Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last night of 2008

I worked until almost 4 in the morning last night / this morning.

I had expected to wrap things up last night around 2am when I was to pick up one of my "jail guys" at his work-release job and return him to the jail, but no. He had called the Red Cab dispatcher and told him he wouldn't be ready until about 3am and would call if he was ready sooner.

At first, I thought that it would be stupid for me to wait around on a pretty dead Tuesday night until 3am for just a $10 fare, but I'm glad I did. One customer before I hauled ass on out to West Boylston Street to pick up "jail guy", I got a couple at Grafton Square Honey Farms. At first, SHE tells me that they are going to two different addresses. Then, along the way, she says we're only going to one of the two. The GUY pays, gives me a $20 for a $7 fare and tells me to keep the change. I hustled him out of the cab hoping he wouldn't realize he'd given me a $20 for a $7 fare and away they went and I left immediately. Those kind of tip situations are godsends because the tips pay for my gasoline.

Brooke had called me earlier and wanted me to wake her up when I got home because she said she had some things she wanted to talk with me about. "What?!?!?", my mind says. But at about 4am, I nudged Brooke awake and I was overjoyed to hear that she wanted to do some cleaning and home re-decoration if she was to move in with me. WHEW! Not like I was guilty of anything, but the "hey, we've gotta talk" line always inspires panic. She loves all of my weird kitschy crap that I've got allove the place, but feels that new wallpaper, cleaning, organizing would help bring out even more of the coolness and in the process, it'll make my house more of OUR house and I'm very happy about this.

2008 has been a very rough year for me. A tumultuous relationship comes literally crashing to an end. A very fulfilling solo-voyage to Rio DeJaneiro. The taxi business slowly spiralling downward. Meeting and falling head over heels in love with Brooke!!!!! Thanksgiving & Christmas with my new family (that being Brooke's family). Worcester Magazine cancells "Action Geek" after 135 comics in print. Lots of ups & downs. LOTS.

2009 is literally hours away as I type this thing up on a very snowy, cold Wednesday night in Worcester in my little Tatnuck Square abode. I'm very fortunate to still have a roof over my head. I'm lucky to have found a girl who truly loves me for who I am and wants a relationship that will grow & evolve with me. I'm still gainfully employed as a taxi driver even though money is tight and skimping is a necessity rather than just a little challenge... There are possible opportunities for my local editorial cartoon thing to continue on in print form elsewhere, but the details have yet to be ironed out. And I'm more inspired than ever to create my own style of artwork whether Worcester likes it or not.

Tonight... staying home, enjoying Brooke's company, downing some yummy beers (Southern Tier's Creme Brulee and Gemini and maybe move on to some Chokolat. Mmmmmmmm.), watch a little Dexter, maybe a Globe Trekker show on India and maybe even the Dharjeeling Limited movie. Nice and cozy and low-key, just the way I like it. Happy new year, to whoever's reading this.

Monday, December 29, 2008


It was the tail-end of what had been a great Saturday spent with my dad, my sister and my two nephews and I had a quiet evening with my girlfriend to look forward to when I foolishly looked at my e-mail. I opened up a letter from the editor of Worcester Magazine, a man by the name of Jim Keogh, who I've worked with at a newspaper called The Landmark years ago, and only since August of 2008 has been at the editorial helm of what's supposed to be the "alternative" newspaper in Worcester: Worcester Magazine.

In this e-mail, Jim informs me that my bi-weekly, twice a month editorial cartoon by the name of "Action Geek" is going to be cancelled. He tells me that the current publisher wanted to eliminate the cartoon immediately when The Landmark Corporation purchased Worcester Magazine back at the end of July and shit-canned most of its staff. But because of an impassioned impromptu phone call I made to Jim Keogh, not knowing of the publisher's desire to shit-can me as well, Jim decided to keep "Action Geek" as a part of the newspaper.

I had argued that if Worcester Magazine wanted to be "edgier" then keeping "Action Geek" only makes sense because in the comic strip, I'm a straight-shooting, no holds barred, take no shit cartoonist willing to say things as I see them, no matter how harsh the position I'm taking. And I've really come up with some doozies.

I argued that "Action Geek" was very unique in that no local newspaper around has anything like what "Action Geek" is. No one. I dare you to find a strip like mine. This isn't just slight bragging, but truth as well. Find a strip like mine. Isn't that the definition of unique?

I argued that not only was "Action Geek" a strong, no quarter asked none taken editorial comic strip, but also that no one else in Worcester does what I do. I drive a taxi cab 5 nights a week and create an editorial cartoon with a bite based on real life, real observations based on things seen, heard, experienced, thought about while in my taxicab. I've often invited Worcester City Councillors to come see the REAL Worcester by riding shotgun with me in the cab for a few hours some night. I've had a lengthy conversation with Mayor Lukes about real issues that were (are) facing my neighborhood and then she actually went and did something about it, that being an increase in police coverage in the Tatnuck Square area later at night. "Action Geek" doesn't just bitch about things, but actually has some small degree of "pull" in Worcester.

But "as we enter a new year, the idea is to start getting some new voices into the paper like we've been doing in the Arts and Entertainment section", says Mr. Keogh in this e-mail to me. "New voices". That's all fine and nice, but as I said before, isn't it UNIQUE to have an editorial in visual form (that being my "Action Geek" strip) by a local guy like me? The new additions to the Arts & Entertainment section haven't really made WoMag any more "edgy" than it was BEFORE the entire staff with the exception of Scott Zoback was fired and replaced by others. If anything, Worcester Magazine just continues to gut away all the things that COULD make it a real alternative, a real fun, creative, lively, essential read to Worcester people in general, but whatever...

