Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

I'm tired, and nothing particularly compelling happened last night. One guy was an enormous asshole, and another guy threw-up in the cab (my first time!), but there was not a large volume of vomit, and except for two droplets, he got it all on himself. I didn't charge him the $50.

I did a lot of waiting - at various points I had to wait for three drawbridges and a very long freight train. I still had a good night financially, and got to have a good conversation with a gorgeous girl while waiting for the freight train. I gav
e her my card, and she will not call me. Such is my life.

The aformentioned Soriah will be playing a show with The Venerable Showers of Beauty in Portland this Sunday (10/1) at Someday, a new club at 125 NW 5th (look at me, I be using links like a motherfucker). Rumor has it that a couple of other cab drivers are going to be involved, so you should check it out. This show will be very, very good, a feast for the eyes and ears. You will be supporting arts and cabbies at the same time. Doors at 9, cost is $10, and you get to see me in the flesh. This is not normally my scene, and I cannot at all vouch for the other acts, but you have the Crabbie word of honor that the Soriah set will be dope as all fuck, and quite possibly one of the better shows you've seen all year.

If you're not in Portland, I'm told that there will be simultaneous streaming on the Someday page, but I know very little about such things and care even less, as all the cool kids will be there in the flesh.



So yeah, sorry I never posted about what happened last Thursday. I've been captivated by a good book, various football related things, the fallout from the smelly lady, and playing music. But I promised you a story that involved the cops, so a story about the cops is what you're going to get.

Early Friday morning, like around 4 AM, I take a call to pick up at the Hot Cake House, a 24 hour greasy spoon at the foot of the Ross Island Bridge. I pull up, and a white guy at the jukebox waves to me, but takes his time coming out. Then we have to wait for his two extremely drunk friends to get in.

They're all prototypical middle-class white guys - golf appropriate casual wear and baseball caps. It strikes me as odd that men of their profile are out as late, and as drunk as they are, but at this point I wouldn't be surprised if I showed up to a call at 5 AM on a Tuesday to be greeted by a shitfaced Bill Gates. People of all races and socio-economic statuses (stati?) be gettin' drunk, that's why I have a job.

There's much discussion between the two friends about what they're going to do - one of them's very interested in going over to a woman's house, and proceeds to have a loud, clumsily flirtatious conversation with her on his cell phone. The original guy's adamant that he's going home, however, so I drive to his place in Southwest, near the Burlingame Fred Meyer.

The trip isn't particularly pleasant. After the cell phone conversation ends in a "no go," the two drunk friends proceed to do a lot of very loud, very drunken, good-natured yelling at each other. Mostly along the lines of calling each other "dumb Mick" and "stupid Kraut." When we roll up to the first guy's house, I have high hopes for them all getting out.

The guy who lives there leaves, doesn't offer me any money. The other two stay in the backseat and try to figure out what their next move's going to be. It seems to me like the obvious answer for anyone as drunk as they are is "go to bed" - how they have any energy at all is astounding to me. Eventually, their conversation works its way around to two options:

Option A: Go into their friend's house, play blackjack, and drink his beer.


Option B: Go to La Center!

I'm very excited option B. La Center's a small town about 15-20 miles into Washington with a bunch of Indian casinos. The meter's already at $15, and it would be a very good trip for me.

The question arises: would I do it for a flat rate of $80?

I'd never driven to La Center in the cab, and tell them that I'd have to do it for the meter, as I didn't remember how long the drive was. More discussion. They decide to go inside and talk to their friend. While they're inside, I look up the mileage and estimate that a trip out to La Center, given where the meter already is and where we are in Portland, would probably cost about $70. I'll make a show of insisting on the meter, given the possibility of their being the kind of drunks who would insist on taking a scenic route, but will do it for $80 if that's they only way they'll do it.

After a few minutes, they stumble back out to the car. Will I do it for $80? No, I'll do it for the meter. Would I do it for $100? Hop in, fellas!

And we're off. The cab has a tapedeck, and I'm listening to something weird and spacy that I've turned down low. They ask if we can listen to music, and what kinds I like. I respond with "blues & jazz" - genres I figure we'll all be able to tolerate, but also mention that I like hip-hop and more experimental stuff.

Much commentary about how they love hip-hop, but old stuff. Really old stuff - Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, etc. Much lamentation of how no one had even heard of it these days. I try to explain that I can play them some, but there's adamant refusal that such a thing is possible. I reach into my bag and pull out an old bootleg mix-tape of excellent old school hip-hop I'd bought on a street corner in Greenwich Village, and put it on.

