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It’s difficult for me to admit, because I pride myself on my steady hand under stress (both

figuratively and literally), but I will because honesty is more important…my hands were still
shaking a little as I relived the…highlights, let’s say, of the story I’m about to unfold.
It’s a problem I used to have in high school when I was giving speeches. My hands would shake
uncontrollably from the anxiety…but I didn’t know that at the time. The more I did it, the less it
was a problem, I learned to manage the incredible pressure I felt with all those eyes on me…and
soon I became addicted to that rush. Maybe that’s why I dabbled in broadcasting in college.
No matter how much ice you have in your veins, there are some things that will almost always
get your heart, and more importantly your adrenalin going. No matter how much poker I play,
when I’m all-in it never fails to have me ready to shake the room apart…even if I’ve got the nuts.
I don’t tell you this to try to hype the following events, nor do I go to such lengths to romanticize
my life. It’s from my perspective, like everything, because I believe knowing the storyteller, and
all their subjectivity, is 90% of knowing the story itself.
Out of context, some moments would make you think I was here trying to celebrate my own
existence. I want to give you the chance to really see the world I live in.
The crazy thing about this story is just how ordinary it is…a very long night, but just another
night in a cab.
Saturday evening (Feb 13) started later than usual. To be honest, I’d probably avoid driving until
the sun went down every day if I could…but I don’t think the company would appreciate that
much…most days I make an effort to get there by five. If I miss by an hour, it’s not a big deal.
The money still goes in the envelope.
It was not premeditated today…not on a Saturday night. I slept much longer than usual, the long
comatose sort of sleep that has you still feeling a bit hazy for a good half hour, when you wake
up ten or twelve hours later. I couldn’t tell you which.
The moment I was barely conscious I called and told them I would be in. I made it just after
seven. It felt like a good night to procrastinate.
Started off alright, I knew it was going to be a little busier than usual…but it was about two trips
an hour for the first two hours. The third trip I was sent was the Taft to Steak n Shake in East
Peoria. Taking a woman to work.
Whenever I’m driving someone to work, I drive carefully, but I do not take my time. I usually do
between five and eight over, with small speed bursts to get around a few people when necessary.
About the time I was moving into the left lane on Jefferson I noticed a familiar pair of headlights
following close behind. “Fucking great,” I thought. “Wonder what he wants.”
The red and blue light flooded my interior as soon as I made the left turn onto Kumpf. I knew he
was pulling me over, but I changed lanes and hesitated to see if he might just go around me, no
dice; I flipped the hazards on. I wasn’t crazy about being stopped at the corner of Kumpf and
Adams, but with the bridge coming up there weren’t many options…and he probably wanted me
to stay in his jurisdiction while we sorted the whole thing out.
I was a little more worried about it than I would be usually. I’ve already had two tickets in the
past twelve months (I think it will be up in March…?), and if you get a third they suspend your
license. All for speeding, I believe both were from State Troopers…speed just got away from me
a little bit on the highway. You might notice that 65 and 70 can look similar if you don’t glance
at your speedometer every few seconds.
I left my foot on the brake and lit my cigarette because it calms me down a bit when I talk to
cops…I knew he wouldn’t get out until he saw it in park. He reached my window very quickly…
“Is there any particular reason you’re driving like that?” I opened my mouth slightly to respond
but he continued. “You’re all over the place, one lane to another, I was tailing you at 45 (which
meant he probably didn’t have me on radar), through downtown Peoria, we have a Rivermen
game, drunk pedestrians, you’re not using your turn signal, driving like an idiot!” he seemed
very agitated with me. I could understand it when he put it like that…”Give me your license, I’m
writing out two tickets.”
“I was using my turn signal, officer.”
“No you were not, I can show you on video tape. Are you arguing with me??”
“No, sir,” I said, flipping the hazards off and the left turn signal on. It clicked faster than usual.
“As you can see, it must be broken.”
“Give me your license.” I handed it over meekly.
After I thought he’d walked away I muttered under my breath “…that little cocksucker.” I didn’t
really mean it, he was just doing his job…I knew it was a crime, I did it anyway. “I was driving
just fine until he came along,” I said to my customer…quite rightly. Don’t let the man’s passion
fool you, as reckless as it sounds, I doubt he’d testify under oath anything I did on camera was
not well executed…cops have an eye for good driving, even if it’s extremely aggressive.
Call me crazy, I like to make their lives a little more interesting and show-off for them a bit when
they’re tailing me. Cruise steady at 9 over (9 you’re fine 10 you’re mine) and hold the outside
line, especially if there’s a yellow one available…sometimes I do it for miles and if they’re still
pursuing…well I start driving with my knee, stretching my silhouetted arms out in exaggerated
yawns…come to think of it it’s amazing they haven’t brought the hammer down already. Not
that I’ve done anything dangerous.