This blog will be seen as just me whining.

There are those who have hated my strip for a long time (I've only done over 134 cartoons for Worcester Magazine, the first one was on Thursday, October 16, 2003) but continue to read it just the same who will be jumping up & down saying good riddance. So be it. I didn't do the strip to gain friends. I did it as an open, honest expression of my opinion on things. Maybe I spouted off stuff others didn't feel comfortable saying. Isn't one of the definitions of "edgy" - uncomfortable?

There are also those who will miss "Action Geek" for a while until it, like so many Worcester things, just fades into obscure memory of a few. I have a regular cab customer who works at Showcase North Cinemas who regularly reads "Action Geek" and talks the issues with me and from whom I've gotten alot of ideas from in return. Oh my god... a comic strip that helps to create an exchange of thoughts and ideas? Who woulda thunk?

This cancellation gets back to a general, continual Worcester theme in that talented, creative people who ARE edgy and opinionated and against the grain and not of the norm and who stand out and who don't care what you think and who will continue to create artwork regardless of what the bland mainstream majority think... creative people like this are pushed OUT of Worcester. The very things, the very people that Worcester NEEDS, Worcester rejects by way of its power brokers: the media, the hoity-toity arts event gurus who are accepted and venerated by their higher-up buddies in local government.

Want something in print and have used up all the local media in town? Good luck. You can try publishing something on your own and maybe make a little bit of an impact, but nothing quite like the impact you had through high volume publication on a weekly basis. The Worcester Telegram has no use for you as they are shrinking day by day into an eventual online only presence. Worcester Magazine continues to churn out weekly issues that I'm sure the average person breezes through in 15 minutes or less and then throws away / recycles, UNLESS there is some sort of mention of THEM in that particular issue, be it a review of their bar or band or restaurant or whatever... In City Times might be an option, as I, too, am being marginalized by the big boys of Worcester print media and therefore relegated to kook status for even daring to stand up for myself and defend my "Action Geek" strip as being a unique, vital editorial voice in Worcester.

And then there's the money end of things. I'm sure it's even easier for Worcester Magazine to wave goodbye to me when they can be saving $50 a cartoon, $100 a month by eliminating my strip from within their pages of mostly non-edgy fluff. Now they can bring in "new voices" for free. And now I can scramble around even more to figure out how the hell to support myself on even less money per month. Thanks, Worcester Magazine!

I'm anxiously awaiting seeing what they get to "replace" me as they have with all the other more talented folks that the newspaper has eliminated over the years. Brian Goslow should, by all rights, still be writing for WoMag. Hell, Phil MacNamara should be writing reviews of local bands in Worcester. There should be a whole back page devoted to local art / cartoonists, etc. There should be MORE actual, weekly coverage of what the hell our elected officials are doing down there at City Hall and to hold them accountable for their decisions by printing what each and every one of them is for or against or working on or whatever EVERY WEEK. There is no one who does that, as boring as it may sound, but through this kind of coverage, there can be more of a bridge between the average person and their local government. Imagine a local newspaper being actually ESSENTIAL to its population and helping to make it more informed and more a part of the whole process instead of what Worcester Magazine does right now which is just to create a weekly window into whatever that can be flipped through, easily ignored and then tossed out... back to reality again.

There WAS a time when a newspaper could have actual IMPACT on its environment, but as of late, it's easier just to be an easily palatable vehicle for advertisement instead of a hard-hitting, gutsy, opinionated, essential part of living where we live.

This cancellation came as a real blow to me. After I read this e-mail, I dashed off some rather harsh replies which will probably be replied with silence, but I don't care. That's the way Worcester's elite operate. When they want to get rid of that pesky fly that's been bugging them for some time, they'll do so with well chosen politically correct phrasing and cold emotionless sentances and end things with "even though you've done good work in the past" or "i'm available if you want to talk", etc. but what they're really saying is, "just go away quietly, okay?", which I certainly won't do.

After reading the e-mail, I ranted and pontificated and was very upset and my girlfriend told me that she's run into quite a few talented, creative types in Worcester who really feel that Worcester tends to repel rather than attract the creative. Places like Providence, Lowell, Northampton, Burlington, etc. all seem to be more accepting and nurturing of artists and of the stuff that makes for a truly "creative city", but not Worcester. The city I love loves to present obstacles instead of opportunities. And not just for me, but for all creative people. Only those whose work is so watered-down as to be non-wave-making, non-trouble-making, socially acceptable artwork... these are the artists that stay. Sorry if that comes off as being harsh, but it's true. And those artists with any edge to them whatsoever are pretty much called kooks and pariahs and relegated to the loony bin, brought out periodically like a zoo exhibit and then sent back to the sidelines.

I'll probably end up moving at some point. And I really don't want to, but Worcester's just getting worse and worse on so many levels.

After reading the e-mail, my girlfriend and I went out for yummy Vietnamese food at Da Lat. We bought a six pack of obscure weird beers (Devil Dancer and Breakfast Stout by Founders, Double Dog and Gonzo Imperial Porter by Flying Dog Ales, Optimator by Spaten, and Oatmeal Stout by Young's) at Mass Liquors on Chandler Street. We went to Showcase North and watched a crappy yet very stylishly produced movie (The Spirit). And then we went home, read some comics, and curled up together and went to sleep.

