Thursday, January 29, 2009

Paying for Other People's Mistakes

As much as I really wanted to work yesterday because I need the money, I'm glad that weather pretty much kept me at home all day. It was a well-deserved day of bumbling around the house (again) where I watched alot of Law & Order on tv, played quite a bit of Scrabble on Facebook and downed several bowls of Cheerios. Big day, huh? Oh... I also added a new item on my ETSY store, that being a special deal on any three old full color Action Geek 'zines. AND... the last of four Stereolab CDs arrived in the mail, used, courtesy of

But as for the title of this blog installment... I went to the cab lot a little early yesterday and was surprised to see my cab already there waiting for me. I loaded my gear in #89, parked my car and then went in to pay my waybill. There was a long list of names on the whiteboard, mine included, and a message that anyone on this list couldn't do any work until they saw Maggie or Stella in the office. Well, both were present and I asked what I'd done this time, semi-jokingly.

A little explanation... There are things in the taxi business known as CHARGES. These are taxi fares that are paid for by a charge account attributed to an insurance company or a hospital or a business or an individual. When someone sets up a charge account with the cab company, they are given an account number and they set up terms with the cab company regarding how much their fares will be. So, if I'm told to pick up Joe Shmoe at UMass Hospital on Lake Ave. at the Emergency Room on a 429 / run the meter, then I pick up Joe Shmoe, turn on the taxi meter, deliver Mr. Shmoe to where he has to go, shut off the meter and (when asked) tell the dispatcher how much the charge came to. There are some charges that are flat rates, meaning that I don't run the meter, but just take down the dollar amount that the dispatcher tells me to. These charges are subtracted off of my lease for that night. And just to make sure the point is clear... I WRITE DOWN EXACTLY WHAT THE DISPATCHER TELLS ME THE CHARGE AMOUNT IS.

So... I had to see Maggie about "corrections" on past waybills... amounts on charges that were inaccurate... amounts that invariably were lower than what I had gotten from the dispatcher and had written down clearly. Now, I OWE THE CAB COMPANY FOR THESE INACCURACIES. That's insane. They had about ten or so waybills with yellow highlighted changes, some of which I could dispute, but I ended up owing $24, $20 of which I actually had in my pocket, but that was about it! Maggie tells me something like "well, sorry Doug, but if we (the cab company) aren't getting paid the full amounts of these charges then how can we pay you the full amount of these charges". I rebutted that I had done my job and accurately wrote down what the dispatcher had told me and did my part of the job, but in the end, I end up having money taken away from me just the same because SOMEONE SCREWED UP.

Either I was given the wrong info in the first place OR... the dispatcher was given the wrong information OR... the account holders renegged on their deals and basically said, NO, this is what we're going to pay. Regardless, I did my job and now I end up paying for someone else's mistake and I think that sucks...

This happens all the time. One of the major reasons why WE as a world are in such a financial dilemma is because we are paying for other people's mistakes.

People were given loans for homes that they couldn't afford (multiply that times millions) and now banks and lending institutions are being "bailed-out" with collectively OUR MONEY.

People can't afford their own health insurance in Massachusetts so the governor sets up a state-mandated health insurance program that we ALL PAY FOR whether we like it or not. My insurance was cancelled a few months ago because the insurance program is fucked up, I can't even reach them by phone without spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone on-hold waiting waiting waiting. I tried e-mailing them and they just told me to call them, not e-mail them. And now I will be penalized financially for NOT having insurance because I can't get through to the insurance program that I pay for in the first place. Meanwhile, I give cab rides to people ALL THE TIME whose rides are paid for my this very same state-mandated health insurance program. AND, the state of Massachusetts can't afford this state-mandated health insurance program anyway, BUT like everything else, we keep it going just the same, keep paying for a broken machine that digs us all deeper in debt.

The BIG DIG project in Boston... huge amounts of money wasted on a system of tunnels and roads that, in the end, are faulty, in need of further improvements & repairs and that I rarely ever use and now... Mass Pike tolls are going up and / or gas taxes are going to be hiked to help pay for OTHER PEOPLE'S MISTAKES.

I have no problem paying my real estate taxes through my mortgage to help collectively keep the City of Worcester afloat. I'm all in favor of my tax money going towards services that we all collectively utilize, like emergency services, law enforcement, public works, trash pickup, etc., but somewhere along the way it's got to end. We are paying too much to bail out other people for their own stupidity. Where's that island I can move to?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Snowed-In, Bumbling Around the House...