You see, as many of you have experienced, it’s standard procedure to ride directly up your ass,
blind you with headlights, and wait for the target (that’s you) to cross over a line. When I ride
that yellow line, their lips get wet. It isn’t as effective when I’m working because they already
know I’m a cab driver…low percentage target simply because we drive so much…also there are
search complications, it’s more difficult to impound a cab without a solid reason, etc.
However, I would not want to give the impression that they don’t pull cabs over. They will if
they have a reason to, and they’ll write us tickets almost as readily as they’ll write them for
anyone else.
The exception is when a cop will make a judgment call when he sees a driver’s job is on the line.
I didn’t think today was that day…but it was, he returned with my license and relief washed over
me in an awesome wave.
“Is this your only job?”
“Yes, sir.”
“I notice that your license is pretty rough, it’s got a lot of staple holes in it…I guess I’m not the
only officer who had a problem with your driving.”
“No, that’s true.”
“You understand that if you get one more ticket you lose your license? Then, even if you get
another job you’re going to have a hell of a time getting there…I’m not going to be the cop to do
that, but be careful. Use your turn signal slow down (etc, etc, etc)…”
“Thank you, officer I do appreciate it.” I repeated several times. I was so happy to get the hell
out of there with my license I probably did 45 pulling away…then noticed and hit the brakes. I
am fortune’s fool.
I told JT, the dispatcher, that the turn signal was out and asked if I could gas up to avoid getting
pulled over again.
“Yeah, definitely, if you think you might get pulled over again, that’s fine. I got 29 on the lot,
you can take it,” he said over the Nextel.
I was right next to the Hucks NOW across from Embassy Suites, which happens to be my least
favorite gas station at the moment. Well, other than Philips 66 on Western. I just needed to top
the tank off, I’d hardly driven the damn thing at all. I was alone at the pumps. There was one
person inside paying and two people working. The guy by the register saw me, he had a clear
view of my plates…and god knows I’m not going anywhere fucking fast out of that parking lot.
What the hell…was he going to press the little button so I can start…then I see the sign on the
pump…of course not. Prepay After Dark…more inconvenience proudly taken on the shoulder of
the consumer to help the poor, defenseless gasoline industry protect itself from…us I guess.
“So you guys don’t pre-approve taxis?”
“No, we don’t do that at all after dark.”
“Alright, cool, thanks. I just like to keep that in mind. I’ll let the other guys know.” Which I had
no intention of doing at all…but I like to let these people know we don’t appreciate the extra
hoops they expect us to jump through. Pre-pay sucks for cabs because we’re expected to fill the
cab up, and there’s no way to know exactly how much that’s going to take…
A half hour later, I was in 29 with a functional turn signal and a tape deck. It felt like an Arby’s
night. Medium beef and cheddar, curly fries, Dr. Pepper…it was delicious. Marked busy, I sat in
the Hobby Lobby parking lot and enjoyed the sloppy sandwich. Detroit Rock City came on the
radio. I’m not a fan of the song, the movie or KISS. I think they’re overrated, like the Eagles.
And I started thinking about conversations with an unavailable woman who shall remain
nameless.
I found myself too bored to sit still and tried to talk myself out of going to her place of work and
following her around like a pet…that would be rash, foolish, border line stalker behavior…why
not?
And within a few minutes I was there, at an undisclosed location.
Tough to read when she wants to be, couldn’t tell if she was happy to see me…definitely
surprised. “Oh, hey, I just saw your ex in here tonight,” she said.
“Oh…” I said dreadfully, “which one?” I asked, full of self loathing…but she didn’t seem to
appreciate it.
“Your baby mama.”
“Ah, yes, of course,” I nodded. The following fifteen minutes before they closed got less
awkward from there. She continued her closing work while I hovered around and attempted
banter.
She said she’d seen the movie Valentine’s Day.
“I thought it looked like an Americanized version of Love, Actually,” I said.
“Yeah,” she agreed, “I thought Love, Actually was better. But it was still cute. Good for what it
was.”
“Definitely. A few laughs, a date movie. Sounds alright.” I’m a sucker for a romantic comedy, if
it’s good.
“Valentine’s Day’s tomorrow, finally get a day off,” she said and I cringed. I was reminded that I
inadvertently asked her to hang out on Sunday, not knowing it was Valentine’s…but knowing
damn well she had a boyfriend so I guess it shouldn’t matter what day it is.
“Yeah, I keep forgetting about that,” I said
“Me too. It’s so meaningless. Hallmark holiday.”
I dig the way she talks…Great conversationalist, wicked smart, impeccable taste, kind eyes that
make me desperately seek approval, inexplicable familiarity…after about five minutes I no
longer care if I look like a lunatic showing up there just to talk to her for fifteen minutes, it was
fun. Inappropriate, unhealthy, but fun. Speaking of butt fun, hers does look…you know
something? You’re goddamn right, that was absolutely, inappropriate.
When I got back in the cab I was smiling but I still didn’t know what she was thinking. Like I
said, tough read…I sensed slight discomfort politely covered up, could be because I’m a
naturally revolting individual or it could be some other sort of tension.
“Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash was playing on 105.7 and I found it somewhat
appropriate.
The funny thing about that Valentine’s Day slip up…that was only the first time I made that
mistake on the 12th. The second came when I ran into Tara down at Camm’s. I didn’t know it
was her at the time, we’d met only once before when I picked her up randomly on a flag trip…
we talked, and she seemed cool so I gave her my number. Rookie mistake. Women rarely prefer
to take the initiative, no matter how lazy and unmotivated I’d like to be.
Straight, dark hair, cute face, nice body, Bradley student and she liked to smoke. She proved she
could take a joke after giving me a hard time and I responded “you better play nice, I know these
neighborhoods well, they’d never find the body.”
She laughed and said “don’t tell me these things!”
It’d been a couple weeks, but we finally recognized each other when we reached her destination.
“So are you going to see your boyfriend?”
“Oh, no, he’s not my boyfriend. I’ve only met this guy like once,” she said.
“Good,” I said. “So…” I thought to ask for her number, looked at her face and deja vu hit me.
“What’s your name?”
“Tara,” she said.
“Tyler,” I said, nodding.
“We’ve met before…”
“and had this exact same conversation.”
“Yeah, you gave me a ride on my birthday. We were going to hang out…”
“Oh, yeah. So the fare is 14.”
“I only have 12.”
“Hmm. Well, if you give me your number I’ll take the twelve,” I said, because it was a clever
way to ask for her number. If she hadn’t wanted to give me her number anyway, I never would
have asked, and I would have taken the 12 regardless. Obvious to me, though not to some.
“Oh. Alright,” she said. I put it in my phone and hit send.
“You’re not bluffing me are you?” I said, half joking, but also because I don’t want to save her
number and input her name that second. Thankfully, she laughed and said “No, I swear, see,
‘Tyler’ you’re still in my phone.” She looked back over her shoulder. “I hope he’s not like
watching me out the window right now.”
“So, what days do you not do anything?”
She listed the days she’s off. I jumped on the first one that overlapped, Sunday…also, a mistake.
Too eager. She agreed.
Damn it. So it was lingering in the back of my mind that night…should I call her or not? It’d be
shitty to say you’re going to, on fucking Valentine’s of all days…and then not. But it’s far too
casual to make a thing of it. Jesus.
Trip phone rang out trip in zone 10, I accepted. Sleep Inn, going to, I scrolled down, Mushrush’s,
downtown. Perfect. Close to Sterling and Forest Hill, which is where I was parked…going ideal
distance monetarily…I like trips that run $14-$16, or $30-?? this would be the former. Medium,
low gas expenditure, doesn’t cost the customer too much so they’re relatively happy, and may
hand you a twenty and tell you to keep the change. Also, I can knock it out very quickly because
the bulk of the trip is spent on 74-E.
Within five minutes there were six girls in the car. The elder, maybe twenty-eight, sat up front.
She had the most charisma of the group, attractive, but toned compared to your average girl next
door. Not like female body builder big, more like female professional soccer player. Is that
excessive use of the word female? Sanction me.
She said they were from out of town and I noticed a fading New England dialect…reminded me
a bit of my brother’s girlfriend’s but not nearly as thick.
“Boston,” she said. “But they’re from the Champaign area.”
“Must’ve been awhile, huh?” (since she moved away from Boston)
“Yeah,” she said, listing a few of her travels, and I had a feeling there were quite a few more.
Her hair was long and curly brown, fun eyes with a soul behind them, like someone in search of
something…but she liked to relate to people. She complimented the music on the radio, that I
wasn’t really interested in. “I’m a hardcore girl” she said. Or maybe metal, I can’t remember. It’s
all the same to me. She took my silence and cool demeanor to mean I was a man’s man, alpha
male or whatever. She played up her tomboy side, which was dominant anyway, but I knew she
was the type to indulge her girlie side as well. Wore a bit of make up, took time to look good to
hit…Peoria.
When we were pulling up downtown, she mentioned a joke she told in drill. I assumed she was
national guard, it could mean a few things, but definitely military. Which she confirmed when I
dropped them in front of the bar and she took my number. She said they would need a ride later.
When I cleared the trip downtown in zone 6, I must’ve drifted over into zone 7 (south end)
because I was issued a trip down there, which I accepted against my own better judgment.
Philips 66 on Western. Fuck. I scrolled down…
Well, it was going to Heritage Inn just off Sterling, behind the mall. Worth my while if it went
smoothly, and I’d be clearing in my favorite zone (10) so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting
bogged down with more South End trips.
Still…Heritage Inn isn’t exactly the sort of hotel Cat puts important clients up in. No offense to
the good people who need a cheap place to sleep some night, but I pretty much assume just about
anyone coming in or out of that place is involved in adultery, drug dealing, or prostitution.
Which is probably unfair, but hey, I like to keep things interesting.
I prepared my blade in a safe position, just in case. I’m not necessarily worried about the
customer. Most people who call for the cab are on the level, it doesn’t matter where they’re from
or what color they are. They just want a ride, and I’m there to give it to them. I can’t say the
same for everyone walking around outside.
