Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alien Cab Driver

Driver number 52’s flesh colored makeup adequately covered the deep royal blue color of his skin, so that he could pass for human. In fact he was human, but from another galaxy, like so many other thousands of galaxy’s that supported oxygen and carbon dioxide breathing life. He was part of the first reconnaissance scout team for the Near Universe Coalition (NUC), that was growing as new planets with sentient life were found, and either added to the coalition, left to allow further evolution to occur or annihilated. As a captain in the intelligence gathering branch of the NUC army, he volunteered to do what so many others before him had done – decide the ultimate fate of billions of sentient beings.

Prior to arriving, all scouts are schooled in every aspect of the culture and history of the planet that they are investigating. By the time that they arrive, they can fluently speak the language of the culture that they are observing. In order to gain a complete picture of life on a planet, it has been found that 12 scouts are needed to adequately assess the entire planet. An occupation must be found that allows the scout to not only observe, but interact emotionally and intellectually with the planet’s inhabitants. At the same time the scout must support themselves, and fit in society, so as to not draw attention to themselves.

Certain occupations are best for not only observing, in order to gain a real understanding of the inhabitants true nature, but to interact with them, as if the scout was a natural born citizen of Earth. It has been found that driving a taxi cab, is one of the best ways to observe the nature of people, since you come in contact with anywhere from a couple dozen to over a hundred people every shift. Intelligence personnel are always used, because identification must be obtained, through birth certificates, identification numbers, like social security and a driver’s license, along with espionage adequacy and quick thinking to avoid discovery. The mission would continue until high command contacted the scouts and told them to return to their inter- dimensional pods for teleportation back to NUC headquarters.

Driver number 52, also known as Trevor had been driving for Yellow cab for nearly 6 months now, and today was Saturday. As he began his 12 hour shift the low brooding clouds were pregnant with the soon to come rain, but for the moment it was dry, as Trevor pulled into the parking lot of Winco on South Commercial. When he pulled up to the loading area there was a man dressed in black, who appeared to be around 30 years old, with spiked black hair and a goatee stood by a grocery cart with three bags in it. He moved here from Oakland, California just a month ago and was heading to the Fox Hollow apartments on South Liberty. On the way there he talked about why he moved back to Salem, after a 10 year absence.

“I had to get out of there, or get killed,” he said. “My wife’s two brothers, who hate me just got out of prison for murder, and they told me that they were going to kill me. At the same time my wife’s former lover, who was in prison for a murder rape, was getting out, after 10 years. She told me that she only married me to kill time while she waited for him to get out, and was still madly in love with him.” When we arrived at his apartment he paid #52 in cash and gave him a $2.00 tip.

The rest of the night was uneventful, with a few drunks, but nothing really serious. Then around 3:00 AM, Dotty the dispatcher gave #52, a call to pick up someone at the sleazy trailer park on Highway. When he arrived his passenger was already standing outside, at the entrance driveway. It was a Japanese man, with shoulder length hair that was worn in a woman’s perm. He had on a brightly colored suit, and smiled as he opened the cab door.

“Hi sweetie,” his passenger said, as he got in the cab. “I need to go to Silverton.”

“Anytime I go out of town I need money up front,” Trevor said. “It’s $35.00 minimum. Will it be cash or charge.”

“It’ll be cash sweetie, but why can’t you trust me?” The man, who was talking and acting like a woman said.

“Because that is the company rule, to avoid any potential problems,” he said.

“There won’t be any problems, but here is your money,” he said as he took a twenty, ten and five out of his wallet and handed it to him, in what seemed like an eternity. He was drunk, and his motor coordination was bad, but he kept putting his hand on #52’s shoulder. Finally his hand worked its way down to Trevor’s right thigh, and then his fingers began to move towards the crotch.

“Don’t touch me!” Trevor said calmly.

“Oh now I’ve scared the poor thing,” his passenger said.

“You haven’t scared me, but I don’t like people touching me,” he said. “Especially when they are making unwanted sexual advances.”

“My name is Johnny,” his passenger said, “and I think that you’re cute. If you want we can have sex at my mother’s house when we get to Silverton.”