Suddenly I'm the shit. What's my name? What am I? A Kraut? Awesome! Much discussion of Krauts, Swedes, Pollacks, blacks, and Irish, as well as how awesome my music is. Eventually the conversation somehow turns to Tupac and Biggie, and who might have killed them. The guy sitting behind me is going on at great length about Suge Knight and Jerry Heller, and how Suge Knight has done more to hurt black people than just about anyone else in history except maybe Jessie Jackson. I actually have a lot to say about the murders of Tupac and Biggie, but it's not possible to get a word in edgewise, and I eventually cease trying.

Eventually they start talking to one another again, and it comes up that they're cops with 4 straight days off. Suddenly everything makes complete sense. I hear beers crack in the backseat and don't care. At a pause in their conversation, I tell them that a friend gave me a switchblade, and ask if they're legal in Oregon.

Depends. Do I have it on me? Can they see?

They can.
It's legal. Single-edged, unconcealed blade, basically just a really nice pocket-knife with push-button convenience. Pretty much as I'd suspected, but it's good to have confirmation.

Unfortunately, the conversation until we get to La Center will now be about how I need, absolutely need to get a concealed carry license. I need to get a handgun and carry it with me at all times. But if I ever brandish it, I need to use it.

The 'Pac and Biggie guy is harping on what a dangerous job I have, he wouldn't do it without a gun. His Irish friend is talking simultaneously, and loudly, about how the real reason I need a concealed carry is that the second Amendment will be taken away any day now, and that when it happens, the license will be valuable. The causes his friend to talk even more loudly about how it's really about safety, and between that and the stereo they had me crank it up, it's a very loud scene as we take the off-ramp.

I have two drunk off-duty cops yelling at me about how I need to get a gun. This is extremely amusing to me, even ludicrous when considering the attitude policemen have had toward me for the vast majority of my life, but I keep my delight private.

They interrupt the "Crabbie needs to get a gun" chorus long enough to tell me to slow down, La Center cops are dicks. They then pick it up again, and it's still going on even after I drop them in the casino lot and the Suge Knight fan has handed me a C note.

They seem like nice guys, and if they weren't so drunk, I'd really enjoy going into the casino, getting a free coke or two, and playing blackjack with them. But they're too loud and obnoxious, and I don't want to be placed in the position of having to explain them.

As I pull off, the Kraut is in a four-point defensive lineman's stance, ready to launch himself across the asphalt at his Irish friend. I get out of there as quickly as possible.


Catching the Scent

Before I get to Thursday night's hijinx, I'm going to cover Saturday night's. Because Saturday was, like, more recent, I guess. I'll issue a warning right now, this post is going to be extremely gross. Please don't read it if you're squeamish, or offended by less savory aspects of human biology.

I'm actually going to start off with my ride home on Friday morning. I had a day guy - tall, middle-aged, red-headed lease driver. He'd driven me a couple of times before, and is a really nice guy. We were talking about the advantages of driving nights vs. days, and he told me about an experience of his while working nights in Bend.

He got a call to pick up at a restaurant/bar, and the guy was so drunk that the doorman had to help him out. He got in the cab, and smelled like shit. Literally, the man smelled like feces. He only wanted to go three blocks, to his car. He'd actually taken the cab so that he could drive - people would see him leaving in the cab, and not think he was going to drive drunk. Pissed off, my driver let him out. He drove another couple of blocks, and the smell was still there, so he looked in the back seat. It was smeared with human excrement.

Disgusted, he drove back to the bar, furious that they'd put the guy in his cab in such a state. He pulled up, and noticed that there was a trail of diarrhea leading from the inside of the restaurant to the curb. Transfixed, he followed the trail back inside, and was able to find the seat the guy'd been sitting in (which was very, very nasty). The people working there hadn't noticed, hell, people had been walking in the shit and tracking it all over the place.

I say that to say this: Saturday night I had the most foul smelling human being I've ever encountered in my life. I mean it's hard for me to describe, it was so foul. Imagine an obese woman in her mid-60s who didn't bathe, had a deep-rooted and untreated yeast infection, and had a fondness for rotten egg perfume. That's a pretty good characterization of her.

I picked this poor soul up around 29th & Clinton, she was headed to the subsidized housing downtown. I rolled all of the windows down, and just tried to get her there as fast as I could. This was so completely in character with the rest of my night that I was barely even angry, I just wanted to get her the fuck out of my cab.

I got her to where she was going, and she said that she had to go inside to get the money. I waited a few minutes, after which she came out to tell me that she'd thought she had the money inside, but in fact didn't. I informed her that she was never to do that again, and did little to mask my brimming level of disgust and frustration. She offered her cane in lieu of fare, which I declined, and made me even more disgusted.