Still…robberies do happen on trips the dispatcher thought were legit, probably carried out by the
people who called for the cab. I try to be prepared for anything…I do usually assess very quickly
who is a threat and who is not…
I parked beside the building and called the number provided. The second time around he
answered. “Did you call for the cab?” I asked.
“Yeah, you out there?”
“I’m outside Philips 66…”
“Aight, here I come.”
I noticed a small case in his hand as he got in, I openly glanced at it.
Despite what you’re probably thinking, that’s a very good sign. If there’s anything illegal in
there, he’s probably got money and he’s not going to want any trouble getting to where he’s
going…and neither do I.
I think about the guy who trained me over at Elite, Jeff, grew up in East Peoria a few years ahead
of me. He’s a damn good driver, I think the first thing he asked me was “are you a fucking cop?”
I laughed…then realized he was serious and said no.
Jeff’s catch phrase for me was “I don’t want no trouble,” because I think I said that to him at
some point very early on and he thought it was hilarious. Naturally he repeated it to me every
chance he got.
On our way up Western toward Farmington Road I searched through my phone for rap music.
Call it profiling, I try to play what I think the customer will enjoy, and it would be hypocritical if
I didn’t also enjoy every song on that Blackberry a great deal. But don’t think I’m trying to sell
you a Curve, that piece of shit has longer loading times every single day and pocket dials more
than Michael J Fox at a strip club.
I’ve noticed that Regulate is the answer to just about everything. It’s like the great equalizer, if
you dig what Nate Dogg and Warren G have to offer, most black people under the age of 40 will
think you’re alright.
The great irony is I was introduced to that classic by a very confused neo-nazi from Las Vegas.
We made it in about fifteen minutes. He really took his time counting out the money, probably a
solid three or four minutes after I put the car in park…it could have been because he sensed I
was in a hurry and some black people have a very defiant nature when it comes to people being
in a hurry with them.
This is my explanation for why black people seem to drive about five miles per hour slower, on
average, especially in places where you have no opportunity to drive around them. It isn’t
because they lack the ability to drive fast (I’ve seen a few high speed pursuits up close and
personal), it’s because law enforcement cracks down on them a little harder (poverty,
neighborhoods, race, explain it away how you want) and will use any excuse in some cases as
justification to pull someone over and search their vehicle.
The way I interpret it, it’s their subtle way of defying the man and society in general right
back…fine…you’re going to pull us over for doing five over and crossing a line on a clean
turn…then everyone’s doing our speed from now on. I can respect that…even when I’m cursing
them from inches behind…
Or it could have been that he just enjoyed the music I was playing and was taking his time before
he had to go up to his room for the night. He paid eventually and even included a dollar tip.
I wrote the amount out on my trip sheet along with the ending mileage. Then I input that amount
into my trip phone. As soon as it cleared there was another on deck, naturally, I accepted.
The trip was at an apartment complex a stones throw from University And War Memorial
Drive…going to a gas station at the corner of University and War Drive. I was there within five
minutes of the trip being issued. I guess you could say I’m quick.
I called her immediately, she said she’d be right out but I knew that wasn’t true after the first
hundred and twenty seconds. The blackberry lit up to my touch and I surfed facebook to keep
myself occupied and not build an unreasonable anger toward the customer for keeping me
waiting. As I recall, there was a long string of sexual innuendo passed back and forth, as I waited
for my trip.
She made it after another five or ten minutes, skinny white girl looking ghetto fabulous. Pale like
a bucket, jet black hair spilling from under her pristine baseball cap, straight bill tilted to the side.
“Hey what’s up?” she said enthusiastically.
“Not shit, chillin.”
“How’s your night going?” she said, I could tell from her body language she wanted to talk.
Some people do, some people don’t. Contrary to what you might believe, in the cab, I’m more of
a listener. But if they want a story, and ask me nicely, I’ll give them one.
“So, so,” I said. “I almost lost my license.”
“Oh, that sucks, why?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Yeah, well, I know how that goes. I lost my license and I’m under 21 so it really sucks. I have
to take a cab all the way over to work all the time, at club chub,” she said, talking about Club
Cabaret, a strip club East of the River. “Maybe I should get your number, at least you listen to
good music. Better than the shit I usually have to listen to in here.”
“Hey, thanks a lot, I appreciate it. Yeah, if you want my personal number you can have it.”
There wasn’t much time for chit chat, we made it to the gas station in no time. She picked up a
few things, I stepped out and used the restroom, which is why I didn’t run time on her. The meter
runs on mileage, but when we’re parked and a customer gets out to run an errand, the driver
pushes a button on the meter and it runs on time.
She talked my ear off all the way back, which wasn’t very long, but it’s stuff you wouldn’t care
much about. The conversation was going well, I was taking a minimalist approach…in the
parking lot, after she took my number I asked,
“So, what’s up, do you have your old man waiting upstairs or are you trying to hang out?”