One of the ONLY good things about snowstorm, snowy, snowed-in kind of days where you just can't get anywhere, it's too damned cold and it's just easier to stay at home inside in the warmth IS that I can spend lots of time bumbling around with all of my pop culture ephemera that my house is stuffed to the gills with.

I'm nuts about Micronaut toys from the 1970's to today... The one pictured above is one I bought just recently from the now defunct revival line of Micronauts created by Pallisades Toys. Pallisades came out with 3 waves of Micronauts toys / action figures that were reproductions of the original 70's figures that I was introduced to as a child in the late 70s. This one is rare in that it's design was based on an old Time Traveller figure, but tweaked a bit to become a "medic" to fix other Micronauts. Design was done by a big Micronauts fan Bryan "MicroBry" Wilkinson who I "know" through a Micronauts / Microman message board.

I listened to alot of cool, different music on Other Music's website. Other Music is a music store in NYC that specializes in everything that the big stores tend to only barely dabble in: world music, jazz, funk, electronic, old obscure weirdness... I actually downloaded 3 releases:

Various Artists - "Gozalo - Bugalu Tropical Volume 2" (full review, info etc.)
Vampisoul delivers a follow-up to the first installment of "Gozalo!" compilation that's every bit as good! Once again, the 28-track collection dives into late '60s Peruvian boogaloo, focusing on the output of producer Manuel A. Silvestre's MAG label. There's no lack of rolling pianos, blistering horns, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and plenty of spirited vocalists. If these tracks don't get your toes tapping, you don't have a pulse.

PIERO UMILIANI - "Tra Scienza e Fantascienza" (full review, info etc.)
"Tra Scienza e Fantascienza" is a bit of a departure from the cocktail funk of Piero Umiliani's famous song, "Mah Na Mah Na." Originally released under the name "Moggi," this is a killer album of Moog-heavy, science fiction grooves. Similar to the psychedelic, outsider electronics of Bruce Haack, "Tra Scienza" is chock full of dark, funky soundscapes that swing.

Various Artists - "Nicola Conte Presents Viagem" (full review, info etc.)
Subtitled "A Collection Of 60's Brasilian Bossa Nova & Jazz Samba," this comp indeed features much of the easy, breezy, jazzy sound that defined a good part of 60's Brazilian music. Expertly compiled by Italian connoisseur Nicola Conte, this one is not to be missed by any fan of South American bossa nova, samba or any music from the time in Brazil.

One of the best tv shows I've seen in a long time was on Sunday morning and rerun again Sunday evening on PBS: Rick Steve's Iran. I've been watching Rick Steve's travel shows for a long time and can watch them over and over, especial the Italian Amalfi Coast episode and the ones where he goes to Germany around Oktoberfest, but THIS episode was phenomenal. He'd never been to Iran before and it felt like both he and the viewers were learning about something / some PLACE completely alien to us. And it was a very uplifting, human feeling travel journey of understanding and meeting people and ALOT of what I had been told about Iran was washed away and replaced with even more of an interest in exploring not only there but EVERYWHERE in the world! I love travelling! Very addictive and eye-opening and brain-expanding!

and lest we forget... BEER... But not just any beer: GOOD beer.
And "good beer" at the Action Geek Compound tends to mean anything created by Southern Tier Brewery. There isn't a beer in their roster of creations that hasn't been totally awesome. My favorites though would have to include:

and of course,

On Sunday when Brooke's Dad and brother came over to fix the lock on the back door, I treated them to some Southern Tier Chokolat and then we tried this other Coffee Porter called "Meantime". Meantime Brewing is from out of England and the bottle was really different and cute, but the beer itself was not quite what I was hoping for. This is the problem with having had Southern Tier's "Chokolat" or "Creme Brulee" because those two are so incredible that no other coffee or chocolate stout really comes anywhere close to being as good. Even Meantime's website was a bit subpar. Oh well. That's the risk you take when you enjoy exploring different kinds of beers from allover the world.

Even though I hate snow and hate being stuck inside the house, at least there are still ways to make the best of it and have fun with toys, comics, cool tv shows, yummy beers, new (old) different music...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sickly Cab Driving Wednesday Night

I wasn't feeling well. Under the weather, literally and figuratively. It was like my allergies and an actual cold collided and colluded to create a massive sinus invasion of cosmic proportion. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, maybe a little, but I was sneezing and coughing and generally miserable on Tuesday and even though Brooke and I wanted to attend a Scrabble club meeting night thing, we opted to stay home and recuperate instead.