She then offered her coat, which I accepted. My reasoning was that as someone who is essentially a bag lady, her coat was perhaps valuable enough for her to claim, and that the weather on Sunday was going to be in the low 80s and sunny, so I wouldn't be endangering her health. I threw it in the trunk, and drove off, desperate to make some money. I also called dispatch, and told them to put her on the no cabs list.

The smell, of course, persisted. I rolled all the windows down, sprayed some air freshener, etc., but nothing helped it. Finally, on my way to pick up a $70 airporter that my saint of a dispatcher threw me in pity, it occurred to me to check whether or not the smell was getting from the jacket in the trunk into the cab proper. I pulled over at a 7-11, popped the trunk, and almost threw up. As I was about as far from the garage as possible, I also threw the jacket away.

When I got back in, I sat down to write out a report for the superintendents, explaining why I'd committed a gross violation of company policy in throwing away something I'd received in trust. This led to a sudden sense of great amusement at the situations my job sometimes forces me to have to explain in writing, so I was laughing as I wrote. My driver from Friday morning was coming in to pick up his cab, and asked me what was up. As I began the story, and was at the point where I was describing the old woman's lingering scent, the other driver interrupted me with a startled, bug-eyed look on his face and said, "It was shit, wasn't it?" - like shit had been stalking him all of his life, and just now re-appeared from the shadows to claim another victim.

This of course got me to laughing even harder.

After finishing up the report and smoking a cigarette, I was delighted to see that G would be my driver home. G's a Safety Board member, and a Greek immigrant who's been driving cab since before I was born. He's the kind of salty, incredibly vulgar (yet somehow oddly endearing, perhaps due to the accent) character who drives cabs in hard-boiled detective novels.

Anyway, I start to tell G my story, and after about a sentence or two, he interjects with disgust and some excitement, "it was the poosie, she has the stanky poosie!"

I told G that yes, the smell was so yeasty and she was so sober that it was a distinct possibility. I went on to finish the story, with G energetically agreeing with my actions, which made me feel better. When I was done, he went on to tell me a story about the woman "with the stankiest poosie in the whole world, I shit you not my friend," how her pussy was so stank that they wouldn't let her into her regular bars anymore, and that G once had to drive her from 21st & Burnside on the west side out to 169th & Halsey.

"And the whole way there and back, I am thinking to myself, 'G you ugly dick motherfucker, you will never take an old woman with stanky pussy again. I can also not get the smell to leave for hours"

Anyway, it was both fun and appalling to hear an old Greek man say "stanky pussy" about 50 times, and discourse on his theories of feminine hygiene. He was obviously very excited that he had someonewith him who also knew how horrible certain types of old lady smell can be.

"This is the thing," G says to me, "these people, they have no fucking idea the assholes we deal with. They might think they fucking know, they might watch these fucking idiot shows they fucking watch, but these people do not know what it is to be in car with the stankiest pussy in history of the fucking world.

"Man, I just hope that [my two superintendets] understand."

"They will understand Crabbie. And if they don't understand and give you hard time, tell them to come fucking talking to me. I will explain to them. I will explain about the stanky pussy and how bad it is."

So there you go, I'm back on the streets. This was taped
to the dashboard of my new regular cab on Saturday nights:
Cops, etc. story in the next day or two.


Chasing the Trane

Last night was almost completely unremarkable in terms of making money. Honestly, it just straight up sucked for a Friday. Thankfully I made Friday money on Thursday night, so it all comes out in the wash.

It's only gotten tangential reference here before, but the radio plays a very large role in my work experience. It's my only steady companion - the cab actually has a customer in it only maybe half of the time, on a good night, and often times they aren't all that talkative. So I love my public and community radio stations, and Portland is blessed with one very good one (KMHD, 89.1 - jazz, and blues on Friday night) and two extraordinary ones (OPB, 91.5 - NPR and local programming, music for a few hours at night & KBOO, 90.7, community radio with music at night). I have all three of their nighttime schedules pretty well memorized at this point. I give pretty generously to OPB & KBOO, as they both make my working life drastically more enjoyable.

KBOO, especially, I love to death. And tonight reminded me why. I started off listening to KMHD's blues programming, which typically carries me through Friday nights given lackluster offerings by KBOO & OPB. Around 11, though, I'd heard just one too many a white woman with an unimaginative back-up band pretending to be Odetta, and thought I'd see what was cracking on KBOO.

What was cracking on KBOO was John Coltrane's 80th birthday party. All Coltrane, all the time, 'til 6 AM - no commercials.

I love Coltrane. Too many jazz fans, in my opinion, intimidate people and scare them off of the music. Their obsessive fetishization has created, in many people's minds, this mystique around the music that really pisses me off. These guys (and they're typically white guys) go on and on with their catalogues of sets and recording sessions and their over-lengthy discussion of composition and improvisation that potential listeners get scared off by this concept of jazz as very important, intellectual music that puny mortals can never hope to grasp. When I'm playing jazz in my car, everyone always tells me how much their father loves it, but that they just don't have the time to get to know it.