This cancellation won't kill me. It just reaffirms in me what I've thought all along about how things work in Worcester. And you wonder why I never really do any "happy" comics.

Action Geek cartoons in Worcester Magazine

Monday, November 24, 2008

awesome autumn Sunday

The day started off a little stressful as Brooke and I woke up a little bit later than we expected over at my house. Our plan was to catch one of the four feral kitties she has been attempting to rehabilitate over at her house and bring this kitty to Tufts Animal Hospital School place whatever by 10am to get "fixed". Somehow we were also to catch two more of the remaining 3 and bring them to way Western Mass where some folks were awaiting their new "barn kitties". The kitties were scared shitless and holed up in an old keyboard organ in Brooke's livingroom. It was nearly impossible to extricate them from their hiding place. It was nearly 10 and things didn't seem to be getting any better. By now, Brooke's roommate Rob was involved in trying to get the kitties out. I felt pretty useless and opted to go home and would wait for Brooke to call me so I could bring her & the kitties to wherever if indeed any part of today's plan was to happen.

I got home. I felt awful. I felt useless / hopeless and like I'd left a really awful impression in Brooke's mind of me. But then the call came. She & Rob had unscrewed the back of the keyboard organ and gotten two of the kitties out and we could proceed with the drive out to Richmond, MA. We apologized to eachother for being so stressed & nerved up. We lucked out and caught our favorite wordplay game on public radio and we listened to other fun local alterna-radio stuff as we raced on out westward.

We had a great ride on out the Mass Pike to the very last exit in Stockbridge, MA, exit 1. Brooke was using the map thing on her phone to guide us on in to where these kitty adoptees lived in Richmond. We drove around on roads like Stevens Glen, Swamp Road, Lenox Road, Turkey Trot Road... We arrived at the peoples' house on Dublin Road and we brought the kitties out to this very nice horse barn with a heated room where an older black kitty also lived. The ferals would start out in a metal cage for a few days until they adjusted to their new environs, but then eventually would have access to a whole new world including a hay loft, an entire barn, horses, etc. I was a little concerned about where we'd be bringing these little cuties, but this barn set-up was perfect!

We left Richmond and planned to head on up to North Adams for curry eats. But along the way, we found all kinds of other stuff...

We headed the wrong way on Rt. 20 and inadvertantly found a giant Beaver mascot character behemoth thing atop a wooden cart. The giant beaver was the mascot for a self-storage facility.

On Rt. 20 in Lee, we spotted RETRO POP SHOP on the left hand side and had to immediately turn around and investigate! Lots of old Coca Cola signage & products, old soda machines, dinette sets, croquet sets, coolers, salt & pepper shakers, signs, knick knacks, chotchkeys, doodads, ephemera... VERY fun place! Owner Pierre Duhon said he's try to hook me up with some inexpensive old cigarette machines that I could turn into art vending machines or something... His website may be nonexistant, but I will be returning to this very cool throwback in time kind of shop.

We were delirious with hunger and we refused to eat at a chain restaurant type of place. We headed further up towards North Adams, but when we came to Rt. 9, we opted to head towards Northampton instead as it was more on our way home and it was getting to be around 3pm or so...

In Pittsfield we spied a custom motorcar company with really cool vintage race cars, mostly Jaguars, very curvy and sleek!

Finally... we hit the outer edge of Northampton by Look Park. And then the Miss Florence Diner. We discussed our dining plans for two seconds, abandoned the curry idea and had breakfast instead at this quintessential retro diner...

All in all, it was an awesome day of driving, exploring, adventuring...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The High Cost of Damned Near Everything

I just sat in my car, in my driveway, for the past ten minutes, crying. I just spent $3 and some odd change on a dozen eggs (and not even the ones I wanted, but the white ones instead of the brown ones because the white ones were 30 cents cheaper) and a Jiffy corn muffin mix. In order to do this, I cashed in a little over $2 in returnable cans and had a dollar and some change in my wallet. My remaining change will go toward a postage stamp to mail out my measly credit card fee check for $5.00.

Before this sad little grocery store trip, I woke up over at my girlfriend's house. After she left for work, I got up, dressed, pet one of the feral kitties she's rehabilitating and proceeded on my pathetic day of bill-paying. I visited the bank first and deposited my car insurance money. Thankfully, after the $1100 mortgage payment that went through yesterday, I barely have exactly enough to cover the check I'm passing on to the car insurance people, who called me yesterday to remind me that my car insurance was just about to be cancelled if I didn't pay by Saturday (tomorrow).

I proceeded to dip into my cab driving change, dug up $20 to put gas in my car so I wouldn't run out, as I was driving basically on empty. I drove to the oil company and paid my entire bill on a budgeted out plan for $284 in cash. I inquired as to whether the recent drop in oil prices would effect my bill next month, and they said that yes, it would be a bit less next month. How much? I don't know, but less anyway.

Then I headed to Auburn to my car insurance office to present them with a check. They asked me how things were going and I was totally honest with them, that I had spent pretty much all of my money that I have to my name on bills this morning.

Tonight I will be cab driving to pay for either or both my phone bill and / or my cable bill. Last night's cab driving was pathetic at best. I could go into all the painful details regarding lack of jobs, pathetically sad people situations I had to deal with, conniving cab drivers, lying customers, etc. but I won't.