Wednesday, whether I wanted to or not, I was back in the saddle, ready to work.

Red Cab #89 shows up a little past 3pm. I immediately discover that now the horn doesn't work and that a driver of this cab between Monday night and now had decoded to scribble "89" on the steering wheel in ball point pen AND scribble some random note on the center armrest console thing. Other cab drivers I encounter just tend to be disrespectful slobs. Not all, but the ones who drive my regular cab especially.

I immediately got a job around the corner going to the Great Brook Valley Health Clinic on Tacoma. En route, I got a job AT GBV Health Clinic going clear across town on a charge.

As the clock approached 4, I headed to Abbott Research to see if I could get Denise going to Union Station on a charge. I sat in front of Abbott for about 10-15 minutes and when the job went out, I guess I wasn't heard. Cab #10 said he was AT "Plantation & Research" which he wasn't because I waited for him to arrive. I tried calling the dispatcher to let him know I was sitting at 100 Research, but he's not the type who likes to go back on what he's already assigned. Sets a bad precedent even if I really was sitting at the address, which I was. I say "hi" to Cab #10 when he shows up. I try to bid (unsuccessfully) on another nearby job and then I tell #10 as I leave that I'm "writing him up". He replies with a lovely comment about me being a "m-f" in his cab driver opinion. Liars abound... everywhere...

The rest of the afternoon is fairly typical & predictable. Jail guys going to & from the jail. I got several groups of students at both the Bus & Train at Union Station. The college students are returning from their holiday break.

Then I was sent to the OLD T-Station, around the corner from Unon Station, behind Pat's Towing to pick some guy up. Well, I went, looked around, circled twice, asked at Pat's... nothing. Headed back to the line of cabs outside the Train. Then, I figured I'd go check at the old T one more time... Success! I found him, but he was really drunk, still carrying a can of beer and loud as all hell. But he was a customer and he was going clear across town to the Knights of Columbus off Columbus Park, Minthorne St., etc. Very loud, very drunk, proceeding to get more drunk with his KofC buddies, but he did ask me at least a couple times if I thought he was doing the right thing by calling for a cab instead of driving his own car to the party. Of course I applauded him for his choice of calling a taxi instead of drunk driving. And then I realized that I'd had this guy as a customer before, leaving FROM the KofC (the first time I'd ever found this hidden away meeting spot off of Coes Pond) going TO Wildwood. Drunk then, drunk now, but a paying customer and NOT drinking & driving.

Got two guys at Rite Aid on Chandler near June going to Club Universe. Two dialysis patients returning home on charges. My regular going to Kelly Square. My regular going from home to the old Norton Company. Then things got weird...

I'm second in line at the Train at Union Station. These three guys bound on IN to the station and minutes later come back out, realizing that they can't get to the bus station because it's locked up. I guess they could have gone around to the other side and waited for the bus they wanted and bought tickets on the bus, but they weren't thinking clearly. They had to get somewhere and fast. One of them came over to my cab, asked how much going to Hartford, CT would be. Dispatcher tells me $200. I said I'd do the job for $150. They get in the cab and we head to pick up prescriptions at Walgreens and then head to Hartford, CT.

Three dudes who left Community Health Link's lovely detox center at 68 Jacques Ave. heading to Hartford, CT to score more dope and lay low in a hotel for the night and then get a bus back to Worcester the next morning. The ride down was fairly uneventful. We talked. I learned quite a bit about the life of an addict. I learned that Worcester isn't good for buying dope, but great for scoring crack. Things I really never wanted / needed to know, but... The guy in the front seat is about 5 years younger than me, is the guy with the good paying bricklayers union job with cash in hand, financing this little "adventure". He doesn't know these other guys at all, but once he realized that his stuff was slowly being "stolen" at 68 Jacques (he says he brought a Blackberry phone with him to 68 Jacques and when he tried to retrieve it, the staff said he never had one in the first place - cigarettes were being stolen from him and he was concerned about the $1,100 paycheck in cash that his friend had brought him) he had to get out of there.

Guy sitting behind me was the one who had connections in Hartford to buy dope and he knew the lay of the city, sort of. Guy sitting in back of front seat passenger was just along for the ride. All three were in the early stages of being "dope sick" and were very eager to hole up with a bag of dope and blissfully fuck themselves up until the next morning to return back to Worcester.