“No thanks, I’m married,” Trevor told him, since he had a wife and 3 children back in his home galaxy.

“Well you have to have some fun sometime,” Johnny said. “If you come to the Holistic Hairdresser, on Lancaster, I’ll cut your hair for free.

When they finally arrived at Johnny’s address in Silverton the rain had become torrential, and even with the windshield wipers on full speed, the windshield was hard to see out of. The meter was over the $35.00 that Johnny had given #52. The house was on the eastern outskirts of town, but his passenger balked at paying anymore and said that’s what he was told the fare would be. Rather than arguing, Trevor accepted it and after he called it in, Dotty said goodnight, as he headed back to Salem.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Bicycle, The Box and the Switchblade

It’s been difficult doing blog entries lately, because I have previous projects that I’m committed to completing. One is my book about the history of Contemporary Christian music, which just got expanded from 1 to 2 volumes, and I now have another year from this past March 1st to complete nearly a quarter of a million words. The other is a book about guitarist John Fahey, who I was friends with. I was his personal photographer for a couple of years, and we did a series of interview that I wanted to publish with the title, “Conversations with Blind Joe Death,” his alter ego. Now a film maker is working on a documentary about Fahey, and he is interested in my research, after seeing what I had. However, I want to complete this entry about another sordid episode that occurred one weekend about 4 years ago.

One Saturday night in the middle of break from the torrential Winter rain that saturates the Willamette Valley, I got a call for Kat’s Korner, a bar in South Keizer. When I arrived there were 3 people standing outside waiting.

“Did you call for a cab?” I asked, as a large black man with a 2 foot square box opened my front passenger door, and sat in the passenger seat next to me.

“Yes,” my passenger told me, and added, “these guys need a ride too.” The other two men, were white rednecks dressed in camouflage hunting gear, and had a bicycle.

“Are you all together?” I asked the black man.

“No,” he told me, but we can ride together, as I popped the trunk, in order to put the bicycle in, and strap the lid down with a bungee cord.

Anytime that you have 2 different parties, that aren’t together, you could end up with an argument deciding who pays how much of the fare. So to avoid that problem, either a second cab should be called, or it should be pre-determined how much each party is going to pay prior to driving to the first destination. When I voiced my concern the black man assured me that there would not be any problem and urged me to take off. He was going to the apartments on Hyacinth, behind Jack In The Box, while the two guys were going to Hollands bar, on Silverton road. The two guys in the back seat seemed to be docile, so I called in Hollands as my final destination and began driving.

As I drove down River Road to Salem Parkway, and then Hyacinth the radio was playing Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused. My passengers in the backseat were really getting into the music, but then one of them started to complain about how they would have to pay more because of the way that we were going, to take the black guy home first. What he was saying was ridiculous, because they were going to split the fare, so it would be less individually than if they had travelled separately.

When we arrived at the apartments on Hyacinth, and the man with the box, up front with me, handed me a $5.00 bill to cover his part of the $5.60 fare. Then he opened the door and got out of the cab with his large cardboard box. At the same time I heard the back door open, and feet scurrying. The next sound I heard was that of a fist connecting with a face, as the younger redneck sucker punched the black guy, who was twice his size. Immediately there followed the sound of metal contacting metal and a blood curdling scream.

I jumped out the door of my taxi that was in park, and I ran over to the three men behind the cab. The black guy was on top of the skinny redneck that punched him, with a switchblade knife at his exposed neck.

“Back off mother fucker, before I cut your throat! The black guy said.

The redneck went limp, and the black guy got up, retracted his blade, put it in his pocket and asked me. “Are we square now?”

“Yeah, we’re square.” I told him, as he picked up his box and walked into the apartment complex. I stood there dazed, as I tried to accept what just happened. Then I realized that the two white guys were gone, and I still had the bike in the trunk. About the time that I was going to release the bungee cord on the trunk holding the lid down, the two rednecks returned. They were brothers and the older caught up with the younger and brought him back. A rag was wrapped around the sliced hand that the idiot had grabbed the open blade with. The rag was nearly soaked through with blood and I expected them to tell me the emergency room, but the destination stayed the same. So I drove to Hollands, but they had me turn on Beach street, and stop before Silverton. Then after removing the bike, the older brother paid me the additional $5.60 fare with 2 -$20.00 bills, and said, “is that enough?”

