Sexy Beast

This isn't really a story per se, but touches on something that someone named "Shroudman" left in the comments for the previous post, and gets into the "what is it like, in a general sense, for Crabbie to drive a cab," side of things, which usually gets only tangential notice.

I don't hit on fares. I even avoid flirting with them as much as possible, especially the ones that I'm attracted to.

This probably doesn't seem like the brightest idea, as I'm young, single, and relatively good-looking. There's also the matter of my having a job (driving a cab nights), and an important aspect of my lifestyle (recovering alcoholic) that don't tend to lend themselves very well to meeting sexy young thangs. I'll admit to having moments where I feel like I'm wasting the youth, looks, and sexual prime, and that I'm going to one day wake-up as one of the dirty old men who hang around the garage and talk about how they like to work downtown so that they can look at the girls.

So why on earth would I adopt a pretty strict non-fraternization policy when roughly a quarter of my customers seem to be, well, exactly the single young women in my age group that I so rarely meet in my off-duty life?

The main reason is courtesy. My last semi-serious girlfriend was a stripper who had horror stories about creepy cab drivers who would hit on her and her co-workers, or try and demand private "shows" in lieu of fare, etc. I've always been pretty determined not to be one of those guys.

Even putting strippers aside, I tend to figure that a young woman who's getting a ride to or from the bar is calling a cab for one reason... she needs someone to drive her someplace. Now, this might just be me talking crazy (as some other drivers don't seem to be of the same opinion) but very few people order a cab because they're looking to spark a romance. They just want to be taken to another location in the surrounding area. The chances are very high that they won't even notice the driver, and very likely won't remember him if they see him again. I don't want or expect the grocery clerk to hit on me, and I imagine that my fares have the same attitude towards me.

Finally, a young woman who's coming home alone from a bar has very likely just spent the last few hours having drunk men hit on her - it strikes me that she deserves to end the night with a couple of funny comments and/or a safe ride listening to good music, not one last chump taking a shot in the dark.

But that being the case, there are women who flirt with me. Cases where, were I not working, I would happily participate. I don't, though. One concern is liability - I'm not a very suspicious person (probably not suspicious enough, given my job), but there have been cab drivers, at my company, arrested on suspicion of rape and/or harrasment (to allay customer fears, this hasn't happened in years, and is a very rare occurence). Some of these allegations were undoubtedly true, or rooted in fact, but many also seem to have been instances of a drunk woman waking up and realizing what she'd done, or almost done, or considered doing (with a cab driver, of all people) and seeing the enormous potential for unscrupulous litigation. The best way for me to avoid this is by dropping a blanket stance of non-flirtation, and allowing the security camera to document my not leaving the cab with the woman in question.

There's also the important matter of my having NO GAME whatsoever.

But still, there's the occasional woman that I really hit it off with. We have a fantastic and engaging conversation about some non-flirtatious subject, and obviously enjoy each other's company a great deal. We could be great friends, or lovers.

Then one of two things typically happen: she gets out to meet her boyfriend, or begins to tell me about her job as a prostitute.

If for some reason neither of those things happen, I will almost definitely forget to give her my card (asking for a phone number seems a bit forward, given the whole customer/service worker thing, but providing mine seems like an effective enough way of displaying interest).

And if, by some miracles of miracles, I remember to give her my card, she will never call or email me. Best case scenario: I'll write my address on the back of the card when she asks for it, and three weeks later get a postcard from Los Angeles with no contact information.


Because, despite all of my considerable awesomeness, who in their right mind would want to date a cabbie?


Back in Effect

Yes, I'm still alive.

I apologize for not keeping this updated. There's been a confluence of circumstances that have kept me from writing this: I haven't been working as much, and I've been devoting my very limited reservoirs of "writing about cab driving" energy in another direction that could potentially bear more fruit in terms of money and prestige than this miniscule corner of the internet.

Let's be honest: this has always been a pretty half-assed little affair.