I felt sad for these guys, that their lives had whittled down to hanging on a substance and living at the very extreme margins of society. But I was wary of them as well. Anything COULD happen, but I kept my cool, talked with them, got them where they had to go... Unfortunately, once in Hartford, our first stop was to get the dope. Drug deals are almost always a disorganized, laidback waste of time unprofessional act of desperation. This one was no exception. We sat on Madison Street, off of Broad Street, waiting for some "friend" of guy sitting behind me to show up with the stuff. It's pathetic, it's cold and I was getting sick of hanging out with these bozos. Deal goes down, I reposition the cab to get a better view of the driveway that guy sitting behind me ran down to meet up with his associates. I turn the cab around, guy returns and we head to a hotel. Holiday Inn turns them down and reccomends the Crowne Plaza. We find the Plaza, I leave them there and high tail it on back to Worcester.

Snow was falling as I flew up I-84. I stop at the Traveller's Aid gas station at Ruby Road. It's actually really beautiful and quiet out at a little past midnight in the middle of nowhere in CT.

As much as these guys were sad & pathetic, they made my night financially. Cab driving is not supposed to be about profiting on other's misfortune. It's supposed to be about helping people and providing a service. I don't dick people around taking them the long way just to make extra money. I cut these guys a deal, did the job, was straight with them and then got the hell out of there. They're big boys and can either get into more problems on their own, perhaps overdose in the hotel or maybe come back to Worcester and clean up their acts and live better lives. But I'm just the guy driving them around for a price.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Blow Some Money On Advertising? Sure! (not)

So I receive this MySpace message today:

From: Ultimate Comics Group, LLC. (TM)
Date: Jan 8, 2009 7:36 AM

We wanted to know if you would be interested in advertising with us.
Our comics will be featured in the Enemi Entertainment catalog that is distributed to over 2300+ retailers and the comic is currently scheduled for publication in the July-Sept 2009 timeframe.
Our rates are as follows:
Full page Ad: $400 (7X10.5")
1/2 Page Ad: $225 (7X5.25")
1/4 Page Ad: $125 (3.5X5.25")
1/8 Page Ad: $75 (1.75X5.25")
Back Cover: $550 (Will have our Barcode on it) (7X10.5")
Inside Front Cover: $475 (7X10.5")
Inside Back Cover: $500 (7X10.5")
Thank you in advance!

To which I respond, probaby WAY too harshly...

From: ActionGeek
Date: Jan 8, 2009 9:40 AM

Um, no. Sorry. As much as I appreciate the offer, I'm having trouble just trying to figure out how to pay for a tow truck to help get my girlfriend's car out of the ice-covered driveway across from my driveway. Oh, and then I've got bills & the mortgage to pay. So, um, no, I guess I can't be throwing away money advertising my cartoons stuff right now. Thanks anyway.


And then Ultimate replies back surprisingly...

From: Ultimate Comics Group, LLC. (TM)
Date: Jan 8, 2009 9:48 AM

Understood. When things turn around for you, if you are interested in advertising in the future, let me know...just because you reached out to me, and we've established a dialog...I'll see if I can discount your prices...
Good luck my friend! Us small press need to stick together!

To which I reply back again, even more down in the dumps...

From: ActionGeek
Date: Jan 8, 2009 9:52 AM

Frankly, I can't even afford $35 to have 100 of my latest issue of Action Geek Black & White printed up. That's 3 sets of 100 2-sided black & white copied pages, 1 set on color stock. So I can only be online at the moment. And I can't wait until I have to decide whether to keep paying for internet or to buy groceries. I see that coming very soon. Did I mention that it just keeps on snowing & sleeting & icing and being crappy out so it's difficult for me to do my chosen profession, that being a cab driver in Central Massachusetts?

Yeah, us small press people need to stick together, but I am really starting to see pretty much everything falling apart.

Sorry for all the venting. You caught me on a rather verbose kind of day. Cheers!



Probably not the best way for me to have dealt with some comic book guy trying to keep his own proverbial shit afloat, but what I want to know is... WHO is actually MAKING MONEY these days? I'm not, that's for sure. Even when the cab business was doing well, I was still pretty much barely covering my mortgage and bills. Now that Brooke is living with me and helping out, things should be a little easier, but then NATURE decides to play games with all of us by hurling ice storms and snow storms and more than usual making it even more difficult for me to work and make ANY money at all.

