Friday, June 25, 2010
“I saw grown men cry like little boys, after they killed someone for the first time,” my passenger told me. “I served a tour in Afghanistan a then one in Iraq.”
“Which was worse?” I asked.
“They were both the same,” he answered. “I enjoyed it, and would have stayed in the army until I retired, but I got a dishonorable discharge.
“How did that happen?” I asked, as I was driving my passenger to a psychiatric appointment that the social security office set up for him after he applied for SSI, because of being bipolar, as well as sustaining a back injury.
“I got in the face of a sergeant who was demeaning a female enlisted person, and told him to fuck off.” He told me and continued with the following story. I enlisted in the army with a bipolar disorder by falsifying my medical history on my initial application. My family kept sending me my medication in care packages that I go throughout my 4 year enlistment. When I was in basic training I was the only guy in my platoon who stood up to the drill sergeant. Everyone else was cowering, as he screamed at them, but I told him to go fuck himself, and he finally told me that he liked me.
“When I was in Afghanistan, we were on patrol the first week I got there, and my unit stumbled on a Taliban encampment in the mountains that was asleep, except for a couple of guards that scouts killed. Our orders were to try and take as many alive as we could, but we were free to shoot to kill if we felt threatened in any way. My squad entered a cave that must have had a couple of dozen soldiers sleeping in it. It was lit by our flashlights and a portable light and generator that we found inside. My squad leader began shooting the sleeping soldiers, and we all joined in, killing them all. Later that night when we set up camp for the night, one of my friends was crying in his sleeping bag. When I asked him what was wrong he told me that he was grieving for the soldiers that he killed. I felt nothing. Bipolar people make the soldiers, because they don’t feel bad about what they do.”
“What would happen if you didn’t take your medication?” I asked him.
“I would have either attacked you by now, or you would have thrown me out of the cab by now,” he answered.
When we arrived at the mental health clinic, I had the doctor sign my voucher, and later I drove the patient back to his address where I picked him up at 10 miles away on the other side of town.
Sometimes night run in themes, and tonight’s was mental instability, as I got a call to pick up an epileptic patient at the hospital and drive them back to their apartment after they were admitted for a major seizure, the day before. The nurse that pushed her out in a wheelchair gave me a list of what to do in case she had a seizure on the way home, which somewhat upset me, as I was thinking about how I would deal with that. Fortunately the trip was uneventful , and I helped her to the door.
It was a beautiful day and skateboarders were streaking down the streets talking on cell phones, while motorized wheelchairs were overtaken by bicycles in the bike lanes. While I was listening to the radio I heard that after the Lakers won the world championships the night before, celebrating fans set a taxi cab on fire outside the Staple center in Los Angeles.
My next passenger was a woman that I picked up at RAM, who came from a large party, that handed me a $20.00 bill to cover her fare, and then walked away. The woman was so drunk that she could hardly move and kept making retching sound like she wanted to throw up. It took her nearly 5 minutes to get into the cab, and then she moved in slow motion as she groped for her seat belt, which I finally buckled for her. She passed out cold on the way to the address that she gave me after 5 minutes of coaxing. When we arrived, I managed to awaken her, and helped her to the gate of her front yard. After she thanked me for my assistance, I turned and walked back to my cab, and called in my clearance. As I backed out of the driveway, I saw her fall in the bushes next to her porch, and just lay there.
Every night has a slow period, at one point or another, which is when I either listen to the radio, read a book or hang out with other cab drivers and exchange stories. Tonight I listened to the radio, as I bounced around the FM dial to AM where I started listening to talk shows that were discussing everything from the BP oil spill in the gulf, to a repeat of Art Bell’s “Coast To Coast” program, from February 5, 1998. I stayed with Bell as he talked to a woman who claimed that she had sex with a reptilian alien. She said that whenever she told her boyfriends, that she had been dating for anywhere from 2 months to a year, that they would dump her. Art Bell, was outraged that they would be prejudiced by a human having sex with a reptilian alien.