I had the windows rolled down as I drove home from the grocery store with my dozen eggs, Jiffy corn muffin mix and high hopes of making something yummy for breakfast. I had Oasis' "Wonderwall" playing and I was singing along at the top of my lungs for all to hear and I jusst didn't care. Listen to me belt it out. See if I care if you like it or not. Singing is free. I think.

I do have a secret stash bank account where I deposit my Worcester Magazine cartoon freelance checks in hopes that I might use the money towards something I really care about in life, like travel. But the way things are going, I'm probably going to slowly siphon off that account to keep the bill collectors at bay and keep me in my home.

Some people might say "you're lucky you have what you have". Some would just tell me to shut up and quit whining and if I don't like how much I'm making as a cab driver that I should get another job. Some would say that if I'm so desperately poor, why did I drop over $80 at the comic book store yesterday and I'd tell them that life can't be all about bill paying. I DON'T live high on the hog. I don't go out all the time. I DO work like a crazy person all week so that I can not only pay bills, but have at least a little something to make life worth living, like comic books or lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant or a beer from the import aisle to share with my girlfriend. But I really start to feel now how even these simple little pleasures are going to become very quickly unaffordable as the cab business gets leaner & meaner.

I am sickened by those having high tea celebrating historic suits of armor at City Hall in the mezzanine on a busy Wednesday afternoon while I'm slaving away, driving around like a crazy person, trying to make enough money to stay alive. You know what... it SICKENS ME that my real estate taxes are helping to pay for the umpteenth re-do / re-design / re-wasting of money on City Hall itself and the Common when really, I could use a break on my real estate taxes. Or better yet, instead of wasting money on City Hall Common, send everyone in Worcester who pays real estate taxes a check for $20 so we can go out and byt a 30 pack of beer. Ice skating downtown is a total waste of everyone's precious money. But no... they will continue with this project and other money wasting projects as I sit in my driveway crying over the fact that I bearly had enough money to by eggs and a fucking muffin mix.

Great start to the weekend and it's only 10:01 AM.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

older blog posting brought back to life...

This blog posting was originally posted on my MySpace account, but I thought I'd add it on to this "offiocial" Doug / Action Geek blogsite...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wednesday night cab driving in Worcester & abroad...

What a long weird night of cab driving...

At around 10pm I was getting a little pissed off because I wasn't having as good a night money-wise as I'd had Monday & Tuesday, but then I got a call to pick up some people at the Courtyard Marriott and they wanted to go all the way to Milford, MA.

I told the dispatcher and when I got to Milford, the dispatcher (Sue) calls back saying I have a fare / customer at the Milford Hospital Emergency Room who needs to go to Uxbridge for $40. That was incredibly rare! This woman at the hospital was a real piece of work - she was drunk, had been in a car accident involving her new truck that her abusive boyfriend had just bought for her and a 18 year old guy who was driving the truck for this drunk woman. It's all a big mess and I felt awful for this mess of a woman, but... So I headed back to Worcester after having gotten paid. I'm SO glad she didn't just skip out on the bill.

What really sucked about having these two great fares on a Wednesday night was that not only is Red Cab short on night drivers, but Wednesday is our big night taking Holy Cross College students to & from Irish Times bar. We can make ALOT of money transporting the kids to go out and drink... Well, when I got back to Worcester, I picked up some people going back to HC and raced back to Irish Times to pick up another pair...

This next couple, guy & a girl, the guy is REALLY drunk and rude and reeks of booze, he agrees to the $12 flat fee to go back, but complains most of the way that he thinks it's alot and alternately tries to make out with this girl who is alot more sober and really not that interested. She's on the phone and then trying to get drunk guy to notice her new shoes and I said something to the effect that "a way to a woman's heart is to pay attention / appreciate her style" and the girl & I could have had a pleasant chitchat back to the college about fashion,, BUT drunk guy gets enbroiled, wants to stop at the convenience store on the way (she tells him that he won't need to GET what she pretty much knows he's going to buy at the store, probably a condom), but I won't stop at the store, I'm going straight back to the college... The drunk guy verbally abuses me and then OPENS THE CAR DOOR WHILE DRIVING! I yell at the guy, immediately pull over and he gets out, she apologizes profusely, pays me, but not til after I go into my rant about how that behavior was totally inappropriate... Ugh... But I wasn't as phased as I thought I'd be, which is good...


Last call of the night... A Worcester Police request to pick up this guy at Park Ave & Stafford Street. He had been pulled over by the cops for erratic driving, drinking and possibly even picking up a prostitute or something. But the guy wanted to go back home all the way to Grafton, past the flea market AND he paid upfront and that was that...

A Friday Night Waybill - take 1

A "waybill" is a log of jobs, fares, customers as kept by a taxi driver. I list on this "waybill" starting destination, ending destination, charge account number IF this job is being paid via company account and the total amount of the fare.

As a taxi driver, you're SUPPOSED to keep a complete and thorough list of the jobs you've done over the course of the night. One reason for this is to keep track of where you've been and what you've been doing as you've been driving around, doing this weird job of taxi driving.