Hell, I can't even get Brooke's car unstuck from the frozen driveway across the street from my driveway. I can't even shovel the plow crap at the end of my driveway because it's frozen solid. I can drive over it like a crazy bastard and perhaps cause more damage to my car that someday, somehow MIGHT get paid for out of some sort of "mystery money" that will magically appear probably thanks to the almighty, magical Obama regime soon to take office.

How do I pay for a tow truck to come over and help me get Brooke's car out of the driveway when I really should be paying my car insurance which is just about to be cancelled? Of course I'm going to help Brooke first and then try to work my ass off tonight to make more to pay the car insurance and then maybe start saving to pay the mortgage. It's just SO GADDAMNED DIFFICULT!

Some of you may be thinking, well, why doesn't Doug go get a better paying job? Doing what? Designing car ads again and being ultra-miserable? Oh, I get it... I could work for an AD AGENCY and have a "creative" job where I'm pretty much told that MY kind of creativity just isn't going to work, why don't I do the project THEIR way? Oh, and then I can be called NOT a team player because... it goes on & on... And it's not just my fault. The whole world is completely mixed up and I can only fight my little part of it, trying to keep my life free of excess drama, nonsense, crap, etc., but the hits just keep on coming...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Profitable Night Before Impending Ice Storm

Okay, so I KNEW that weather was going to be bad way later on Tuesday night into Wednesday and that there was a good chance that I wouldn't be working on Wednesday (today). I was, in a sense, planning ahead, all day by hustling my butt off trying to make enough money to justify me even moreso in NOT working during ice, snow, sleet, cold, just bad driving conditions.

My first job on Tuesday was a $30 fare going from Worcester to Oxford. I raced over towards UMASS for someone who I knew would be needing a cab to Union Station and then at Union Station I got someone needing to go back to UMASS' Emergency Room.

This made me a little late in picking up my jail guys in Holden heading back to the jail, but... And traffic on 290 connecting onto 190 and then on to Shore Drive and even on Main Street in Holden itself was INSANE. Everyone was freaking out about impending bad weather and getting home early or just being out on the road doing whatever it is they felt they had to do all at the same time.

Dropping off at the jail, I knew there'd be another gentleman needing a ride to his work release job. The dispatcher hadn't announced this job yet, I assume because as usual, the work release job had neglected to fax over the guy's work schedule. I radio'd the dispatcher, told him I had Jim going to his work release job, same standard account number, same price, same desination, etc. Dispatcher says he doesn't have this job listed and that Jim would have to have his manager contact Red Cab before he could authorize me to get paid for delivering Jim to his job. Total ridiculousness. Total lack of communication between this place of business and the cab company. And all this guy wants to do is to go to work. And all I want to do is bring him to work and make $10 doing so. And all the dispatcher wants to do is make sure SOMEONE picks this guy up and brings him to work. But sonewhere along the way, the work release job just isn't adequately communicating with the cab company and you'd THINK it'd be easy enough to have a week's worth of cab rides scheduled and planned for. But no.

And before anyone tries to tell me how easy this would be to do if we did this or that or whatever... All the work release job has to do is fax the guy's schedule over ahead of time. It's as simple as that. Oh, and then the dispatchers have to make sure to put the job out when they're supposed to, which 9 times out of 10 is never the problem. Bad communication can kill a business and get a guy fired for not being on time for work.

Anyway... all that drama... Then the dispatcher calls me and says I'm up for the "mini" which is a short long distance trip. I drive from Worcester to Southbridge to pick up a guy needing to return back to Queen Street in Worcester for $50. I call the customer, inform him that it'll be at least half an hour before I can even get to Southbridge and he's fine with that. And I'm just happy that he calls me back a couple more times as I'm en route just to make sure I'm still on my way to get him. I find the customer and thus embark on a long voyage filled with expletive-filled stories of being done wrong, about how he broke up with his crack-addicted girlfriend, how he's probably on his way to jail for his umpteenth Operating Under the Influence charge (and all the legal entanglements involved in that) and how he got screwed over by the sprinkler-fitting company he worked for for a million years... and on and on. This is one of those cases where I was sympathetic for a little while, but once realizing that the drama was NEVER GOING TO END, I just had to go along with it until I got paid for the job and got him out of the cab.