Fuck that shit. It's music, and you shouldn't have to study it and obsess over it to listen to and enjoy it.

I'm not trying to make music I love seem trivial, but I do feel like jazz needs to be de-mystified in order for it to remain what it was for most of its existence - a popularly produced and consumed music, not a distraction for intellectuals and elites.
Anyway, the guys at KBOO, god bless them, seem to have pretty much the same attitude (unlike KMHD, which just went ahead with blues). I love Coltrane. "Alabama" is one of the most movingly beautiful songs I've ever heard. "India" is some of the best psychedelic freakout music ever. And he covers the gap in between with amazing dexterity. And his sound - the thing about Coltrane is that when you hear him once, you can always recognize him when you hear him again. Even the drunk-ass punk-rock band I picked up at 4 AM could peg him immediately. There simply never was (or will be) anybody who sounded like him.

I could go on and on about him, but doing so would probably only serve to play into the same mystification process that I decried earlier. I'll close by saying two things: he made what could have been a supremely annoying night delightful, and that he was, for my money, the most divinely inspired musical genius since Bach. Whether one is particularly spiritual or not, it's impossible to listen to Coltrane, or read his liner notes, and not be acutely aware of his sense of an engagement with the divine - of a relationship with a living, breathing, and immensely loving God that dwelled not in the clouds, but in music and people.

I love him for this, just as I absolutely love Mingus for his conjuring of "soul."

Okay, that's enough out of me. The point is that cabbies listen to the radio a lot. Tomorrow or the day after, I'll tell the story of what happened Thursday night. Just so you know that I'm not getting soft or too boring: it involved the police, the switchblade, hip-hop, open containers, and a casino.



It's so much easier to flag a cab here. I love it. After getting some pho, I just step outside, engage in some controlled cigarette smoking with the ex-marine (we'll give him some more dignity and call him J), and stick my hand out when I see a cab. Perfect.

I basically have the same interaction with G, my driver, as I've had with every other cabbie since I've been in town. How's it going? I drive one of these down in Portland. Talk about money, both going out and coming in. Mutual amazement/disgust with Seattle medallion prices. Discussion of how my company works. Seattle driver is impressed. We arrive at my destination, and I tip 50%.

Except... G is very excited to hear about the cab business in Portland. His best friend had been a cab driver in SeaTac, but is now a pastor in Portland. This friend has always told G that if the business is good in Portland, he should move down there. And now some white kid in the back of G's cab is telling him that the cab business in Portland is, in fact, a little bit better than in Seattle. Not only that, but that it's easier to buy one, and that at one company there are several other significant perks. Besides, Portland is a smaller city and there's not as much crime.

G is now very excited. He'd thought about moving before, but he hadn't wanted to. He's spent nine, ten years getting to know Seattle, "What for to move?" he asks. But now he's hearing about a pretty good deal, and asking me about housing prices. How much to buy a three bedroom? I'm clueless in this regard, but say that he could probably get something in a decent neighborhood, not too fancy, in the mid 200s. This sounds about right to me, given conversations I've had with others, but it isn't based on anything empirical.

"What do you think, should I move down to Portland?"

Suddenly I'm feeling a little sheepish. I do not feel in any way qualified to be telling East African immigrants, who apparently have families, about major career/life decisions. I'm trying to remember if the East African community in Portland is mostly Amharic or Tigrean, Ethiopian or Eritrean, etc. I'm not remembering, and I have no clue where G falls into all of that. I have no clue whether my superintendent would hire him - on the one hand he has plenty of experience and knows how to use our dispatch system, on the other his English is very heavily accented and not quite fluent. We have immigrant drivers, but all are easily intelligible and conversant in English, and the super turns away about 10 drivers for every one he hires.

"I think you should come down and check it out before you make any major decisions," I tell him. I explain to him that my company is pretty much the only one he'd want to work for - maybe our largest competitor, but that he probably would be making a little less money as a lease driver with the competitor than he is now, and that I don't know if ownership there is as good a deal. He'd also be making less as he learned the city, though I explain to him that Portland is much easier to learn than Seattle given the fact that it was actually well-planned and that the roads form a grid.

He asks for my card, and I give it to him. He's a little taken aback by my card's... unusual graphic design, but still smiles as we shake hands. I tell him to call me any time if he has questions. Part of me's excited for him to call and for me to help an immigrant take a step up the ladder, another part's scared that he will, and end up moving down to Portland and somehow getting screwed.


