed to do?  Walk home while you keep getting drunk?”  He kept yelling at her so I yelled out the window, “Hey don’t let this abusive asshole tell you what to do, do you need a cab?”  He came over, called me a cunt, told me he had her under control, and went back to yelling at her with his back to me.  I yelled at him some more, he yelled at me some more, the woman told him not to yell at me that way, and I asked her politely if she was alright and if she would like to take a cab home.

Someone else came up in the meantime and asked if I would take him and his friends somewhere.  I looked him in the eye and he was uncomfortable with the whole situation.  He was coherent of what was going on, so I told him I wanted to make sure the lady was doing alright before I would take him and his friends.  I really didn’t want to leave that man yelling at the lady, but I couldn’t solve her relationship for her.  She looked me in the eye, didn’t seem to be too drunk, and said she’d be alright.  She thanked me.  Hopefully she’ll take my reaction, a very public reaction, into account when she gets into a bad enough argument with that guy and understand it isn’t a normal dynamic.  He shouldn’t treat her like that and everyone outside of the relationship knows that.  I hope she moves on, quickly.  I ended up taking the polite gentleman and his friends somewhere, leaving the first woman to figure things out.  It felt safe enough with the bar crowd around them as a social check-and-balance.  I wish I could have stepped on that guy’s face, though.

I got a pick-up at Red Rock.  This is a “country” bar with a mechanical bull.  It was a call for 5 people (I’ve been in a minivan all night, which seats 6 passengers).  Two women greeted me and I assessed that they were the correct people.  One was obviously more sober than the other.  Drunky discovered she was missing her clutch before she even opened the van door.  A large man came out to join these two ladies, we established he was in the party and I told him to get in the front seat.  He was being less drunk and less shrill than the two ladies, so I figured he’d be a good fit for shotgun.  The less-drunk lady asked if it would be alright if they could go inside to search for the missing passengers and purse, and I said it would be a-okay with me if the gentleman got into the front.

Ten minutes later (at bartime, which is a bit of a pain since I could have been running other short calls) I tell the dude in the front that I’m going to turn the meter on.  The more-drunk lady came out and said she’d be completely willing to pay for it, then disappeared back inside.  People came back and forth a couple times, then we established that we’re a party of 4 instead of 5, we’ve found the clutch, and the found forth passenger got wigged out that the meter already said $5.50.  Great.  I’m thinking if he’s already grousing that the meter is at $5 and the ride is probably going to be $30 total, I’m not going to see much of a tip.  Then the more-sober girl in back piped up with, “You’re such a saint!  You’re a total angel for waiting for us that long!”  This is basically the kiss of death.  Everytime I hear that I’m outrageously awesome or “the best cab driver we’ve ever had,” it means I’ll be getting about $1, no matter the distance of the ride.

Soberish girl panicked a little at one point, thinking she’d lost about $200 in cash somewhere during the course of the night, but then said she found it.  I think she even said something like, “And a hundred dollar bill just laying on the floor of the cab!”  I replied that it was actually mine and someone had left it there for me.  We all laughed a little about it, but I was kinda crying inside.  The passenger wasn’t jubilant enough that I was convinced it wasn’t hers in the first place, but it would have been awesome if somewhere during my night I had found a $100 bill.

The passengers had a lively, friendly conversation throughout the ride, but the man in the front seemed very mellow and quiet.  I even had to make sure partway through the ride that he hadn’t fallen asleep.  Toward the end of the ride, the man in the front piped into the conversation with a light opinion.  I don’t even remember what was being discussed, but he was in disagreement with the ladies in back.  The other man in back offered me $60 to pull over and kick him out.  The tone was light-hearted enough that I figured it was all a joke, but serious enough that I had to actually engage in the conversation.  I said that the nice man in front had been behaving himself very well and we should let him continue the ride.  I’m not sure if the passengers were mock-impressed or actually impressed that I wouldn’t kick their friend out for an outlandish amount of money.

We get to their apartment and the man behind me hands me a credit card, then the soberish woman hands me two twenties.  I start handing back the card and they both exclaim, “No!  The fare on the card, the $40 is for you.”  I was floored.  It would have been nice to get a $10 tip on a $30 ride considering the wait time at the beginning, but $40 was WAY above and beyond and was contradictory to all the signs leading up to the end of the ride.  It also meant a lot after what a rough night I’d had.

My last ride was supposed to be a short one, but when I pulled up to the pizza place I was picking up at I was informed there would be two extra stops going in all different directions.  I let everyone know that the route didn’t really make sense if they were looking to save money.  It would have been better if they’d all gotten different cabs, but they were all friends and had enough money that they didn’t mind.  The man in front was very nice and helped with organizing who got dropped off where, getting exact addresses, and making sure no one spilled their pizza.  After the first two stops and on the way to the final destination he apologised about having the extra long ride at the end of my shift.  I told him it really didn’t matter to me so long as the meter was running, then the conversation switched to him asking about our business model.  He was in business school and had an exam coming up in a few weeks and was really curious about how a cooperative worked.  The conversation flowed well, I got to talk about one of my passions, and there was no drunken arguing or misunderstanding.  It was totally different to most other post-bartime calls.

At the end of the ride his girlfriend-or-wife told him to hand me all his ones and she gave me a credit card to charge the fare.  It was something like $23, and the man in front handed me $6.  “No, I told you to hand her ALL your ones.  We’re tipping for the other stops, too.”  I got two extra dollars.  NO ONE EVER checks the tipper in my cab and chastises them for holding back.  The six dollars would have been a very nice tip, but obviously eight is better.

This whole night was a rollercoaster.  Sometimes the most draining thing about this job is the emotional ride you go on with joyous passengers to car wrecks where you see injuries you can’t get out of your head to yelling matches with people outside the car.

It turned out that the reason East Washington was closed was a double murder with a knife, it didn’t involve the High School like my little passenger thought.  The police ended up shooting the stabber, I think.  Later in the evening a woman slammed her car through a light or power pole within half a mile of where the stabbing was.  The accident I saw was on the other side of town that involved someone running their car through several others along a block and a half stretch of road.  Friday was a VERY eventful night for Madison.  Normally we don’t see that much crazy all at once.

I took Saturday off.

About yellowandblackmail

I pick people up and take them where they want to go.
This entry was posted in Taxi Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s