Then Bell had some guy who was talking about crop circles and how the grass was always bent at a 90 degree angle, just like the antennae’s of cars that low flying UFO’s bent. The man went on to talk about how arrogant human beings are, because they think that when aliens and UFO’s visit earth they think that it is to communicate with human beings. Plant life has a higher intelligence than we give it credit for, and besides that there is a mammal, the bottle nosed dolphin which has a greater cerebral cortex mass than humans have. These living entities have greater intelligence that humans, which can be seen in the fact that they do not have weapons, nor do they wage wars. About this time I was getting ready to see where driver #52 was, but I got another call to the RAM.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
“I’LL RIP YOUR EYE OUT OF IT’S SOCKET AND PUT IT BACK IN BEFORE YOU EVEN REALIZED THAT IT HAPPENED,” my passenger hysterically screamed at me, while I drove him down the dark rural road between the University and the city. It’s during crisis moments like these that those scripture verses that you learned back when you were still trying to memorize the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation, begin the seep into your consciousness from the deep dark recesses of your long forgotten memories.
The two Bible passages that immediately came to mind were, the synoptic gospel stories about the demon possessed Gadarene man who screamed and gashed himself, while he lived in a graveyard, and I John 4:18, which states, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (KJV) Introverting my thoughts and ignoring him enraged him further, as the volume of his voice continued to raise another couple of decibel levels, forcing me pay attention to his tirade, where he told me that he was a marine, who lectured at the university on the subject of contemporary history, when he wasn’t working as an orthopedic surgeon. He demanded that I acknowledge what he was saying and asked me my name as he explained why it was important for me to listen to his lecture.
“I’M DOING THIS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!” He screamed, as my thoughts continued to swim from unconsciousness to consciousness I remembered the words of Frank Herbert, as attributed to the teachings of the Bene Gesserit rite, concerning the litany against fear – “I must not fear. Fear is the mind –killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and throught me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
“My name is Bob,” I calmly told him.
“My name is Jim,” he told me in a normal tone of voice and continued to explain, “I had a hip replacement 3 weeks ago, and it hurt really bad.”
I already knew his name, since it was on the hospital bracelet that he gave me when he first got in the cab. I picked him up at Corban University, after the security guard called for a cab. The problem with security guards and police, is that they dump the problems that don’t involve jail on taxi drivers, who then get stuck with deranged nuts, who sometimes couldn’t even pay the fare. This particular guard looked to be in his late 20’s and his fresh face told me that he just wanted to get this guy off the campus, before an incident happened. Jim told me that he was 58 years old and was about 6 feet tall and thin, with a goatee and scraggly hair, wearing a plaid blue and black button shirt with blue jeans.
Jim originally wanted to go to Bend, Oregon, which is estimated at $370.00, but the dispatcher told me that I could make the guy a deal. When I told Jim that I would do it for $300.00, he said okay, let’s go. Company policy is to always collect an out of town fare up front before leaving, to prevent the possibility of getting burned. When I asked him for the money he told me that he could pay either with a debit card or cash, but not until we got to the hospital in Bend. When I refused to drive him he went on the first tirade, and finally I agreed to drive him to Salem hospital, right here in town. On the trip there he went from one subject to another that including complaining about Obama, and telling me how he would lecture him about his mistakes one day. When we finally arrived at the hospital, the meter was at $18.10, and when I asked for payment, he told me that he didn’t have any money until he got his next social security payment.
“But you told me that you had either cash or debit, when we started,” I said.
“The hospital will pay it,” he told me, “they have to it’s the law.”