My Man

I took another Seattle cab on Sunday, and finally met what appears to be my Seattle equivalent. Young guy, East African, makes exactly as much as I do, listens to dancehall while driving because it's the only good thing on the radio. He kept calling me "my man," which I found kind of creepy as the combination of the phrase and his accent served to remind me a great deal of the Iraqi interrogator in
Three Kings. Up here they pay their lease by the week (like most companies). His brother owns the cab he drives, so he only pays $380, but most people pay $405. He was impressed that I make as much as him while paying a higher lease, and by the freedom I have of not having to pay for a full week.

I'm really enjoying being on vacation. The more I think about it, the less excited I am about buying a cab. Is this really a business I want to commit to? I basically want to work at it for a year and save up enough money to finish my degree, and then have it as a part time gig while I'm in school. Of course taking a week and a half off to cruise up to Seattle and spend hundreds of dollars on music and omelets isn't bringing me any nearer to that goal.

I also had a cab driving dream last night. The dream was that I was up here, except that I was also driving a cab up here to help pay for the trip. It was really nerve-wracking for me, because Seattle is laid out in a really absurd way and it's not a town I know very well. I kept getting my fares lost, but I'd be cool about it and knock money off the meter, and they weren't getting too worked up about it. I had one group of people - two men in the back, and a woman up front. I was faking my way through it, but took a wrong turn and had to turn back around. The woman was very beautiful, and pressed up against me. She held my hand as I reached to shift gears (the cab was a stick, which makes very little sense). I felt a great sense of comfort and arousal, and she was starting to caress me right when my friend woke me up to fix him some tuna.

Not a whole heck of a lot else to report. I've met some great people. I've been listening to a lot of the music I bought over the weekend (10 CDs!), and really loving that. Speaking of which, I've added a link to Soriah's site (the logic being that he's another cab driver). I also added links to Through a Windshield, Darkly (a cabbie in some cow town down south who writes a blog I like a lot), and The Blanktop Diaries, which is a hilarious blog by a call-taker (NOT a dispatcher, they're two very different things) in Northern Virginia.


Tool of the Trade

I've taken cabs here in Seattle each of the past two nights. Good guys both times - in each instance they knew I was from out of town and didn't drive me around. The guy tonight even took an effective and not very obvious shortcut to avoid baseball game traffic, even though it was a short trip. Talking shop with both of them, they were pretty amazed by how much on it my company is compared to theirs. Both drove for the largest cab company in Seattle (imaginatively enough, it's called "Yellow Cab"), and despite being in a bigger city and paying lower leases, make significantly less than I do.

And I don't even have a family to support back in South Asia.

That's really about it so far as Seattle cab insights go - when I end up riding in a cab by myself, the driver end I always end up just talking business, and that hasn't changed now that I'm out of town. No war stories, just money. The guys up here use the same MDT as we do, but the "soon-to-clear" function seems to have either been disabled, or isn't that important, or I've had dumb drivers.

Today a good friend of mine gave me a really nice switchblade. I'd post a picture, but didn't bring the USB phone to computer connector, so you'll have to wait. I was actually pretty psyched at first, as I'd been thinking/planning on getting a knife to have around for work. Now that I do have one, the whole idea has become apparent in all its macho boyishness - if there's ever a situation where the knife would maybe come in handy, it'll also likely be a situation where the other guy already has the drop on me anyway. It's like a gun - how would introducing a knife into the situation improve things at all?

Coincidentally, from our window at the 13 Coins while eating a 3 AM meal (would you call it breakfast?), my friends and I saw two extremely drunk kids who'd just stabbed a guy get the shit beat out of them. Well, not literally, but there was literal ass-kicking involved. And heads getting slammed against cars, etc. Believe me, these two kids got fucked up . Stumbled off with blood just pouring down their faces. Then we got to watch the guy who'd been stabbed bleed all over the place and get carted off by the paramedics. The sidewalk outside was just covered in three different people's blood.

Once outside and surveying the damage, I found my reaction instructive. My first reaction was to notice the very displeased looking Nigerian janitor leaning against the wall, and to feel an instant empathy for him. The second thought was that if I ever got stabbed, very few of my friends would react by immediately unleashing a furious and effective beat-down on the perpetrators. They'd certainly be helpful in terms of calling the cops and tending to me, but they wouldn't start slamming heads into doors and leaving the victims looking like the cover of an Andrew W.K. album. Which is kind of a shame, it would probably be useful to have some friends who can crack skulls when the situation calls for it. The sad fact of the matter is that I'm probably the hardest cat I hang with, and that's not an attempt to suggest that I'm some bad-ass. My ex-marine pal up here in Seattle definitely has my back in a fisticuffs kind of way, but my experimental musician friends in Portland? Not so much.