The deal was that I was to deliver him to Queen Street, he'd go up to his apartment (now locked up by his landlord), get his ATM card and I'd bring him to the closest bank and then return him and his belongings to Queen Street. When I found out about the plan, I was skeptical about whether I'd get paid or not, but in the end he gave me $60 and I moved on with the rest of the night of cab driving. But man... how do you live with so much ridiculous complication? Alot of people do and as things get more and more complicated, it gets harder to straighten things out. Or maybe it's just easier going with the flow with this safety net of immense complication and b.s. surrounding you. You can just let all the drama carry you on to wherever it takes you, completely relinquish control and... oh my god that sounds pathetic. Oh well...

I spent quite a bit of time waiting at Union Station for train passengers needing rides home. I took care of my regular customers. I got a random fare going from downtown Worcester out to the back of Quinsigamond Community College on Burncoat Street for $12 and we had a great conversation about all kinds of stuff.

When I dropped off one of my regulars at the old Norton Company, I got a job out in West Boylston going all the way to Quuinsigamond Village for a whopping $27. I was very psyched about this! Especially when you've been waiting outside of this darkened business waiting to see if your customer is even going to be there after you've spent considerable time hauling ass to get there to pick them up... When she got in the cab and told me where she was going, I had to use great self-control so as not to start doing cartwheels or jumping up and down like I'd just been called on down to Contestant's Row on The Price is Right.

The night went really well and I ended up banking enough to justify not working on Wednesday, but...

The phone call that woke me up this morning was from a woman at Channel 4 wanting to know if I was cab driving today and if so, could they drive around with me to see what the road conditions were. Sorry. Not working. And if I was working, the roads probably wouldn't be all that bad at all and Channel 4 wouldn't want to pal around with me in the cab. Oh well.

And I just got texted by a customer needing a cab around 1 this afternoon, but I won't be out there today.

Where are these customers during nicer weather? And then people in general get all upset that they can't get a cab during inclement weather... Well, I have to weigh my options... Do I really want to run the risk of crashing a taxi cab and owing the cab company megabucks for repairs and possibly lose my job just because customers during bad weather need taxi rides? Sorry. Making $100 versus owing THOUSANDS doesn't add up in my book. And yeah, you can say "well that's what taxis are for", but I'm personally not going to drive in ridiculously bad weather.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Night of Cab Driving 2009

So I go in for work at about 2:45-3:00 pm as usual. I used to go in an hour earlier, but now I know that since I don't have a regular day driver, that I won't get my regular cab (#89) until 3pm at the earliest. I go in, pay my nightly lease in full, no excuses and wait for 89 to show up, which it does within about 10 minutes. Great!

I get in #89 after not having driven it for 2 nights and the cab is really dirty inside. And smelly. What is that stink? Rotten food? Cab driver body odor? Stale cigarette smoke trapped in every fiber of the cab, lingering? Did someone vomit in the cab? Could be any or all of the above.

The outside of the cab is dirty, and I don't see the bucket and hose outside the garage door, so I splurge / invest $10 in a car wash. Great! Now at least I have a clean LOOKING cab on the outside. The inside front of the cab has stains from spills of various drinks. There's a dried up, used up paper towel scrunched up in the cup holder. Assorted mail or something over in the passenger front door. Someone's been writing on the center armrest / container area and the cover to this area is very loose and broken.

I picked up one fare, at Target in Lincoln Plaza: a family consisting of a mom,her mom and the two little kids all going back to 30 Wellington with all their bags of stuff purchased at Target. Not a bad fare. Too bad the cab smells so bad that we have to ride all the way downtown with windows cracked or rolled down a few inches. Oh, and did I mention how cold it was outside? By the time we get to Murray Ave., the kids are joking about how one of them may have farted in the cab, but I know that it's just this lingering stench of death that #89 now is in possession of.

I could try sticking around the City Hospital area and do another nearby job, but I can't take the stink. There's also a puddle of accumulated standing water at my feet which may be a new burgeoning civilization of microbials and single cell stinky life forms. I don't care. I head to another car wash with a heavy duty industrial vacuum and I suck up and clean up the front & back of the cab as good as I possibly can for $1.50 for 4 minutes.

Done. Great. I head to Holden for my regular customers returning back to the jail from their work release job at the Industrial Park. I park in the lot and... ugh. The electrical system of the cab just went dead. I can't even hear the dispatch radio. I can't start the car. No juice whatsoever. I've had a dimming / nonexistant dashboard lights situation that I made the mechanics aware of last week, but I guess they hadn't had the time to rip apart the dash to figure out why things were going intermittantly awry in #89.