Another reason is one of liability. A waybill means I'm working. I'm not being sketchy. I'm actually transporting customers around and not selling drugs or being involved in other criminal activity. I guess I could make up all kinds of things for a waybill and still be doing whatever the hell I want, but the point of me personally being in a taxi cab driving around in the first place is to make money to pay my bills, to cover my expenses and to basically live life. Some guys sleep in their cab. Some are doing drug deals. Some are trying to pick up the "local talent". I'm working. Period.

So... Friday night... job by job...

Park Ave / Maywood to UMass Hospital on Lake Ave. Transported a young college girl clear across town to the hospital, cab ride paid for by Clark University. Later on that night, I lucked into getting this fare again going BACK to Clark. That's about $30 round trip.

Work release program jail guys going from the Holden Industrial Park back to the jail. Guys going from the jail to the Wendy's restaurant they work at. Later on, I lucked into getting the Oil Doctor work release guy while I was over by Lincoln Plaza and the job that led me there had cancelled, so I waited ten minutes for the jail guy.

After I dropped off the Clark U girl at UMass' ER, I picked up the large, strange dude who had tried to wave me down just before I dropped Clark U girl off. He was over by the bus stop and he was still there after I turned around to go pick him up. He said he was a "charge" (that his ride was being paid for by CHL - Community HealthLink) and I had this verified by the dispatcher. Okie dokie. The guy wanted to be driven to South Main Street. The weird part of this story - and the sad part, too - was that his "girlfiend?" had just gotten on a city bus heading towards City Hall and he wanted me to catch up with her. "Follow that bus!" Okay, whatever. He tells me along the way to City Hall, which was on our way to South Main anyway, that he had many ailments and life problems and this woman that we were chasing after was one of them. She is a drug addict. The hospital wouldn't prescribe her pain killers. She was pissed about this. She was pissed with the guy. She somehow begged for bus fare and off she was to score / find / obtain drugs downtown. Oh, and she's bi-polar, too, the guy tells me. We catch up with the bus and the girl and she looks semi-retarded and alot older than she probably really is. She's reluctant to get in the cab with the guy, but she does. She's belligerent, rude, foul-mouthed and both of them seem to be deeply entrenched in total dysfunction involving love, dependency, substance abuse, health problems, poverty and all this was going on in my taxi cab. I drop the two of them off BEFORE reaching our intended destination because the girl is now threaten to just get out of the cab as the cab is moving and I can't have that happen. I drop them off and away they go, off to whatever sad little world they occupy.

Real life - real, all too real life goes on in my cab. It's amazing, scary, heartbreaking, exciting, thought-provoking and right there in the car with me. This blog was supposed to be a blow by blow account of one Friday's night of work, but it';s really hard to do that when there is so much to say about each fare and how the fares as a list interact with eachother or relate to eachother.

I picked up a regular customer of mine over in Shrewsbury and was to bring her clear across town to Quinsig Village for a metting she had to go to. I was to come back and pick her up in about an hour and a half or so. Well, in that hour and a half, I just happened to get a fare at an elderly apt complex in Quinsig Village going to St. V's ER because of a persistent migraine headache. This elderly woman told me of her own volition that her now ex-husband had just recently split with her, that he had had a much younger girlfriend even before they got married and that his refusal to giver this girlfriend up is what tore their marriage apart. This elderly woman was on the verge of a tearful breakdown in my cab and there I was bringing her on a "charge account" to the Emergency Room where she's probably be waiting for in excess of five hours, waiting for some sort of help in easing her Migraine headache pain.

I lucked out and got two girls at the train station needing a $10 taxi ride to Holy Cross. They were from Boston, had no idea about getting around in Worcester. They were visiting friends at Holy Cross College.

I brought a Hispanic mother of two boys on a charge on over to UMass' ER from Great Brook Valley, a very large low income housing project that alot of people are afraid to go through.

A sporadic regular customer called me to pick him up on William Street and drive him to Ralph's Diner where he'd be seeing oldschool punk rock band Murphy's Law.

I picked up a regular customer at the Beechwood Hotel and brought him home to Barclay St. He works at the hotel. His wife works semi-across the way at the funeral parlor.

I got Mrs. B, an elderly woman who works at a grocery store and returned her home to near Lincoln Village. We had a conversation about how the local cable company was trying to screw everybody and about how they aggressively try to push internet services on an elderly woman living on the edge of utter poverty, living alone in a little apartment off off Lincoln Street, who barelay has basic cable to begin with and doesn't even own a computer. The ongoing joke per the Dispatcher that Friday night was to keep a metal track / note of how many different personal ailments Mrs. B complains about / brings up in conversation. Actually, this isn't as mean or cruel as it sounds. She usually DOES have quite a bit to say on the topic of ailments / aches & pains, but this time around, she only complained about her legs hurting as she made her way out of the cab. I always help Mrs. B by carrying her groceries to the door for her and opening the heavy cab door for her. This isn't required of me, but you know... a cab ride doesn't have to be drudgery. This old woman deserves these small bits of kindness / courtesy. AND, the faster I can assist her WHILE BEING POLITE & HELPFUL out of the cab, the faster I can move on to my next fare...

Semi-nearby, I was sent along with another cab over to an upscale apartment complex to pick up about 8 people all going out drinking somewhere. Cab 55 and I found the building, circled around it twice trying to figure out what door these folks would emerge from. I had just given up hope and was about to leave (cab 55 had already told me he was leaving) and the gaggle of people came out of the building. There were more than 8 of them and cabs can legally only take 4 passengers plus the taxi driver due to the number of seatbelts. Cab 55 returned. I told the passengers about the 4 passenger rule. They discussed this amongst themselves and some decided that they'd carpool in their own car and I ended up with 4 customers going $12 worth of a ride on over to the Blackstone Tap bar and cab 55 got no one. Big waste of time.