“What?” I asked him.

Then he handed me another $20.00 bill, and asked me again, “is that enough?”

“Enough of what?” I asked.

“Enough to forget that this ever happened,” he said.

Ah, here is a situation that a born again Christian, who is an ordained minister of the Foursquare gospel, is confronted with, outside of the context of the Sunday morning sermon. I drive a cab to make money to support my family. At the same time I am a witness for Jesus out on the streets. Should I keep the $54.40 tip, or give it back to him and witness to him and his brother? Then again maybe I should contact the police and report what happened? Exactly what would Jesus do in this situation? This was the dilemma that I contemplated, and finally answered with.

“What are you talking about?” I told him as I added the 3 twenties to my nights intake, got back in the cab and told the dispatcher that I was clear for another call.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


The first time that I drove Carlos was sometime in 2006. I remember it distinctly, because he was leaning against the wall, outside Von’s Tavern, on his outstretched arms, wearing blue jeans and a shredded white shirt, hanging open in the back, revealing bruises and scrapes. When he got in the cab, he gave me his address at an apartment complex by Bush Park. As we drove he started talking about how he used to drive a cab in Mexico City.

“You have to carry a gun, because you get robbed so much,” he told me, and continued with his story. “One time I picked up this guy who pulled a gun on me and told me that he was robbing me. I pulled out my gun and took his away. Then I made him take his clothes off, and get out of the cab naked, in the middle of downtown. I Threw his clothes in a garbage can after I drove off.”

Since then I’ve driven him his Anglo girlfriend, and her kids a hundred times. Tonight he was alone, and was going to the Flamingo to watch the Manny Pacquiao fight.

“I have cable at my place,” he told me, “and I invited my friends over to watch it, but they said, we’re not sure if we want to.’ I told them just bring your own beer over, but they acted like they didn’t care. So today they call me on the phone and ask if I’m going to watch the fight? They pissed me off, so I told them that I was going to the Flamingo to watch it. Fuck them.”

He kept repeating this story over and over, because he was so upset, until he finally changed the subject, to getting robbed. He then proceeded to tell me that he was living in Los Angeles at the time, and he was robbed twice, but he hunted down the guys who did it and got his money back, “because that’s the kind of guy I am,” he said.

“If anyone fucks with me, I’ll hunt them down, like I did them,” he said. “I found the one guy and got my money back, then I shot him in the back and now he’s in a wheelchair. Fuck him. That’s what he get’s for robbing me. Fuck my friends too! I told them that all they had to do was bring their own beer over, and they didn’t want to, until today, when they called me to ask if I was going to watch the fight.”

I dropped him off at the Flamingo, and he told me that he’d need a ride back home later, but he would probably walk across the street to Vons Tavern.

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.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Trunk

It was as black as the Oregon coves without a light, but somehow driver #32 got the top of the spare tire well that he was sprawled across open. There isn’t much room to move for a six foot man trapped inside the closed trunk of a 1994 Dodge Spirit. He had a bad gut feeling about the passenger that he just picked up, as soon as he started talking. The man was standing in front of Pete’s Place, around 10:00 PM, on a slow Monday night. When you only have $60.00 on your book, after 8 hours on the streets, it makes you take chances to pay your $75.00 lease, plus the fuel.

“I need to go to Albany,” the guy told him.

“I need money up front, anytime I leave town,” he told him. “It’s the company policy.”

“How much do you need?” The man asked, as he pulled a wad of cash out of his pant pocket.

“Albany should be around $50.00,” driver #32 told him.

His passenger handed him a hundred dollar bill and said that he could give him the change after they got to his destination. He said that he wasn’t sure of the address, but knew how to get there, if they took I-5 to the first Albany exit. After he called it in, driver #32 began driving, until they arrived in Albany. His passenger had him drive past downtown, and head South, until they ended up on a gravel road, where the man told him to stop.