“Oh, no, I’ve got my girlfriend waiting inside.”
“Oh, girlfriend.”
“Yeah, gay.”
“Right…makes sense,” a gay stripper making her rent off guys who could do absolutely nothing
for her sexually. Respect.
“But you should totally come up and hang out. Yeah, bring that Pepsi with you,” she said,
shutting the door behind her. I finished my paperwork and cleared. I thought I might have a few
spare minutes, but the trip phone rang out again immediately. Zone 11.
Damn. Seemed like good company, but duty calls…
I grabbed the 12 pack of Pepsi and followed her into the apartment building. There were wet
tracks leading up the stairs which I followed until I heard female voices, “yeah, he’s really cool,
very chill…” I knocked on the door. “Just a second she just has to put a shirt on!”
She opened the door and asked me to excuse the mess, which there was, but I wouldn’t have
minded if I could have stuck around. Her girlfriend was standing beside her, long, wavy blond
hair, draping down in front of the tiny hoodie which remained unzipped, covering her naked
upper torso. Her pajama bottoms were folded down three times beneath her hip.
The dark haired one was hatless, letting her hair down, took her hoodie off which revealed a
black wife beater and a large back tattoo beneath. They weren’t saying anything, just looking at
me…
I set the Pepsi down. “Unfortunately…I have to take off. Uh, I just got a trip. But you have my
number,” I said easing toward the doorway. “Hit me up sometime.”
Walmart Allen Road was a long way off. Even though I left immediately, it still took me a good
ten minutes to make it across Pioneer Parkway and north up Allen.
There was a large woman waiting for me there with a cart full of groceries. She was going over
to International Place. I turned my music way down as soon as I saw her approaching. She didn’t
seem to have enough to warrant using the trunk, and didn’t bother.
“Hey, how are you today ma’m?”
“Oh, I’m ok. How are you?”
“Not bad. You headed over to International Place?”
“That’s right…”
“Alright.”
The trip would probably run between $8 and $10. Despite how much it factors into my strategy, I
don’t care very much about the money. But I’ll be the first person to bitch about someone being
inconsiderate on the tip, especially when I know they can afford it.
That’s right. I don’t believe in flat taxes, or expectations when it comes to tipping. I knew the
Walmart Allen Rd trip, for example, probably wouldn’t tip at all. I could’ve physically
resuscitated her and there’s very little chance she would’ve given me more than .40 on a $9.60
run. But that’s fine, some people don’t have it or may need it more than I do…I’m not going to
question it.
“Get a little shopping done tonight?” I asked because she seemed like the sort of person who was
interested in very little…so it’s best just to ask an open ended question about something general,
obvious, and inoffensive. Personalized maybe, but hopefully not intrusive. I get so fucking tired
of talking about the weather.
“Oh, just a few things,” she said. Perfect. Hit that one straight into the dirt…the fact that she
didn’t elaborate meant she didn’t want to talk. One more should do it.
“So, do you like…stuff?”
“Oh, I suppose.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
When I cleared there were no trips holding. That’s typical…the fact that I’d been running steady
for as long as I had been meant we were very busy…but you’ll have that occasionally on a
Saturday. I only did about five over cruising South on University.
Schnuck’s parking lot was my destination. It was still in zone 11, and I had no reason to relocate
for better position…it’s important to remain as centralized as possible.
If you’ve never been to Peoria, you may not realize how spread out the city itself is…and it’s
certainly not unheard of to be issued trips as far North as Dunlap, South to Bartonville or
Pekin…East we’ll hit Morton or even Eureka occasionally, West to Norwood or wherever
really…and that’s on a nightly basis.
I have to stay ready to drive anywhere, close to major roads, close to the highways and most
importantly close to the spots where I’m most likely to get a trip.
When I was about two blocks short they gave me one at Denny’s, which shares a parking lot
with Schnuck’s. Nice.
There was a young couple waiting outside before I even made it in the parking lot, which I was
happy to see. They climbed in as soon as I hit the brakes; I cranked the heat.
She slouched lifelessly into the backseat and clung to her jacket, staring out the window on her
side. He told me their destination quickly. I wrote “the Pere,” input (zone) 6 and headed
downtown.
“You from out of town?” I asked, because they needed some distracting conversation.
“Canton,” he said.
“Ah. What do you think of the Hotel Pere Marquette?”
“Not much.”
I laughed. “Really?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, like there was no real reason, they just weren’t having a good time.
“Well, I’ve heard it’s haunted,” I said…like, if all else fails, maybe you’ll see a ghost?
“I hope it is. I’d like to see something interesting, I hope we do see a ghost. We just saw that
movie Paranormal Activity.”
She still said nothing.
“I hope a demon does attack,” he concluded.
We talked off and on about random bullshit for the remaining ten minutes of the ride. I wished
them luck in their quest for a good time in Peoria and tried to reassure “it should get pretty crazy
down here later. Saturday night, it usually is.”