I was nearly positive that the hospital wouldn’t pay, since they have to pre-approve all payments, and this was just a guy wanting a free ride. Nevertheless what else could I do, since he said that he didn’t have any cash. I opened his door for him and told him to follow me to the receptionist window. He was hobbling, and another person standing outside took his arm and helped him, so I got a wheelchair and had Jim sit in it, while I wheeled him in the front door of the emergency room. One of the security guards asked me if his name was Jim, and when I told him yes he said that he’d been in and out a dozen times in the past 3 days. When I got to the front desk, I asked one of the 4 receptionists about footing the bill for the $18.10 fare. She told me that they didn’t do that, as Jim began to counter her saying that it was the law that they had to pay.
“I’ll just write it off,” I told her, and as I turned to leave I said, “you can take care of him now.” When I got back in my cab I called the dispatcher and told him what happened and that I had an $18.10 no money.
While I was waiting for another call at the Amtrack station, I was telling #3 what happened, with my crazy passenger, when #54 pulled in, to ask me what happened, since all the drivers can hear the dispatchers side of the conversation on their radios. After I told him and #3, he told me that he drove the same guy earlier and he wanted to go to either Independence or Albany, but didn’t have any money, and that he left him at a 7/11 after he failed to get any cash from an ATM, to pay for the fare he ran up with him.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The weather continued to be overcast and cool, with temperatures in the low 60’s during the day and down to the mid 40’s at night, with intermittent rainfall, keeping the rivers and waterfalls at their peak. Sometimes the rain diminished to a fine spray beneath the low hanging clouds, that kept the grass and foliage moist, allowing them to flourish, until the coming summer sun would scorch them brown. Bad weather was always welcomed by taxi drivers, who then drove the people who refused to walk, bike or even wait for a bus, in the rain.
A light sprinkle required the wipers to remain on pulse, as number 44 pulled up to the address that he had been picking up Ronnie at for the last 12 years, since he began driving a cab back in the late 1990’s. Except this time when he knocked on the door, a stranger answered it and said that he would be right out. Number 44 waited in his cab, and assumed that an out of town visitor was staying with Ronnie’s family. Once the man came out to the cab, he told #44 that he was going to North Salem Church of God’s Holy Fire, just like Ronnie always did. On the way there, #44 found out that he was driving Ronnie, the former incapacitated young man who had cerebral palsy, and was continually praying that God would heal him, so he could be normal, like everyone else.
“You say that you are Ronnie, the same guy in a wheelchair, that I’ve been driving for the past 12 years, who could barely get in and out of the cab?” Number 44 asked his passenger.
“Yes sir,” Ronnie answered, and explained that he had been healed by an evangelist, 2 weeks ago, at a healing service at the church, and had been completely normal since then. Shortly after the church service he heard the word “teleo” in his mind, and after that he could walk. When he talked to his pastor about it, he told him that it was a Greek work, spoken by Jesus, when he was on the cross.
“It was the last thing that he said, before he gave up the ghost,” his pastor told him. “Translated into English it means, ‘it is finished,’ and refers to completion or fulfillment, his pastor said.
Number 44 scratched his head and decided that it was time to buy a lottery ticket if this joker wasn’t bullshitting him.
Ronnie said that he was going to go back to school, at OSU, where he dropped out, twenty-five years earlier, when he was a sophomore, in the electrical engineering program, after he became incapacitated by the disease. He said that he had an idea for implementing a miniature electron accelerator as an anti gravity generator, to replace fossil fuel for propelling automobiles, and even airplanes and spaceships. When he dropped Ronnie off at the church #44 headed back downtown.
The dispatcher announced that the police had put out an APB concerning a male, with a red baseball cap, white T-shirt and blue eyes, who just robbed the Muchos Gracias Mexican restaurant, on State Street. The paranoia about racial profiling prevented the bulletin from mentioning whether or not the perpetrator was Caucasian, Asian, Negro or Hispanic, so once the thief tossed his cap and changed his shirt, he would disappear. I was talking to #52 and #26, when the announcement came over the radio.
“You know?” I said, “it’s Moses’ fault that we have this immigration issue with Mexico right now.”
“What do you mean?” Number 26 asked. “Mexico wasn’t even a country back then.