Also tonight at the pfestival I got to see a set by Soriah (above), who's an amazing singer, friend, fellow cab driver, and just plain hell of a nice guy. I'll be on his next album, which is both exciting for me and something I feel safe in divulging given that there are a number of other collaborators on there. Buy it when it drops, supposedly early winter of '07. I'll post a link when I'm in a wi-fi zone I can use and actually have my computer on me.


On the Road

I'm coming at you live from exotic Seattle, where I'm attending the Wooden Octopus Skull Experimental Musick Pfestival and having to use a friend's computer that doesn't seem to allow all of Blogger's idiotproof tools for the HTML retarded (like me).

So you're just going to have to google shit if you want links or whatever.

Tonight, after a wonderful 12:30 AM at the 13 Coins (one of my favorite restaurants in the country), I tried to strike up a dialogue with one of my cab-driving comrades in arms parked outside.

Suffice it to say that I now completely understand why some of my customers are so thrilled that I speak somewhat fluent English. What homeboy and I had ourselves there was a failure of communication, not a conversation. I'm not at all trying to come off on an anti-immigrant tip - anyone who can recognize an address and drive a car safely is a perfectly competent cab driver. But many people seem to expect a conversation as part of the package, and that's pretty difficult to do with someone who can barely discuss the rudiments of his business with someone else in the same field.

About the only thing I did manage to find out from him is that a medallion is now up to 185 grand in Seattle. Fuck that shit. Just another reminder of why I don't think I'd drive cab for any other company in any other city. The deal I have is so sweet for this business that it's important to stay grateful for it.

Another thing I've been thinking about is what this blog should be, content-wise. It was conceived of strictly as a way for my friends and family to read about all those "crazy taxi stories" they were sure I'd have. As those people don't really seem to comprise a significant portion of the readership, what are those who read the site interested in?

At least one person has mentioned a desire to learn more about the mechanics and behind-the-scenes type stuff of the job. Are others interested in restaurant/location reviews? Social criticism and societal trend type stuff? I don't have a proper digital camera, so that's basically out for now. I'm just throwing out ideas, here. I like the idea of just sticking to stories, but haven't really been doing so for a while, due to both a lack of good recent ones and funneling many of the better ones in other directions. I feel like I should both keep the blog updated semi-regularly and its entries semi-interesting, which is why I think I've ended up doing more editorializing in the past few updates, as the material itself seems so boring.

Let me know what you think.


Good to Go

Last night I got a call to pick up at one of the supposedly trendy, yet incredibly antiseptic, townhouses that have started to sprout up in inner Northeast between Fremont and 84 and Williams and 20th. Out of this one spilled five very drunk people: two white men in their late middle-ages, two white women of a similar age, and an Asian woman in her mid-30s. They were all dressed very well (actually half of them weren't dressed very well, they were just dressed expensively).

All five of them piled into the cab and immediately started screeching and shouting and laughing very loudly. After a minute or so of this, the din briefly subsided enough so that I could ask them where they were going, a question that seemed to surprise them Northrup Station, an architectural disaster of a boutique hotel in Northwest Portland. Very pricy and very tasteless, it really was obvious enough that I shouldn't have had to ask.

They contiuned carrying on very loudly and in high pitches, some conversation about the mini-social controvery surrounding one woman at the party turning down a piece of cake offered her at the party, and how that piece of cake was turned down, and did you see her face, etc. I was driving down Broadway to cross the bridge, very much looking forward to the trip's impending end.

A camera flash went off in the car.

"Please don't do that again," I said. This made no dent - the conversation continued, and I obviously hadn't been heard. Much giggling and screeching from the women in the back.

"I said, do NOT use the flash again in this cab. Is that clear?" More loudly this time, very much in my "stern parent" voice. This at least drew their attention to the fact that I'd said something, and that this something was not said in a proper tone for the help to use.

"Ex-cuse me?" asked the Asian woman, "I didn't quite get that."

"If you fire that flash off one more time, I'm kicking all of you out of the cab."


"Take another picture and you're walking."

Dead silence. The gruff, take-no-shit disciplinarian stance is almost always effective at getting drunks' attention and cowing them into sheepish good behavior. The only time it's ever really failed me was with the guy who wanted to fight me.

These folks, however, were obviously not accustomed to being treated like, well, the obnoxious drunks they were. After a twenty seconds or so, the Asian woman finally retorted with "Well, you could have been more polite." I'm horrible at coming up with snappy retorts on the spot (though, like most, excellent in hindsight), and didn't feel the need to explain myself to her, so I stayed silent. Eventually the conversation and screeching in the back started up again, though at a slightly lower volume.