“Oh yeah,” he said like he knew, “we’ll be out having a few.”
“Alright, take it easy,” I said, thanking them.
The most popular cab stand is in front of the Pere, located on Main St between Monroe and
Madison, opposite several bars (currently): Hoops, Ice, Judge’s Chamber, and Gin Joint.
I parked there for a minute since there weren’t any other cabs around. Everybody must be busy
tonight, I thought. Picking up flag trips is an art, it’s the part of the business that separates the
men from the boys…because anyone can run trips given to them by a dispatcher, it takes a
trained eye to pick up clutch flag trips.
I can look at three couples about the same age, same skin color, same level of drunk all trying to
flag me down on the same street corner and tell you which is going to Bradley (avoid), which is
going to Creve Coeur (meh), and which is going to Dunlap (cash!).
The Nextel chirped again before I had a chance to even think about picking one up on my own.
Zone 21, accept.
Holiday Inn City Center going to Carbon. Not a very long trip, but I was only two blocks away.
People going a very short distance downtown will usually tip at least a couple bucks, especially
if I get there quickly, which I did.
There were six people standing outside the hotel waiting for me. One guy with an overgrown flat
top and a nice suit coat on. The other a lanky, lazy eyed, eccentric with long blond hair. He bared
a striking resemblance to professional wrestler Edge…not that I watch it.
The rest were beautiful exotic women in short skirts. Everyone was drunk.
The guy in the suit opened the front passenger door like the blond dude was about to climb in. I
looked up at him.
“Do you listen to music?” he demanded.
I nodded.
“Then you know Puddle of Mudd? Well, lead singer Wes Scantlin is about to ride in your
fucking front seat my man!” he said with all the enthusiasm of an 8 ball.
The blond, who I knew to be the man who penned the moving, thought provoking lyrics “In a
trap, trip I can’t grip, never thought I’d be the one who’d slip, then I started to realize, I was
living one big lie, She fucking hates me, trust, she fucking hates me, la la la love…”, Puddle of
Mudd front man Wes Scantlin, walked past the open door. He stared me down like a sworn
enemy as he moved in front of the Impala, around to the back seat and climbed in.
The moment his door closed he said “Alright, yeah, Wes Scantlin. Let’s fucking drive.”
When the women were secure I asked if they were going to Carbon just to confirm and quickly
managed the three block trip to the alley off Jefferson that leads to the dance club. Belle &
Sebastian’s “Your Cover’s Blown” was playing for the entirety of the trip, as fate would have it.
The meter read $4.80 when I put it in park.
The guy in the suit coat handed me a five and everyone piled out. That’s about fucking right, I
thought, staring at it in my hand.
After he was about ten feet from the car, Wes turned around, pointed to me like an extremely
drunk Jack Sparrow and asked “Did you get paid?”
“I guess you could say that.”
“Did you get paid?”
“Yeah.”
“Alright,” he said righteously, turning back toward the club.
Trip in Zone 6. Damn, we really are fucking busy tonight, I thought. Old Chicago going to
Paradice. Out the alley onto Adams and around the corner on Main St. I called the number
provided as I pulled into the parking lot and got the bartender at Old Chicago. As I told her I was
there, I saw Ryan Rutledge, a friend from high school, in the parking lot and honked.
A woman in glasses slid in not long after I put it in park. Her boyfriend followed close behind.
They looked to be in their early to mid thirties. She looked like a substitute teacher, he had a lot
of character in his face…like Quagmire.
He told me they were going to Paradice, the riverboat casino in East Peoria. I wrote “the boat;”
took Madison to Fayette and caught 74-E before they could even start in with the chit chat.
“So what do you play?”
“Excuse me?”
“What do you play at the casino?”
“Oh, I play blackjack mostly. I either win big or a lose a bunch. No in between. She just plays
slots. But she seems to fare a little better than me,” he said. He was very friendly, talkative and
funny in a Jimmy Stewart sort of way.
“Yeah, I usually do better than he does,” she confirmed.
“Because all you have to do is just push a button, yeah you do that alright.”
“I’m pretty good at pushing buttons,” she said. “Oh, could you drop us in front of the hotel?” she
asked.
“Why?”
“I left my cigarettes in the car. Is that alright?” she asked him. He didn’t say anything.
“I can drive you over there and you can just pick them up real quick and then I’ll drop you at the
boat,” I offered.
“Oh would you?” she asked.
“That’d be great,” he agreed.
“Yeah, absolutely, no problem.”
I made it to the hotel parking lot in a flash and he told me it was the “pumpkin thing in front of
you.” An orange foreign looking wide-assed sedan jumped right into my line of sight not far
from the hotel’s front door.
“Yeah, would you believe she owns a car the exact same color?”
I laughed, “no way.”
“Absolutely,” he confirmed. “We met and I saw her driving a very similar car in the exact same
ugly pumpkin color…”
“It was fate,” I said, chuckling.
She grabbed her cigarettes and I dropped them at the casino entrance. “Good luck,” I said. Nice
people, good tip.