Much like how on Thursday night, my cab and cab 36 were sent to Hackfeld Street to pick up at least 8 people. We sat outside the address where college students were milling about, smoking, talking, deliberating who was going, who wasn't, what's the plan, oops I forgot something, hold on a minute, where is everybody... all kinds of bullshit. If you call for a cab, BE READY FOR THE CAB. Have your plan together. Don't screw around. I do this job for a living and in all seriousness, time IS money and if you waste my time, I am losing out on potential income. These Hackfeld Street college students, in the end, decided that no one was taking a cab and they had basically wasted the time of two taxi cab drivers. They called for two cabs again about ten minutes later, adter we'd already left. The Dispatcher asks me if he should send 2 cabs and I tell him of how disorganized and messed up and undecided these kids are and he thanks me for filling him in on this. Turns out that Yellow Cab had already decided NOT to send any more cabs for these losers going to a technical college for exorbitant amounts of money, but they haven't got enough brains in their skulls to figure out HOW to take a taxi. Idiots.

I could go on and on. And I'll tell more later, but it's my day off today. And as much as I enjoy cab driving and telling cab stories, I have laundry to do, food to cook, cleaning to do, a shower to take and none of this involves a taxi cab or any of this OTHER real life / real world stuff that I engage in every night. As much as all this real life stuff is exciting and interesting, it's also really tiring and draining.

Tonight I'm cooking dinner for my girlfriend. We'll be drinking yummy Creme Brulee cream stout. And later on going to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show with her family out in Western Mass. (Why doesn't Worcester do cool things like a weeks of scary movies before Halloween? Or a month-long celebration of spookiness? No, Worcester has stabbing incidents at 2:30 AM on Franklin Street. I guess that's as scary as Worcester can get...)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Birthday Present of a Friday Night

The night before my birthday this year went unusually well cab-driving-wise. I usually have a couple things lined up to do every afternoon, but I try to squeeze a couple of jobs in before 4:30 to make more of my lease payment before 7pm. One of my goals is to have my lease paid for, one way or another, by around 7 or 8. Not necessarily all in charges, but covered. So I got a fare near the cab lot going clear across town to Cambridge Street to the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Then right nearby on Southgate Street, I got someone needing to go to the Family Health Center at City Hospital. And then I went on to my regular schedule of things.

I bring guys who are guests of the House of corrections back from their work release job every day. It's a nice chunk of a flat rate job. The guys are nice to talk with. One tells me all kinds of awful, off-color jokes along the way. One guy often has assinine stories about him driving around, smashing up cars, basically behaving like a baboon. The jail guys are generally harmless. If they weren't, they probably wouldn't be allowed the privilege of a work-release job, which, after they finish their sentance, they may have the option of keeping which will help them pay their bills and stabilize their lives so that they don't end up back in jail again.

After dropping off at the jail, I sometimes have other jail guys to deliver to their work-release job OR maybe I go to Great Brook Valley to pick up someone at the health care clinic or, like tonight, I haul ass on over to the UMass area and pick up a woman who takes the cab to & from the train station. Miss D is one of my regular customers. I don't always get to pick her up at her research job, but we have good conversations about all kinds of stuff which makes this job all the more satisfying.

I lucked out and I got one more fare nearby the train and then I got to pick up Mrs. Kneeland who is a customer I first met on my first day of taxi cab training. Mrs. K goes to visit her son every day at the long term care facility he resides at. He is paralized and was rendered so as a police officer and was shot while in the line of duty. Mrs. K is someone who I've had conversations ranging from trips we've been on to relationship issues, etc. Great person to talk with. She's the kind of customer who I make it a point to get OUT of the cab, open their door for them, help them with their bags, etc. Her fare isn't all that much, but she's been taking cabs regularly for so long, she deserves that step-up of treatment.

I had a new regular customer lined up over on the Worcester / Shrewsbury line. This is a woman who goes to various AA and NA Meetings allover Worcester multiple times during the week. So tonight, I raced on out to pick her up and she was going clear across town to Quinsigamond Village for a meeting and needed to be picked up later. That's a solid $50 round trip!

I did $21 worth of work inbetween dropping her off and picking up again, one of which was a pair of people who flagged me down on Pleasant Street by the daisy Fresh Laundry. All they wanted was a ride up over the hill because they didn't want to walk it. $5.00. Whatever. More money in my pocket and a simple fare heading the direction I was going anyway.

I bid on and got a charge job going from Brittan Square over to the Umass Emergency Room. I kept reassuring this woman that I'd take it easy on the turns and wouldn't drive too fast and reminded her as to how close we were to getting to the E-R, for fear that she might vomit, ugh...

I lucked out and got a guy at Memorial Hospital's main door, ready & waiting to go all the way back to Shrine Ave. off Rt. 12 in West Boylston for an easy $20.

I bid on a customer over near Clark University who works at Centerfolds strip club way out over on Rt. 20. Now some cab drivers seem to drool over women who take their clothes off for money at strip clubs like they are going to want do do things for them or whatever. I see them as paying customers who need a safe, courteous, non-sketchy ride to & from work. If I DON'T hit on this woman left & right, which I wouldn't do anyway even if I wasn't in a committed relationship, I could conceivably get a regular customer who goes a long distance and doesn't skimp on the tip. Lo and behold, she calls me back at the end of the night, we arrange a pick up time and in the end, it's about a $40 round trip.