“Okay, here’s the deal,” I told #26 and included #52, “Sometime around 1200 BCE, the Semites swarmed in on Palestine. According to the Bible, Moses led them out of Egypt, through the Sinai Peninsula and into the Promise land. Unfortunately for those inhabitants, who inhabited the promise land, God told the Semites, who the Bible calls the children of Israel, to kill them all. A systematic pogrom was instituted, but after all the men, women, children and animals of a couple of cities were exterminated, the army lost heart and decided to try diplomacy instead.
However, they already put the fear of God into many of the inhabitants, so some were considering their options. One of the civilizations that had achieved a certain degree of sophistication, in the region, were the Phoenicians. So they decided to expand their territory West, by creating settlements in North Africa and Spain. These settlements became Rome’s greatest enemy, next to Greece. In 146 BCE Rome defeated both Carthage and Greece militarily, but Spain continued to flourish, until the Renaissance, when it financed Christopher Columbus.
Five hundred years later we find the colonies of North and South America independent countries, and even world powers. However, the battle continues over who lives where, and controls what, but the bottom line is, if Moses didn’t lead the children of Israel into Palestine, we wouldn’t have an issue in Arizona today. The dominoes have been falling for over 3,000 years, and this is the bottom line.
Monday, June 14, 2010
One of the former taxi drivers, who no longer work’s for Yellow Cab, hired me to photograph his wedding. I agreed to do it and found myself at a fair sized church with my wife Kathy, and a large number of people, some of whom I recognized. There was construction going on in the area, so we had to drive around to find parking, and finally got inside and sat in a pew. There were about 50 people already there. I had my small black camera bag with me, instead of the large grey one that I normally bring to weddings, and I realized that I never checked to make sure that my camera and flash was inside, along with film and batteries. When I looked, there was one camera with a lens, a strobe flash and 2 rolls of 100 ISO film. I needed 800 ISO for the wedding ceremony, plus the 100 ISO film was an off brand that I was unfamiliar with.
So I decided to go find a store to get film and batteries at before the wedding began, even though I only had 15 minutes and was in an unfamiliar city. It took me a while to find the exit from the church, that wasn’t blocked off because of the construction going on outside. When I finally did, I started walking in a random direction, away from the construction and church, and found a large mall, like Salem Center. I knew that they would have to have a camera store, so I entered and found it. They had everything that I needed, but when I opened my wallet I only had singles and didn’t have enough to get everything, so I only purchased a 4 pack of 800 ISO film.
When I exited the mall, I ended up on a different street, so I was now confused where the church was located, and by now my back went out, so I was having a hard time walking, and had to drastically slow down. It now felt like one of those dreams where you are trying to run and can barely move, as urgent panic begins to well up inside you.
At this point, I either woke up and went to the bathroom, or dreamt that I did, and then continued on with the dream, like a commercial interrupted it. I was on the street trying to decide which direction to go in, and for some reason I decided to look in my wallet again. This time I saw 2 - $20.00 bills in the middle of some singles, and realized that I could have purchased everything.
By this time I was a couple of blocks from the mall, but saw a variety store that I went into. It was large and dim, with dark mahogany and glass display cases all around and in the middle, and was run by Indian or Pakistani people that included 1 man and about 4 young women. When I told them that I wanted to purchase rechargeable batteries, they said that they would have to take them out of the toys that were in the glass display case that was between us.
“Then just give me regular batteries,” I said, but they told me that they didn’t know where they were, so I left in a tiff, and was back out on the street, and decided to find my way back to the church, since I must be late by now, but didn’t have my watch on. As I found myself limping in slow motion down unfamiliar streets I realized that I didn’t know where I was, as I felt the cold clammy seed of blossoming terror germinating in my guts. At the same time I found myself drifting off into a waking state, and looked towards the alarm clock. It was around 9:45 AM, and I was planning on getting up at 10:00 AM anyway, so rather that chancing that I might continue with the dream, if I went back to sleep I got up. I was going to be driving the 3:00 PM to 3:00 AM shift tonight, and could write for a couple of hours before I had to get ready.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
“Okay, so here’s the question,” I told #43. What is the difference between jealousy and envy?”
