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.

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