But the main reason I haven't been writing is that work's been mighty boring recently. This is largely by design, and something that I greatly prefer. I've been working steady parts of town where I know that I'll just be carting around nice, boring people, and I've been loving of it. None of the madness of the outer east side or deep north Portland. Just a bunch of boring-ass hipsters with nothing to say or terribly interesting to do. It's been a nice break.

I promise to try and get back on the beam, though. I'll start adding shorter pieces that recount older events, etc. I'll be taking a somewhat extended vacation soon, after a few shorter ones this past month, but autumn will bring a more regular work schedule, more business, and the likelihood of my purchasing a cab of my own in the next month or two. So there's all of that to look forward to.

Oh, and comments are back on. Sorry, I hadn't realized they were off, I think another part of my non-posting was not getting any comments and feeling like people had lost interest. Yes, I'm a dumbass.

So that's the update. Now, to make up for lost time, I'll give you the one bit of sleaze that's cropped up in the past few weeks, even if secondhand. WARNING: This story veers away even from my usual "hard R" content into "XXX" territory.

So I got a call to pick up at Cocktails N' Dreams on Thursday night, a very sleazy strip club off of Powell that's notable for its Miami Vice-esque interior (this is not due to a sense of kitsch or irony) of pastels and neon, as well as the fact that occasionally someone gets murdered there. I hate picking up people there, as they tend to be drunk men who are unintelligent, uninteresting, going somewhere close-by, and poor tippers.

This call was for a dancer, who was going maybe 14 blocks away. She was attractive, in a tattooed and pierced sort of way (which is not typically my sort of way), and began hitting on me from the moment I walked into the club to tell her I was there. When she got in the cab, she told me about how happy she was to get out of there, that everyone was so sleazy and the music was so terrible, and here I was the first hot guy she'd seen all night and I was even listening to good music in the cab.

I ignored the latter bits, and made a joking comment about how shocking it was that there was bad music and sleazy people in Cocktails N' Dreams.

This led to an animated and brief conversation about sleaze in our respective professions, and her dropping this gem on me:

She also works at Cabaret (essentially downtown's version of Cocktails N' Dreams, I've never been inside, largely due to the strikingly similar exterior color schemes). While at work one night, she looked over at a girl giving a man a lapdance and was shocked, truly shocked, for one of the first times in a long time.

The other girl was getting fisted. Willingly and happily. In the middle of the club.

My passenger just sat and stared for a while, and then finely got the security guard. He initially didn't believe her, until she finally got him to come over and have a look for himself. He was similarly dumbfounded for a bit, and was too embarassed to interrupt the procedure, and waited until after the "dance" was over to remove the woman from the premises.

So there's a nice little vignette for you.


Release the Hound!

On Friday night, I dropped a woman off at 4th & Everett on the westside, right in the middle of the nexus of clubs in what used to be Chinatown that I try to avoid. This is an area full of drunk and obnoxious people. As I ran her card, a drunk middle-aged white man with sandy blonde hair and a red Hawaiian shirt started asking through the window "Will you take us to Gateway? Will you take us to Gateway?" An obese middle-aged white guy with gray hair was standing behind them on the sidewalk. It was a decent fare, so I told them I'd take them after I was done processing the young woman's card.

They got in, and I got on 84 as they told me all about their big 20th high school reunion. The pudgy guy gave me an address in Clackamas County (not anywhere near Gateway, but a much better trip on the meter). I said sure. He promptly passed out, and started snoring very loudly. The guy in the Hawaiian shirt said that it was going to be very hard to wake the fat guy up, and that I should take them to his place in Gateway. I agreed to do so.

The conscious guy was very amicable, if extremely drunk. He kept telling me how much he loved the jazz we were listening to ("A Love Supreme" on KBOO), and that I seemed like such a nice guy. I got him to his place, and it was about $21 on the meter.

He gave me a debit card, which I ran. It was declined. This was completely confusing to him, proving to him that his card had in fact been declined was like proving to him that gravity didn't exist - his whole world was thrown into disarray.