Without hesitating he began to give his explanation in a couple of hundred words about how jealousy was a negative emotion, while envy was a positive one.
“The reason why I even brought it up,” I said, “was because I was listening to a radio talk show and one of the people on it gave this definition. ‘Jealousy is when you enter a contest and someone else wins it, and you want to take that victory away from him and make it your own. Envy is when you never even entered the contest, but want to take the victory away from the winner for yourself, after you never even entered the contest.’”
#43, disagreed with that explanation, and said that he stayed with his original statement of negative vs. positive. So I gave example of jealousy on the job, like when someone gets an out of town run, that you just missed. Number 43 pointed out that my prescription run to Dallas, earlier in the shift would qualify, since he would have had it if he were able to get through on the radio, but I beat him down. About this time #52 pulled in alongside us and got out of his cab.
“How is your night evolving?” Number 52 asked.
“Not bad,” I said.
Number 43 asked, “isn’t it getting a little warm to be wearing a long sleeve shirt, and driving gloves?”
Realizing that his attire was now out of place, since the temperature reached 80 degrees today, Trevor told him that he liked to keep the air conditioning on full blast to discourage drunks from puking in his cab.
“That makes sense,” #43 said. “It makes more sense than the space cadet that I picked up one Friday night, around 10:00 PM. I get this guy at the Flight Deck over on airport road, and he’s dressed in an American flag baseball cap, blue blazer, navy blue pants, white shirt and an American flag neck tie wearing sunglasses, after dark. When he got in and told me the Triangle, I started driving South West as he began telling me about co-piloting a flying saucer that hovered above the Earth, and behind the moon, where we couldn’t see it with telescopes from the Earth. He said that he was on a mission from God, and that God would decimate all non believers, and relegate them to the lake of fire. He implored me to give my life to God and when I told him that I already had, he began to hug and kiss me, until I pulled over and asked him to stop. On the rest of the trip he told me that every time that he ate a meal, he used an American flag tablecloth, in reverence of the sanctity of God’s creation.
After I dropped him off he asked for my cab number, which I gave him with some hesitation. Around 2:00 AM, I got a call for Dominoes pizza on South Commercial. When I arrived, there was a homeless man standing in front of the pizza joint pointing at the tables. I saw my passenger, still wearing sunglasses, removing an American flag from the top of one of the outside tables. When I pulled into the driveway, my passenger had the flag folded into a square that he placed in his coat pocket, as he got in and told me his destination. At least the guy tipped good.
Number 52 said that he had quite a few emergency room calls, both picking up and dropping off. There was everything from an 80 year old man, whose hip replacement popped out, to a 67 year old woman having a diverticulitis attack, and a 25 year old woman having a baby.
My most memorable trip of the night was a woman who just opened a modeling agency, where she discovered a gorgeous 18 year old young man, who had his life all planed out, but wanted to work his way through college as a model. When she found out that I was a freelance photographer, she tried to convince me to come and shoot their next session, up in Portland. I was interested, but hesitated, when she told me that it was soft core pornography. I told her that I didn’t photograph anything sexual, and she said that she used to be a Mormon, but got over it.
Then about midnight I picked up a guy who was going from South Lancaster to Wheatland Road up in Keizer. On the trip there he told me that he drove cab on Galveston Island, off the coast of Texas, for 4 years. Then one night he picked up a load of Merchant Marines who were out on the town, and gave him $100.00 to stay with them and show them around, on top of the fare. He said that they got him so drunk that he crashed his cab and ended up getting fired, but he miraculously didn’t get a DUI.