When I cleared I looked at the time and saw I had exactly eighteen minutes before the bars on
Farmington Road closed. 116 to 74-W, sixty five mph on vacant highway…University exit, left
on Nebraska and the option…left on Park down toward Crusen’s or left on Sterling to check out
Camm’s first?
The trip phone decided for me when I accepted one in zone 18…Jimmy’s. Irish Pub, not a bad
place to pick up at all, a little further out Farmington Road than both Crusen’s and Camm’s.
They were going downtown, which I was happy to see, because that made the trip much more
expensive than going to, say, Fredonia on Bradley’s campus…which is where many Farmington
Rd trips seem to go.
I don’t have anything against Bradley for being a private school full of pampered Chicago
suburb business majors…but a large percentage of the undergrads going to Greek row or St
James Apartments don’t even throw in an extra buck or two…and it hurts my delicate feelings,
because I’m very sensitive.
The ones at Jimmy’s were a typical bunch. A mix of ya-bras and sorority chicks, going to
Sully’s. They talked about the same bullshit drama I hear from just about every other trip coming
out of a college bar.
“She came up and hugged me,” one girl whaled, “and said ‘truce, because it’s Minna’s birthday,
just for tonight, and I was like Ok, Truce, because Minna is like my best friend and I would
never do that to her, and I didn’t know what else to do, and she walked away and I just started
sobbing and then he was like all over her and I was crying again…”
It went on, as you can imagine, just like that until they were set on trashing Sig Nu’s house.
Here’s to higher education…but I’m not a hater…some of the best outdoor sex I ever had was on
a Delta Zeta fire-escape.
I dropped them off in front of Sully’s and they were kind enough to throw in an extra two bucks.
I hit Main Street again and headed back toward Farm Rd.
There were only three cigarettes left in my box so I lit one and headed toward Circle K instead of
picking up the bars immediately. The lot was full, which I should have expected, because it was
just before 2 and that’s when they stop selling liquor.
I knew there was no possible way I had time to wait in line for cigarettes, but I went in to use the
restroom anyway, and had to wait for it. I watched the line of a dozen or so at the only open
register. A nice older woman who worked nights regularly was doing her best to keep it moving.
A curvy black woman in tight jeans and heals seemed to be having some trouble, looking down
at her purse for something.
“Bitch, get yo ass a bottle of Remy and get the fuck outta the way! You know what you want!” a
young man yelled from behind her. With that, the men’s room opened up and I darted in.
Camm’s was the first bar I came to when I took a right outta the Circle K. I pulled in the parking
lot, there were already plenty of drinkers spilling out of the front door to my right. There was a
tall guy with a blond flat top making eye contact, coming toward me…I heard a tap on the glass
to my left and turned.
The stocky man in glasses standing there looked to be about 50. His skin was tan and leathery,
leaving dark shadows in the wrinkles. His eyes were old but lively. He was already holding a
twenty dollar bill for me to see. I cracked the window.
“Where ya headed?” I asked.
“Golf View. Golf View Apartments,” he said, blinking with the words. He looked to be a little
fucked up, but that’s what I’m there for. He was wearing a sweater beneath his coat, and a
collared shirt.
“On Martin Luther King?”
“Yeah.”
The front passenger door opened and the young guy climbed in.
“We’re going down to Sully’s, I’m waiting on a couple more,” he said.
The rule is first come first serve. I’d feel like a real asshole to ask this old timer where he’s
going, then ditch him in favor of a better trip. It’s not unheard of, but I thought a compromise
might be possible.
“This guy got to me first man,” I said, “do you care if he rides along and then I drop him off
after?”
“That’s fine,” the guy up front said, because he didn’t want to wait for another cab.
The man in glasses was already climbing in the seat behind me.
“I’ve got three more coming with me,” frat guy added.
“Are they girls?” I asked, because they usually have smaller frames and that makes it
manageable.
“Yeah.”
“We should be fine, one of them could ride up here,” I offered, “if it’s gonna be cramped back
there.” It seemed appropriate because I’m a very skinny guy myself, probably a buck twenty five
soaking wet.
“No, no,” the young guy scoffed, “it’ll be fine.” He had a real asshole air about him. I was
already regretting not just throwing his stuck up Bradley ass out in the first place and taking the
old guy to Golf View.
The girls got in, and it was cramped but the odd man out seemed to be in good spirits about the
whole thing, “It’s fine, it’s fine! Get in here, calm down, we’ll get there!” he said. In a hot
minute we were headed toward Sully’s.
There was clearly some discomfort coming from the back seat. Particularly from the girl sitting
next to the man in glasses.
“Who is he?” she asked grotesquely.
“Oh him? He’s an old friend, don’t worry, he’s legit,” I assured her. That statement may not have
been completely true.
About halfway to Sully’s I heard one of the girls telling the man in glasses to keep his hands to
himself. Because of the tight quarters, I had no way of knowing if it was incidental contact or a
serious problem. Judging from the reaction, I thought it best to drive on, but I warned the man to
keep his hands on the seat in front of him and leave the girls alone.