After pulling out a gun, the passenger had driver #32 empty all his pockets, and took all his money and car keys. Then he had the cabbie get inside of his trunk, while he closed it with him in it. The man then drove the cab for about 10 minutes, until he stopped and turned the motor off. Driver #32 heard the car door slam and, waited about 10 minutes, when he began to holler and bang on the trunk, hoping that someone would hear him. After unsuccessfully exhausting himself, he decided to try another approach, so he began to move the spare tire cover, so he could reach his hand inside. He finally found a tire iron, and managed to pry open the trunk, where he found himself in a field. The keys were still in the ignition, so he started the car, and after contacting the dispatcher, he drove to the police department, in downtown Albany, to file a report about the robbery.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Tweakers are people who use methamphetamines, I learned the first couple of months that I was driving on the night shift. They are the people who you see walking down the road or working on their car with a flash light at 3:00 AM. They are the paranoid eyes pulling back the drapes, to peer out the window, when you pull into the driveway of the house next door, who called for a cab.

One Friday night I was driving South down Portland Road, at around Midnight, when I saw two men walking on the road shoulder, as I passed. When I looked in my rear view mirror, I could see one of the men waving at me, so I pulled over, stopped and put my flashers on. The two men who were a hundred yards behind me, walked as if they were in no hurry, so I assumed that they wouldn’t need my services, from their body language.

When they reached me, I rolled down my passenger window and asked, “do you need a ride?”

One of the men pulled up the hood of his jacket, just before they arrived, which put me on my guard, but the other man, who appeared to be in his late twenties asked me, “How much would it be to get to La Movida?”

I looked at him with incredulity, since La Movida, was directly in front of us, by a couple hundred yards. So I answered, “La Movida is right there, you could walk from here.”

He exploded with anger and told me that his vision wasn’t that good and then, he caught himself and calmed down, and asked me, “how much would it be to go to the Lucky Fortune?”

“Around ten to twelve bucks,” I told him. After conferring with the other guy, who told him that he only had four dollars, they decided that they would go to La Movida, so I drove off.

The first time that I had a tweaker, it was a woman, who looked to be in her thirties. After she told me her address, she never talked again, she just cried, while her legs violently danced on the floor, to an insane beat that was playing inside her head. She cried and whimpered, until I asked her if there was anything wrong, to which she never responded, so I pretended that I didn’t hear her. When we arrived at her apartment, she paid me the fare and got out.

One time I picked up a couple on the outskirts of felony flats, who wanted to go to the 7/11 on Market and 17th. As we drove, the guy talked in a loud obnoxious voice, about some incoherent subject that his girlfriend seemed to understand. When we arrived at the store, they both got out, and I ran the meter while I waited for them. When they returned, the guy handed me a baseball cap that said CIA, on the front, and told me that it was my tip. Rather than questioning it, I said thank you, as we drove back to their house. On the trip there, the couple cackled about something that I couldn’t make out, and tried to include me in the joke, but failed to tell me the punch line. Before they got out they paid me and looked into my eyes with a wild and crazy stare while their eyes blinked and twitched, until they became paranoid and ran into their house.

One time when I was talking to driver #34, he told me that he used to manufacture methamphetamines, until he was nearly busted in a raid. He shared a house with another meth manufacturer, who paid the rent. After a couple of years, they began a cab company, and began to distribute meth throughout the Willamette Valley, until the local outlaw motorcycle gang confronted them about getting in on the action. One thing led to another, until, the cab company was investigated, by the State police, and driver #34 was busted for possession, of a small amount of meth.