Skipping over some of the more mundane fares - not that they are boring people, it's just that they are shorter distance fares, quick pick up & drop offs, or hospital-to-lab package deliveries and not really worth listing off over and over...

I did get a random pickup character at Belmont / Edward, though. He kinda snuck into the cab and surprised me. Red flag right there. Then he tells me politely that he needs to go down Main Street around the PIP Shelter. Also a red flag. He gives me money up front at my request, which is good. Then he proceeds to tell me that he's a veteran (of what, I don't know) and that he's about to go back into rehab (for drug use, I assume), but his plan is to move back to New Bedford (bad idea) and tonight, he's going to have one last hurrah. He asks me how much it would cost for a cab ride out to the Worcester City Motel in Shrewsbury. I tell him about $15-17. Then he very politely asks me if I, as a cab driver, know where to buy some crack on Main South, as part of his "last hurrah". I don't know, and even if I did know, I wouldn't tell. He thanks me for my honesty. Pays his fare and away he goes into the night. Hopefully he makes it to rehab. Who knows, though?

Another weird situation... I'm sent out to Commons Drive in Shrewsbury, way out on Rt. 9, in the middle of pretty much nowhere, where if you ddon't have a car, a cab ride is going to cost you a fair chunk of change. I get this 20's-ish woman who tells me she's from New York City originally. She wants to go to Shrewsbury. "You're in Shrewsbury." Oh! Shrewsbury Street. "In Worcester or Shrewsbury?" Okay, in Worcester. Now we're getting somewhere. I run the meter, but just to show her how far $20 will get her - to the UHaul at the base of Shewsbury Street. Along the way, she's talking with her boyfriend in NYC who has previously hung up on her twice for, as she said, "her being annoying". She breaks up with this guy over the phone right there in the cab. Maybe this happens every week with this long distance relationship, but I'm starting to see how out of her element this 20-something grrrrl really is, in pretty much EVERYTHING.

I tell her at the $20 mark, where I stop the meter, that I will be nice and play tour guide and give her the Shrewsbury Street tour, BUT when we get to the end of the long four-lane street, she has to make up her mind as to where she wants to go, because I will have to move on to other taxi work. I drop her off at the end at Victory Cigar Bar / Allgos dessert bar and not five minutes later, she calls me back and wants to be brought back home. Okay, whatever. She basically has blown $40 on a roundtrip taxi cab ride to a street she asked me to bring her to, that is pretty lowkey on a Friday night. She really should have done more research before going out, as I told her. Will she in the future? Who knows. But tonight, she's wasted $40 for no real good reason. On the positive side, she at least got a cab driver willing to help show her around a bit and wasn't hitting on her left & right. And in the end, I got $40 out of this, so...

While dropping off way out in Shrewsbury, I had the sense to call the dispatcher and ask if there were any truck driver time pick-up jobs way out at the Econolodge or Days Inn or Comfort Inn needing to be brought to their respective trucking depots. Thankfully there was! A $15 Econo to Roadway job...

Around closing time, after returning my new Centerfolds regular customer back to her boyfriend and her apt. near Clark U, I park my cab on Park Ave around Club Universe (formerly Lord Vasil's 371 Club, also known as "The Numbers"). After a bit of waiting and watching of drunken chaos exiting this newly revamped nightclub, I get these two totally shallow, vapid, supermodel-ish girls (one of which wasn't even 21 and not even out of her teens AND drinking at Club Universe) who need to go all the way up Grafton Street near Sunderland Road which is a nice distance of a fare. Along the way, one of these two morons gets a cell phone call from some drunken dude trying to get them to go out to the Econolodge and "party" with him and his buddies. The girls don't exactly say "no", they kinda hem and haw and tease and flirt and are so ridiculous to listen to. They are so far removed from the normal customers I pick up. These are the "beautiful people", the ones with disposable income and not a clue in the world except they are gonna go out and party and "do" whoever they want and look all glamorous and fake and... UGH! I hate the sense of entitlement that these people - male or female - exude. I hate that THIS is what society seems to applaud and celebrate on tv and in movies and magazines and in music - the fake, the fast, the flashy, the RUDE, the attitude... ick...

I cap the night off with some lab-to-hospital package deliveries and then picking up some jail guys going back to the jail after a closing shift at a fast food restaurant.

Great night all in all. A wide range of customers and a good amount of money to help me cover my mortgage and other misc bills and fun money for my birthday weekend.

Oh yeah... I turned 39 on Saturday, October 4th.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A crappy, chaotic short night of cabbing

It's a Tuesday, so therefore it's probably going to be a slow night of cab driving and I know this, but I'm bound & determined to work five nights this week. I get 89 at around 3pm, say hi to Stefan the older Russian driver who drives 89 during the day and then proceed to load my gear into the cab: messenger bag full of reading material, cds, camera, etc., mini cooler with 4 Mountain Dews in it, my Newbury Comics metal lunchbox with change, cab forms, receipts, etc. inside of it AND my Code 4 kit consisting of a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flashlight, cutting blade, etc. Good. Done. Ready to go.