He began making strange faces at them, which I couldn’t really see because he was directly
behind me. I did manage to glimpse him with the $20 hanging out of his mouth producing very
unsettling noises at the girl next to him.
Luckily, Sully’s was a block away and the innocent college kids piled out without any serious
psychological damage done. The dickhead upfront insisted on paying himself, with credit card,
without tipping of course.
The man in glasses went silent after that. I said nothing to him and began a quiet drive toward
Golf View Apartments, with John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the background. Went up
Main Street, hung a left on Monroe and stopped at the light on Kumpf.
I thought he might be passing out, so I turned slightly around and looked over my right shoulder.
Sure enough, his eyes were closed and I breathed a sigh of relief.
His eyes shot open and focused on me with carnal, hysterical rage.
“You’re killing people!” he screamed like a mad man and lunged forward furiously pounding
down on my skull with both meaty fists. One wild punch after another, some on target, some not,
before I even knew what the fuck was happening.
My arms went up to block the sides of my head as I ducked instinctively, foot still on the brake.
He was grunting behind me, raining down punches as I tried to shift it into park…got it, found
the door handle with my left hand and rolled out to get my bearings.
I heard plastic hit the pavement, my phone, it’d been sitting in my lap…I’d need that to call the
police…I looked around the street but didn’t see it anywhere. There was no time to worry about
it, my new friend was making his way out of the backseat after me. No worries, that’s what I was
hoping for…
The knife was already in my hand, I held it up for him to see…hoping sight of the blade would
put some sense in the man…should’ve known better. His glasses were gone, and at that moment
I seriously wondered how he’d concealed the fact that he was a total lunatic before…he just
grinned and stepped forward eagerly.
I sighed heavily and put the knife away. I dropped my arms, leaning in with my head and locking
eye contact as we circled each other.
There was a terrible excitement in his eyes, but he was still drunk and twice my age…I didn’t
want to tear the guy apart. When our circling led me back to my door, I considered opening it,
slipping in and relocating a safe distance until the cops got there.
I didn’t want to throw any punches. If I injured my hands I’d have to go home two or three hours
early and miss the best part of the night.
He saw me glance at the door and charged. I waited patiently, then moved swiftly with a left
elbow across the front of his mouth, followed by a right elbow on the other cheek. He ducked
and I put him on the street with a soft knee…but not too soft.
He fell backward in slow motion, still vainly attempting to remain on his feet, the lunatic looked
up at me, blood already dripping from his lips and quietly he said, “Thank you…”
The confusion on my face as I looked down at him between my fists pretty much sums up my
feelings on the entire incident.
While he was incapacitated I continued looking for my phone…still having absolutely no luck.
“Fucking cell phones…” I said to myself. Then I noticed a black guy hanging out his white SUV
in the right lane, parked next to my cab, just watching. He’d just witnessed my three hit combo.
My customer had gotten to his feet again and stepped toward me. There was no reason to put him
in the hospital, so I just locked up with him to give me a second to assess the situation. The cell
phone was the biggest hurdle, if it’d fallen out of the cab I didn’t want to drive away without it.
“Is you the cab driver?” asked the spectator. I nodded, with a sigh that said “do you see the shit I
have to put up with?”
“Woop his ass man!” he said, cheering me on. I just shrugged and rolled my eyes…what’s the
use?
Fuck the cell phone, I decided, and pushed the psycho off long enough to slide back in the cab. I
heard the phone, it’d been disconnected but somewhere it was playing “As Time Goes By.” I
tried to follow the sound as I saw the man grinning wildly, coming toward my door.
I put the car in drive and hung a quick right on Kumpf, flipped my hazards on and continued the
search…when a squad car came zipping around the corner, headed East. I waved him down and
pointed toward the psychopath in the middle of Monroe with his stomach across some woman’s
white sedan.
Needless to say, he knew which direction to go. I stepped out and walked back toward the scene,
and immediately recognized the officer who already had my would be customer in handcuffs.
It wasn’t the officer who pulled me over earlier. That’d be too perfect, wouldn’t it?
No, I’d seen this guy months earlier, on an extremely busy weekend night. There was no time to
stop, I hadn’t eaten all night, and I’d probably had too much soda or Gatorade…I pulled over not
far from the corner of Fayette and Glendale, just short of downtown, flipped the hazards on,
opened my door and puked out the side.
That’s when I saw a squad car pulling up behind me. Wonderful.
Instead of turning his lights on, he pulled up next to me and asked if I was alright. I told him I
was fine, and that I’d just been driving too long. Obviously, I know it doesn’t look too good
puking out the door of a cab when 90% of the people around me are drunk or on their way. I
rarely drink, and never when I’m working.
Lucky for me he was a very intelligent cop, seemed like a good guy and figured out very quickly
that I wasn’t a drunk and I was telling the truth.
(To be continued)

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