There are a number of ways to identify a meth addict. The most obvious indicator is open sores on the face and hands, when the poisonous chemicals used in methamphetamines erupt through the skin surface. One Friday night about 2:00 AM, I got a call for the emergency room. When I arrived there was an attractive woman who appeared to be in her mid thirties, talking to a man and woman clad in white smocks. Her face and hands were covered in open sores, and she asked them if they were going to call the police, and they responded negatively. After she got in my cab, she told me an address in West Salem. When we arrived, she didn’t have any money, and said that she was locked out of her house. I gave her an invoice for the $9.00 that she owed me, and called it in as a no money. Why anyone would want to use methamphetamines is beyond my understanding, since it makes heroin and cocaine seem like good drugs in comparison.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Drug Dealers and Taxi Cabs

Drug dealers and taxi cabs go together like peanut butter and jelly. It doesn’t matter if it’s cocaine, heroin, crack, methamphetamines or marijuana, the safest way to transport and distribute all forms of contraband is a licensed taxi cab. I’m not a drug dealer, and have no desire to ever be one, but over the past 6 years, I’ve been exposed to as many drugs, drug dealer stories, and sometimes the drugs themselves as I was during the 1960’s, when I was actively seeking them. It was a slow eye opening process, but after talking to former cab drivers, who actively sold and distributed drugs, and finding out that some of my passengers were drug dealers, I had all the information that I needed to make an ID, when my instincts smelled a rat.

One night I picked up a guy in Keizer, who was going to the Greyhound bus station. On the trip, he told me that he used to be the top driver for our competitor cab company, A-Cab. “I never knew what drugs were, until I started working for them,” he told me. The first week I was driving for them, I walked into the owner’s office without knocking, and he was snorting lines of cocaine with the lead driver. I was driving 18 hour shifts, 7 days a week, and making a bundle.”

“That’s impossible,” I told him. “12-14 hour shifts 3-5 days a week are difficult enough. When would you have time to sleep, or have a life?”

“I was using an 8 ball of crank every other day,” he said.

“Okay, then it was possible,” I said.

He said that he got fired, because he wanted a night off, and after they refused to give it to him, he took it off anyway. The entire story sounded ridiculous, but it wasn’t the first time that I was told a similar tale, by a former A-Cab driver. One of the strippers that I used to regularly drive, who had worked in Las Vegas, told me that all the hacks in Vegas are either drug dealers themselves, or can turn you on to whatever you want. Then she told me that every time that she rode with A-Cab, the driver would try to deal her drugs. “They think that because I’m a dancer, that I use drugs, and I don’t,” she told me.

A licensed cab driver can pick up and drop off people, after exchanging money, without suspicion. It’s common to pick people up, and drive them on a round trip to a grocery or drug store to buy beer or pick up a prescription. So it would be just as easy for them to call the cab driver on his cell phone, tell him what drug they wanted, and then call the cab dispatcher to personally request the drug dealing cab driver to pick them up for a beer run.

The biggest drug dealer that I ever drove was Hank, who lived in the Oregon Capitol Inn, located on the North West corner of Mission and Commercial, next to the Arco station, before they tore it down and build half million dollar condominiums. Hank worked at a small independent grocery store that was located in one of the bad sections of town. There had been a murder take place in front of the store a few years back, and in a separate incident the owner was accused of pedophilia. Hank took a cab there 7 days a week, and his starting time varied from 12:00 Noon to 4:00 PM, although the market itself closed at 10:00 PM. He was always there at least 8 hours, if not longer. Sometimes he would have me deliver meals that I picked up at Denny’s, at around Midnight, to the back door of the market, where he would pay me, and he always tipped at least $3.00.

When I would drive Hank to or from work, sometimes he would tell me about business opportunities that I could invest in that would be guaranteed to double or triple my money within 6 months. “Do you know anyone who has $30,000.00 or $40,000.00 that they would like to turn into 100 grand in 6 months,” he would ask. Then other times he would tell me about the prostitutes that lived next door to him, at the motel. One time he pointed out a blonde riding a bicycle down Portland Road, at Midnight, as being one of the hookers that he sometimes helped out, when her boyfriend beat her up. “My girlfriend and I let her sleep in the extra bed in our room, but we always change the sheets, after she leaves,” he told me. Then another time he told me that a few years back, he inherited $80,000.00 after his mother passed away. “I blew it all on drugs and booze, and in less than a year, I had nothing left,” he exclaimed.