When we arrived at the hotel, I quoted them the $13 dollar fare. One of the middle-aged white women handed me a ten and a five, and they all got out of the cab. Still annoyed with them, I asked if she wanted her change back. One of the men, a skinny little guy with a mustache who seemed to be with the Asian woman snapped "yes," so I gave him back two ones. As he was closing the door, he sneered "and you need to learn some manners."

"And you need to grow a brain," I mumbled, and put the car in reverse. Despite my lack of ability with on the spot comebacks, I'm also almost utterly incapable of allowing anyone else to have the last word.

"What did you say?" screeched the Asian woman, sticking her furious face in the window.

"I said that you need to grow a brain." (it's worth noting that throughout the following conversation I'm speaking in an even and measured tone, the "Dad's so mad that he isn't even acting outwardly mad" approach that my father used to great effect in my youth)

"I never!"

You know that we have your cab number and can call you in," snapped the man.

"That's great, it's cab number XXX. You guys just need to accept that you were being idiots and incredibly unsafe, you have no basis for getting so worked out."

"You need to be more polite!" the woman, again.

"Do you have any idea how insanely dumb that camera stunt was, or how insane you're acting right now?"

"Insane, you think I'm insane? Well I think you're a little boy."

This was feeble enough that I was able to pull out of the hotel without further comment. I told the dispatcher that she'd probably be getting a complaint about me, and what had happened. I will get in absolutely no trouble for this incident, no one will blame me for being displeased with drunk people firing off a flash in the car.

Still, it ate at me for a couple of hours. I kept thinking of all of the ways I could've tried to make myself clearer to them: "Look, you wouldn't be polite to me if I came in and started flashing lights in your eyes and screeching like a wounded raccoon at your job masturbating horses, right?" etc. The main thing that got under my skin about it is that I tend to be incredibly polite with people who aren't being complete dicks.

Last night, for example, I also had an extremely drunk woman who kept talking to herself, didn't give me an address, wanted me to cut her a deal, gave me three different sets of directions, and was basically in a state of alcohol-induced psychosis. I was extremely polite to her, and got her where she was going without running up the meter. She asked for my card at the end of the trip (I told her I didn't have one) Same with another guy who was so drunk his speech was just one continuous slur that lasted the whole trip as he constantly gave me directions on a very easy and obvious route that anyone living in Portland would know, then didn't have enough cash to pay so he had to go inside to get more. I was really nice to him, and got him home safe, and he gave me a hug at the end.
Now another guy's springing to mind who I couldn't stand, but was so polite to that he gave me a $10 tip on a $12 trip. And he lived in a dump. Three incredibly aggravating customers, and they got the whole "sir/ma'am", patient and understanding treatment.


Because they weren't being grossly obnoxious and inconsiderate. They were annoying, they were drunk, and they didn't have their shit together at all, but they were still as polite and reasonable as possible, and in both cases even apologetic for being so drunk.

And it's not that I've got something against rich people or don't know how to interact with them, either. It's not at all infrequent for me to take wealthier customers to the airport early in the morning - I often like them, and they often like me a great deal. I'm fully capable of being charming, polite, and full of pleasent conversation. Hell, with all of the opportunities I was given at various fancy colleges and prep schools before I drank myself out of them
(I initially ended up in Portland to attend Reed), I'm a lot more accustomed to dealing with the rich and "cultured" than I'd probably like to admit. The main thing I've learned is that rich people are just like everyone else: most of them are perfectly pleasent, and some of them are self-absorbed jerks.

I don't know why these assholes bothered me so much. Probably for the same reason I hated Reed and the fancy New England boarding school - the self-absorbed jerks that are rich bother me because they have their money to fall back on as evidence to themselves that they're superior to me. I'd always been able to put bullies "in their place" until I got exposed to the privileged jerks, who seem to possess a special and unshakable awareness of their own exceptionalism that I'm probably jealous of.

Well that's enough semi-public self-psychoanalysis for the morning. In other news, I'm going on vacation for two weeks starting today. I'm taking the laptop with me, and will try to keep this updated with selections from my arsenal of older stories.

Also, this morning while cashing out my charge slips, I had to pay $78 and change to cover my "accident." I guess the lady liked the idea of getting some free detail work done, and thus my righteous indignation over my interaction with the Safety Board is a lot less warranted, as I cost the company about $375 (minus my $78, so $297). It wasn't that big a deal, although now that I think about it, it's kind of bizarre to be taking in enough money now that I'm shrugging off unexpected losses that large.

Which reminds me: this guy did, in fact, promptly come in to claim his T.V. and pay his money the Monday after the incident, which makes him a fucking champ in my book.


Vasoline Alley welcomes a tourist

Friday night was hot fire.

Due to locking my keys in the car, again*, taking a shower, and going to a meeting, I only worked about seven hours. Business was kind of slow for a Friday night, to boot.