He didn't have any cash. Did I take the Home Depot card? No. The Meier & Frank card? Sorry son, no dice. "Oh wait, here's one you can use!" He handed me the declined card again - I told him that it probably wasn't going to work any better this time. This routine continued for a good two or three minutes - he'd offer me store credit cards, I'd tell him we didn't take them, and then he'd find his bank card again and offer me that. I turned the meter back on.

Finally he said that he was going to go inside and get cash from his girlfriend. I was a little sketched out by this, but I figured that I had the fat guy for collateral. He then went around the back of the house, which made me more suspicious (suspicions of this not being his house, and him jumping a fence).

I waited - no guy, no lights coming on inside the house. I locked the fat guy in the cab, took my Maglite in hand, and walked around the back of the house. The back door was open, with a little kitchen light on inside. I walked around to the front and knocked - two or three dogs started barking, and I heard someone hushing them, but no answer. More knocking, more barking, but no guy. I tried to rouse the fat guy with various proddings, the flashlight, and a loud tone of voice, but no result whatsoever. I waited a minute or two more, knocked repeatedly at the house, and then called into dispatch.

"So I've got a fat guy passed out and snoring in the back of my cab, and he won't wake up when I tap, poke, or shake him. He had a friend, but the friend's skipped out on the fare. What do I do in this situation?"

(laughter over the radio)

"Wake up the fat guy?" the dispatcher suggests.

"I've shined a flashlight in his face and done everything but punch him in the nose, he's not waking up."

"Well, call the cops."

"On 911? This isn't exactly an emergency."

"Call 911, and tell them the situation."

I did, making it clear to the operator that the fat guy didn't seem to be in any obvious danger. I lit a cigarette, and figured that on a Friday night in this part of town, I was due for a wait. It's worth noting that I was actually in very good humor throughout all of this - I'd been having a good night both financially and personally, and could fully appreciate the absurdity of my situation, and how wonderful it is to have a job where I semi-routinely find myself in situations like this.

Within two minutes three cop cars (one of them a K-9 unit!) and an ambulance squeeled up. This made me even more amused, and I made some cracks about appreciating the support, but not being sure that the situation warranted such an expenditure of my tax dollars. The paramedics thus called off the firetruck that was en route. Apparently whenever there's a report of a suspect fleeing or hiding, the dog gets called.

Anyway, I told the cops what the story was, and the paramedics managed to rouse the fat guy pretty easily, I wish that I'd been paying attention to see what secret paramedic trick they used. The paramedics were really amused by the whole thing - it's hard to capture just how rediculous this guy was, or how drunk. Again, I forgot to employ the camera phone. While the cops knocked on the door and walked around the house, they tested the fat guy's blood sugar, and told him that everything seemed okay, he'd just have a hang-over in the morning. "Okay, good," he said, and promptly climbed back into the backseat and passed out again.

Meanwhile, the two beat cops hadn't found the other guy, so the K-9 guy asked eagerly if he could set the dog loose. This ellicited a big grin and a thumbs up from me, who at this point was mostly interested in seeing just how preposterous the situation could get. The other two cops nodded, and thus the German shephered was set loose.

The dog quickly found the man, who apparently had been squatted in a semi-fetal position in his backyard hedgerow. I was hanging out at the car and didn't get to see it happen, but the two regular cops ushered him out with big smiles on their faces. He didn't seem to understand what was going on or why, and they had to remind him about how he'd taken a cab and owed me money.

"Oh yeah, that's right!" he said. He was still in very good (if confused) humor, and totally amicable. We then went (for the fourth time) through the routine of him offering me the declined debit card, then his store credit cards, this time with the police present. The fat guy was then woken up again, and gotten out of the cab. He didn't have any money either, and kept saying "but he said he would pay for it!" and the other dude kept saying "yeah, yeah, I've got this one."

He then offered me his bank card again, and the cops and I burst out in laughter. The absurdity of their position then seemed to dawn on the two drunk guys, who also started smiling and laughing, and suddenly I felt like I was on a sitcom.