One of my last trips for the night was a pick up at West Side Station, but while I was waiting for my fare to come out, a bearded man holding a golf bag over his head was walking on the other side of the street. He looked like he was having a problem balancing the bag, and almost fell a couple of times. Then he put the bag down, and began dancing, as the music from the band in the bar filtered out into the street. He continued dancing for about 5 minutes, until he picked the golf bag back up and walked off, as my fare entered the cab and gave me his destination.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Driving a cab exposes you to the seamy underbelly of the city that you hack in, and Salem, Oregon is no exception. You experience the dark and the light, evil and good, polar opposites and the first weekend of June was no exception. It’s been cool, overcast and rainy, leaving the population excited about Friday’s sunshine. I watched a 300 lb. man in an electric wheel chair traveling east on Mill Street. He was wearing a wide brimmed black hat and a black overcoat. Somehow a wooden frame was attached to his chair, that formed a roof that completely shaded him from the sun, with a red and white striped canopy overhead.
The first weekend of the month was busy as welfare and social security recipients brandished wads of $20.00 bills, and solvent debit cards. Along with grocery store runs with shopping carts full of food for the month, were the prostitutes who set up shop at any of a dozen motels around the city. The hookers fed other carnal hungers of the flesh, as they talked on cell phones in the back seat, dickering over prices.
“One half an hour for 150 roses,” one of my passengers spoke into her phone.
I picked up some law students from Willamette University that were heading to an upscale restaurant, while they talked about a recent scandal that took place, involving a Willamette graduate who was a junior lawyer at a major law firm in town. He was busted for selling marijuana, but somehow managed to only get a misdemeanor conviction, and the law firm that he worked for didn’t terminate him.
One of the other guys said, “he must really have something on that law firm, for them to be willing to tarnish their reputation by keeping him on. He was probably supplying all the lawyers and their clients.”
Later in the night, when there was a dead period, I spotted #44 and #52 on the downtown border, standing outside of their taxis, so I pulled in alongside them. They were talking about #11, when I got there. Number 44 looked at me when I walked up and he said, “just ask #25 and he’ll verify my assessment of #11.”
“That’s right #11 was off for the last 2 months, and #52 never really got to know her when he first started. After I got to know her one day I concluded that I know that it seems unbelievable that a person like this walks among us, but it restores my faith in Satan to have contact with her. The other side of the faith in Satan equation is, faith in God, the all powerful creator of everything that is, who somehow is concerned with the most minute details of everything. This belief of two halves of opposing forces, ying and yang, evil and good, negative and positive, black and white, dark light, etc., is called dualism.”
Number 11, is Dora Dimes the dark side of the dualistic equation, who brings her rain cloud with her where ever she goes. After listening to her talk for a while you have to either conclude that she’s the most incredible human being you have ever met or a pathological liar. After a couple of encounters you realize that it is the latter, and begin to try and avoid her presence, until she corners you at one of the taxi stands and confronts you with penetrating stare that becomes a glare after she realizes that you know the truth.
Dora has driven a cab for most of her adult life, in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Denver. She’s in Salem for the past 5 years, since she divorced her 5th husband. Somehow she always manages to get a boyfriend, but after anywhere from a couple of months to a year, they bail out on her. She’s in her mid 40’s and has a build that catches most guy’s eyes, since she always wears skin tight black pants that compliment her shapely posterior, along with a tight blouse that her ample bosom seems to be struggling to burst out of.
“So why are you even talking about her?” I asked, “did she do something I don’t know about?”
“She got #39 fired,” #44 said.
“Why?” I asked.
“She told the boss that #39 grabbed her tits,” #44 said.
“Well did he?” I asked, but just got a grunt.
The rest of the night was filled with mostly drunks, but none of them attacked me, threw up in the cab or caused any scenes. In fact on a positive note, I picked up one of the most notorious drunks in the city, at an apartment complex in the south side of town, and she wasn’t drunk for the first time that I’ve driven her in 6 years. She said that she quit drinking and was going to the gym so she could get into shape for her upcoming 25 year high school reunion.