I sit about half a mile away at Davita Dialysis where traditionally I can score a pretty good fare right off the bat. But no. I wait. And wait. Wait some more. I bid on a job for Chadwick Square, right next door. Another driver says he's there, AT Shaw's Supermarket. I decide to check on him. I get there first. He comes roaring on up after me. I decide to LET him have his customer instead of being a meanie, DESPITE the fact that the rule of night driving is that whoever gets to the customer first, gets the job AND isn't "stealing" a fare, but better SERVICING the customer. Bah... Let 57 have his fare even though I was there faster. Back to my perch at Davita I go.

I get a dialysis customer as my first fare. He's heading to around Brittan Square. I see 45 sitting near Brittan, so I head back to Davita. Wait. Wait. Not a whole lot of work being dispatched. Tuesday is living up to its rep. I decide to head to Holden Center to pick up my regular 4:30 job at Holden Industrial. I sat there waiting for half an hour until 4:30 and then the rain started. And then my windshield wiper (driver's side) failed on me. It was missing a plastic thingie on one side that held the blade itself onto the arm and with one fell swoop it decided to slowly make its way off of the arm rendering it useless for clearing liquid off of my windshield, making it possible for me to see through it and avoid curbs, other cars, pedestrians and other immovable objects that might wreck the cab or throw my ass in jail. One of my "jail guys" assisted me in McGuyver-ing the wiper back to usefulness by ripping off the rubbery housing of the blade and using that material to tie the blade in place. Yes! Ingenuity! And it worked...

Delivered the jail guys back to the House of Corrections. Raced to 19 Tacoma in Great Brook Valley and got "Markita" (real name "Marisa", but someone mis-heard or something in the dispatch office) and brought her and her significant other to near Providence & Harrison (btw Coral & Penn, actually). Traffic was murder on 290. SO MANY FREAKING PEOPLE!

My next job was right around the corner at the Irving gas station on Grafton, going right around the corner for five bucks to Arlington St. Next... This proved to be my only CASH job of this very short evening.

I was sent to Millbury & Endicott to pick someone up, but even after circling around twice, honking twice and getting pissed off once, the customer had either passed out, changed their mind, already hopped in a cab, already transported themselves to la-la land and I was the sucker for even trying to catch the fare in the first place. Screw them. If the customer can't be bothered to be outside and ready for the cab they called, I have little sympathy for them. I show up in a timely, prompt manner and if they can't bother, well I'm off to help someone who can.

I lie on location. I say I'm at Shewsbury & Prentice for UMass hospital. I get the job. I go to the main entrance and get a weird dude with 2 full duffle bags and another bag and he needs to go all the way back to Murray & Wellington, back home. It's a charge. It's on the meter. Yahoo... traffic is GOOD in cases like this.

I get a kid from Youth Guidance on Belmont Street going all the way to Cantebury & Litchfield St. On the meter. Charge. Fine by me. But then...

I got a job going to Adcare hospital, picking up someone going back to Pleasant & Crown Street. Another charge on the meter except this time I have to physically go IN to Adcare, sign the log and retrieve my customer. Done & done. Customer gets in, says she needs to go to Abby's House on High Street. But I thought I was told to go to Pleasant & Crown. Nope. High Street. Abby's. Okay. Do what the customer says. "No, this isn't the right place. I meant Abby's House on High Street." But this IS High Street and it IS Abby's House. Nope. Wrong place. AND the rain has kicked in, the makeshift wiper fix has failed and I'm flying semi-blind, pissed off with a confused blabbering Code 4 customer telling me wrong info because she really doesn't know WHERE the hell she's going, BUT she has to be there by 7, in about 10 minutes, as I circle around and around trying to find her correct destination... AH! The Abby's on Crown Street. Whatever. Freakazoid bozo loser. I may sound unsympathetic but one should ALWAYS know where one is going when you set foot, ass, everything in a taxi cab. All this lady had to go by was an Abby's envelope with the incorrect High Street address. Adcare and Abby's failed this lady in getting her correct info as to how the hell to get home.

I'm really pissed at this point. My driver's side wiper is coming off. The rain is pouring down. I can't see well out the windshield. Gotta get the cab back to the lot. Of course the mechanics are gone for the night. I have zero mechanical expertise with anything. I'm fuming over not having a functional taxi cab with which to work, earn money legitimately to pay my mortgage and other assorted bills and now, thanks to a previous driver not reporting the wiper to be broken, I'm stuck without a means of making money for the night and I'm in a piss-poor rotten mood to boot.

I get the cab back. I leave two notes, one in the car, one in the key dropslot. I angrily tell the dispatcher I'm done for the night. There are no other cabs to switch into, nor should I HAVE TO do such a thing. The cab SHOULD WORK. Whatever. I'm off my rocker at this point. Freaking out.

I go pick up my personal customer in my own car. Talk with him a bit as I drive him to work. Then I head home to make some dinner. Leftover dirty rice and a can of chicken noodle soup. My girlfriend comes over. We cuddle, watch a movie together and have a great night together in eachother's arms. The craziness & stupidity of the previous 4 hours wash away and I can start fresh.

But I'll be damned if they get the full lease for a cab that failed me. But I digress.... At least I knew going into this that it was a slow Tuesday night and probably wasn't going to get that much busier. And now it's October 1st... 1st & the 3rd... checks being sent out and needing to be cashed, spent, blown, deposited, burned through, etc. and I'll be ready to drive the yahoos around...