Then the cops started explaining to the two guys about how they had to figure out a way to pay me, or they'd be spending the weekend in jail on theft charges. The two drunk guys didn't seem to grasp the seriousness of this completely and kept laughing, but my mood started to sour slightly as the thought of having to give a statement, deal with this down the road, etc. I tried to tune it out, and let the cops talk to them.

Did I take checks?

No. Certainly not in this situation.

It began to look like the cops really were going to take them to jail, so I suggested an alternative. They could give me something valuable, I would take it into the garage, and they could come down and pay at their leisure, and then receive the valuable back. There are actually company policies and laws surrounding the custody of valuables in lieu of fare, and though it's a pain in the ass for everyone, it does work. If the item isn't claimed in 90 days, then the driver gets to keep it.

The cop seemed very appreciative to have had this out supplied, and talked it up to the guy.

"That's perfect! I know just the thing!" he said excitedly, "You can take my dog!"

I laughed loudly. "I can't be taking your dog, yo. I'm working until seven in the morning, and it wouldn't be very happy at the garage." The cops, at this point, were not even giving the slightest pretense of straight faces.

"But you know I'll come and get my dog tomorrow if I give it to you!"

"Man, I certainly hope so, but I ain't taking the dog. How about like a T.V. or something?"

"You want my T.V.?" the look of horror on his face suggested that I'd just asked for his first-born.

"It's a good idea, sir," said the cop.

"Okay, I'll go get my T.V."

He did, and it made a good story to entertain the family on their way to the airport that was my next fare (I would, of course, catch a very rare 3 AM Saturday morning airporter on the same night I had a television taking up half of my trunk).

I didn't wake up in time to get a cab Saturday, so I have no idea whether or not the guy came in with his money to claim the television.


The Heat is On

"Oh my God!" screams the drunk guy as he gets in the cab. "What is this?"

He is understandably confused and delighted to be greeted by the dulcet tones of The System's "Rock N' Roll Me Again."

"This," I tell him, "is the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack."

"No, this," he tells me as his equally drunk female friend gets in the cab, "is awesome!"

And he is correct. I was thrilled when I got a cab with a tape deck. While moving, I had uncovered the tape my old roommate had given me as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. In the time between now and then, I'd dreamed of the night that I'd be able to listen to it in the cab. After getting the car tonight, I'd rushed home to pick it up and sprinted down the stairs to show my current roommate and his hot friend from out of town. They were doing nitrous in the basement, and in a perfect state to howl with appreciation.

I saved the tape as my ace-in-the-hole all night. The night had started off hot, but been dragged down by bad luck around 1 am. At 2 AM, I figured that the bar rush would be the perfect time to bump such classics as "New Attitude" by Patti La Belle and "The Heat is On" by Glenn Frey, but instead they'd fallen on the wasted ears of a urine sample and a smelly stoner who was possibly mentally disabled.

But these people, they understand. When the drunk man hollers at me to turn it up as we pull away from Mulligan's on Hawthorne, I do. I turn that shit up to 11. And then, as we make a right onto 39th, the moment I've been waiting all night for finally strikes. "Rock 'N Roll Me Again" fades away, there's a split-second of silence, and then the bassline from "Axel F" (the Beverly Hills Cop theme) kicks in.

Howls of delight from the back, and I floor it, everything about my night suddenly perfect again.

You have not lived until the Beverly Hills Cop theme is playing at extremely loud volumes while you take sharp turns at speed in a cop car, two people screaming "Fuck yeah!" in the back seat. You might think you have, but you are wrong. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have had this experience, and those who are dead without realizing it.

Trust me, for now I (and two lucky drunks) know.



Yo, I'm going to be out of town for the next few days, just so you cats know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth or gotten fired or anything. I promise to be back and updating more frequently in about a week. I'm really looking forward to this mini-vacation.


"... and I ain't lying."

I got a call around 1:30 AM to pick up at The Hidden East, at SE 52nd & Duke. One of many dive bars in zone 118 that caters to a clientele of hardcore older alcoholics who aren't going anywhere. The "extra remarks" on the order were "BAR'S CLOSING, HE'S OUTSIDE."