One of the last times that I saw him was when I picked him up at his room. When I knocked on the door, and he opened it, his expression was one of paranoia. Behind him I saw two attractive women kneeling on the bed, with a man sitting in a chair backwards, facing the bed, and their eyes were all on me, with the same paranoid expression of apprehension.

“Your cab is here,” I told Hank.

“I’ll be out in a minute,” he told me, as he closed the door.

After a couple of minutes he came out with three heavy suitcases, that he wouldn’t allow me to touch, but loaded them in the trunk and back seat. When we got to the market, he unloaded them and gave me a $10.00 bill to cover the $6.50 fare, like usual. That was the last time that I saw Hank.

One day, about a year after I last saw him, I was driving a passenger past the market, that I used to take Hank to, and my passenger laughingly commented on all the crime that took place at that neighborhood store. When I mention that I used to drive a guy that worked there, who I hadn’t seen in a year, he asked if the guys name was Hank? When I told him yes, he told me that he was in prison now, for selling drugs out of the store.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Double or Nothing Cab

Sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night I get a carload of drunk partiers who ask me if I’m the cash cab. At first I would just tell them no, but most of the time they would be persistent and I’d finally humor them with some questions. I would try to make sure that they would get them wrong, but sometimes they would want to choose the category for questions. Even so, I would think up questions that always seemed to stump them, because if they got them right, they might want a free ride.

Eventually I came up with a Salem, Oregon version of “Cash Cab,” I called “Double or Nothing Cab”. The way it works is, you get 3 questions. If you get all 3 questions correct, you get a free ride. If you get 2 questions correct, you pay half the meter. If you get 1 question correct you pay the full meter. If you get none right, you pay double the meter. I let them choose the categories. They can change the category on each question, if they want, or they can stay on one subject. If they can’t think of a category, I suggest one. Some typical categories are, politics, religion, music, movies, sports, geography and history, to name some. They can stop the game anytime that they want, and just have a normal taxi ride, because with drunk passengers you don’t want to anger them and create a hostile environment where they will be provoked to attack you or call the office and complain.

The first time that I played it was on Halloween in 2008, when I drove a van load of passengers from their house gathering in deep West Salem, to the Liberty Spirit, in South Salem. They were all dressed in costumes, with grease paint and glued on facial hair, so their appearance was comical to me, as we began the trip.

“Is this the “Cash Cab”? The guy up front with me asked.

“Here in Salem we devised our own version of ‘Cash Cab.’” I told my passenger, and then proceeded to explain how “Double or Nothing Cab” worked.

He got excited and when he asked the other passengers if they wanted to play, they all said yes, so I asked them what category they wanted to choose questions from. After they conferred with one another for a minute, they decided on religion, which I thought was an interesting choice, so I proceeded to think up a question about religion.

“How many books are in the King James version of the Bible?” I asked.

After conferring with each other for a minute the guy up front with me said, “80.”

“I’m sorry, there are 66 books in the KJV of the Bible,” I told him. That’s one wrong, so you can’t get a free ride, but you could still just pay half the meter, if you get 2 questions right.

They wanted to change the category to sports for the next question, so I decided to use the Olympics. “In what year did the summer Olympics take place in Mexico City?” I asked them.

After a moment of silence, followed by conferring with each other, the woman directly behind me said “1976.”

“I’m sorry,” I told her, “but the year was 1968. That’s two wrong, so you’re going to have to at least pay the full fare, do you want to continue, or would you like to stop the game. They wanted to continue, and named politics as the category.

“Who did LBJ run against in 1964, when he was elected for the first time after being sworn in because of the Kennedy assassination?” I asked.

The back seat was buzzing with people blurting out names like Adlai Stevenson, Henry Cabot Lodge and finally Barry Goldwater.

“Barry Goldwater,” the guy up front told me.

“Correct,” I told him, as we pulled into the Liberty Spirit parking lot.

The meter read $14.80, and the guy next to me handed me a $20.00 bill and said “keep the change. This has been one of the most entertaining cab rides that I’ve ever had.”

“Thanks,” I told him. “If you want to play again, just ask for #25, at Yellow Cab.