And I still made as much as I do when I bang out the whole shift on a weeknight.

I try not to talk too much about the mechanics of my job, as I understand that it's not very interestirng (and the specifics unintelligible to someone who doesn't work for my company, or at least know its zone map). This blog is supposed to be about telling specific stories about my interactions with my customers. Still, Friday night was one of those nights where I was just at the peak of my game, and the feeling of being in a zone like that is terrific. I talk way too much about how good I am at my job, and that's both boring and self-indulgent.


The nights where I'm making all the right decisions with the MDT, making my fares laugh, and picking the right routes, where everything's just falling into place perfectly and the money's rolling in at a great hourly clip while I know other drivers are sitting on their asses - those are the nights where I'm just absolutely in love with having a job that can be so much FUN. It's why I still drive a cab, and thus why you occasionally get to read sleazy stories about fisting.

Not that much interesting happened in the way of conversation or passenger behavior. I had one young couple that were apparently in the carpentry-for-hipster-bars business. They spoke incessantly about the bars they'd made and were making, using completely incomprehensible jargon. My complete bewilderment and disinterest in their conversation is why I resist talking about "soon-to-clearing," "temp offing," bidding, when to accept trips from adjacent zones, when to start and turn off the meter, etc. It's endlessly fascinating to people who know and care about such things, and very much not so for those who don't.

The other somewhat interesting passenger was pretty hilarious. I dropped off a guy who'd just gotten off his swing-shift job at the Roxy, a 24-hour diner downtown on Stark. Across the street is Jake's Crawfish, a restaurant/bar that's very popular with tourists and people with relatives in from out of town (I've honestly never picked up a party solely comprised of locals at this place, nor has anyone I've thought to ask).

Almost all of the other businesses for three blocks are gay bars or bathhouses. This section of the street's nickname is "Vasoline Alley."

While filling out my trip sheet, I was anxiously flagged by a white man in his mid-to-late fifties. He was wearing a t-shirt that said "HOMELAND SECURITY IS A GUN IN MY HANDS." Instead of being a solid color, the letters were comprised of red, white, and blue stripes. The guy also had a significant pot belly, a Wilfred Brimley white mustache, glasses, and a baseball cap with a bald eagle's profile on it.

He ran to get in the cab, and told me to take him to Jubitz, a massive truck stop out on Marine Drive. He was really drunk, and the whole way there he kept talking about how "I ain't never seen nothing like it." I kept trying to coax out what exactly he'd seen, but all he kept saying was "I ain't seen nothing like it. Not in Vegas, not in New York. The, the... they were young people! Young people, and they were just walking about out in the open, like, like..." then he'd just kind of trail off into a stupor. He was an airplane mechanic down from Alaska, and he continued to be loudly adamant that he had never, ever seen anything like Vasoline Alley. "This city is a strange place, a very strange place," was the other thing he kept repeating. When he got out, he told me that I should leave town as soon as I could, that's what he was doing.

I wasn't able to get the details out of him, but instead spent the rest of the night having great fun (occasionally with passengers) making up stories about what, exactly, the Homeland Security agent from Alaska had stumbled into that night.

I worked last night (Sunday), and would love to do some gloating about how much money I made, but it can get tiring to pat yourself on the back so much. There was a fun encounter that I'll relay some other time. For now, I need to sleep, as I'm probably working tonight, too.

*For those of you wondering how a fuck-up who manages to lock his keys in the cab twice in the space of about a month and a half still has this job, the answer is sex. Lots and lots of sex. My prohibition on sleeping with customers does not extend to my hottie of a two hundred and seventy-five pound, sixty year-old weekend superintendent.


That Makes Sense

Passenger: "So, like, where do you pee?"

Crabbie: "Trees and gas stations, mostly."


P: "Yeah, I guess that makes sense."


P: "There are a lot of trees around here."

C: "Yup, lot of trees in Oregon"

I wasn't lying when I said that work's been boring recently. Well, this job is so over-stimulating that it's never boring, especially given that my income is dependent on my level of activity, but I just haven't had much in the way of thrilling interactions or conversations.

I drove a drunk rich girl home who was really upset and emotional about her "best guy friend" calling her a cunt. In doing so, I got to take a back way up to Council Crest, so that was neat.

I also did a fair amount of work out in the western suburbs, which is also interesting to me, as it's a place I don't know very well. I'm starting to learn them, but I find both the lack of a grid and the people who live there to be annoying. Not obnoxious or particularly aggravating, just... suburban. I'm an inveterate city boy, I suppose.

So yeah, good times. I think I'm going to work tonight (Friday), so maybe some crazy blog-worthy shit will go down.