"Wonderful," I thought to myself.

I pulled up and the lights were off, the parking lot empty. I had my windows down, and heard someone yell "Hey!" I heard it again. I got out to look around, and still couldn't see anyone. Then the same voice - "Hold on! I'll be right there!" I looked over and saw a man in the shadows of the dumpster, urinating.

"Wonderful," I thought to myself, and got back in the cab.

After a minute or two, a man with white hair and wrinkled skin stumbled over to the car and got in. He asked me to take him to the Harmony Inn, another very fine drinking establishment, but also one that was at least far enough away to be worth my while.

As I drove, he asked me my name. I told him. He said his name was Charlie Brown, and that he'd killed more men than God himself. He was the second most decorated Indian in Oregon who fought in the Korean War. He'd blown up all kinds of people, but he hadn't been killed in Korea, and neither had any of his Marines. His Marines had loved him because he was good and he was lucky, and he'd given them all BARs.

The Marines as a branch hadn't loved him, though. He'd wanted to go back, to fight in Vietnam, but they'd told him he was an asshole and wouldn't take him back.

"That's what they told me!" he said. "We won't take you, Charlie, you're too big an asshole! And I ain't lying!"

"Did you ask to go to Iraq?" I asked.


"Well did you go back and ask to go to Iraq? I mean by now they've probably forgotten you're such an asshole."

This got a big laugh out of him, and an "I like you kid, you're alright." He then got serious. "They didn't let me go to Vietnam. They didn't let me go to Vietnam and a lot of people died. 5,000, no, 500,000 people died. They didn't know what they were doing. And what would it've done if I'd gone over there, too? If they had let me? Just another one dead."

He continued. "It's the same way now over there in Iraq. Except not as many kids die, so you don't hear as much about it. No, now they're so good at medicine the kids don't die, what would've killed on of my men you're stuck living with now. Double, triple, quadruple amputees. It's sick. You know how many wounded we've had? And 'wounded' is worse than it what it used to be. Fuck the dead, the dead get the good deal of it these days. The wounded numbers is what tell you how bad it really is."

I already knew all of this, but didn't tell him.

"This Bush," he said. "This Bush is the worst. Worse than Johnson, worse than Nixon, just a fucking spoiled, evil piece of shit. I hate 'im more than anything. And I'm a killer, I've killed so many people. And this Bush I hate more than anyone I killed. It's bad. It's real bad over there in Iraq.

Ah, listen to me. Just a drunk old man. It was 50, 60 years ago, but I killed a lot of people kid, and I ain't lying. I was 18 when I started and I'm 72 now, but I can remember."

And I didn't doubt him.

It came to $11 on the meter, and he tipped me a buck. As he got out of the car, he said "It's bad over there, real bad in Iraq, and I ain't lying. What's your name?"

I told him for the third time, and extended my hand for him to shake. Instead of shaking it, he clasped it weakly over the top, the way my grandmother used to hold my hand.

"Good to meet you, Crabbie," he said, "My name's Charlie Brown, and I'm the second most decorated Indian from the Korean War in Oregon."

He started to withdraw his hand, but then grabbed mine again, with more force this time.

"I killed a lot of people, and this war is a horrible thing, and I ain't lying."

"I know," I said.

But I often find myself forgetting. I was arrested protesting this war at its beginning, and I have a friend who fought in it. Yet it ony touches me in tangential and indirect ways - I go about my daily life protected by two oceans and two pussy-whipped neighbors, and if anything my quality of life has improved since the war began almost 3 and a half years ago.

But the vets don't forget. And thank God they don't, because it's so easy for something as horrible and immediate as war to become vague and abstract in my sheltered little mind.

He let go of my hand, and looked back at me with doubt as he closed the door, like I didn't understand what he was trying to say. And having not killed anyone myself, there's a very good chance that I didn't except in the most abstract and intellectuaized terms.