I call the dispatcher who connects me with the garage. The garage tells me I need to have the dispatcher send me a tow truck. I call the dispatcher back and ask for a tow truck. I wait around for a bit. I call Brooke and tell her I'm probably not cab driving tonight and that I've done ONE job and wasted money on cleaning a now malfunctioning cab. Then I call the cab OFFICE back and ask if there are any other cabs to drive. The frazzled person on the other end of the phone tells me that she'll switch me over into something, don't worry. Don't worry. Right. I only have a mortgage to pay, bills piling up and a total lack of faith in even my regular cab which other drivers keep making worse and worse.

One tow truck ride later, I'm back at the cab company. I'm given a smaller cab, #45 and away I go. I head straight to the train station. I've already missed out on two of my regular charges that would add up to $27, roughly a third of my nightly lease. When I left the cab office, the owner of the company tells me tto smile, cheer up, Happy New Year. I tell her I've already missed out on a third of my lease due to a cab that let me down due to no fault of my own and now I'll have to work twice as hard on what looks like a slow Friday night on a cold January evening. She doesn't care. Maybe she does. Who really knows? The thing is that she'll be getting her lease regardless. Whether I make any money or not is of no concern. So long as they get their $90. The minute I stop paying my lease in full is the minute I could be told that I can't drive anymore.

The train station is good to me. $6 fare to Hurricane Betty's. Pickup at the bus going all the way to Andover St. in Greendale for $11. Pickup at the train going to George Street for $5. Heading back to the train, I bid on 507 Main Street going to play BINGO at Sacred Heart Church on Cambridge St. for $5. Then nothing at the 6:30pm train, but I snagged a pickup around the back at the bus going to Birch St. for $10. Back to the train for the 7:15 train, nothing. The 7:35 yields a fare going to Adams & Belmont for $7. I wait around on Main Street to pickup my regular going to Kelly Square, then back to the train where I get a $6 fare to Merrick Street. Nothing else to do, so go back to the train AGAIN and get a $9 fare going to Clark University. All of these are okay fares, but nothing's falling into place. All I do is keep gravitating back to the train station. No jobs connecting together like links in a chain.

I'm up around Belmont & Edward Street by Memorial Hospital and see that #60 is already in the first up stand. I turn around and leave the same way I came. As I'm turning left back on to Belmont a job goes out for "Oak & Kendall" right around the corner. #60 says he's at Belmont / Edward. I bid "Belmont & Oak", Oak Ave. which I'm looking right at and just about to turn on to. I'm given the job, I show uup at the address and wait. #60 follows me and wants to talk with me. He says he has the utmost respect for me but why did I do that to him? "Do what? I legitimately bid and got the job." I wasn't lying. I was kinda slitting #60's throat, but he wouldn't hesitate to do the same to me. But I'm in no mood for an argument. "Take the job! Do whatever you want! I've only made $65 so far!" I head down Oak, then turn around and #60 has decided to let me pick up the job I legitimately bid on and won. How gracious of him. It turns out that these customers need 2 cabs anyway and #60 got his fare just the same, but not without all kinds of drama.

I get a call from a semi-regular who will be needing cab rides all this coming week. Good news for a change. And she's more than happy to call me to drive her AND this job lines right up with another regular customer I have during the week.

I bid from Belmont / Edward later for Belmont / Eastern up the street. I get a kid who needs to go back to Shannon off Dorchester. He says he walks all the way from Shannon to Belmont to see this girl he likes. It only takes him about half an hour or so (in the cold, mind you). I tell him that I hope this girl appreciates the effort he's putting in just to spend time with her. He tells me that he's had trouble in the past with being short on money for cab fare and having to run upstairs into his house to get the rest of the money and the cab driver thinks he's skipping out on the fare even though the kid has left his full backpack of stuff in the cab as collateral. I tell him that that's a good way to sure up that you'll be back with the rest of the money, establish a little trust with the kid and things go smoothly for a $8 fare.

Last train yields a $7 fare going to Austin & Russell Street. The guy tells me as we're listening to an AM radio talk show that people down south are gearing up for a potential Civil War in America when Barrack Obama takes the office of President. My customer tells me that he's amazed that more people haven't heard about this.

I'm heading back towards downtown and bid Federal Plaza for Harrington Corner. #57 says he's already at Harrington Corner and he's given Tammany Hall, just up the street on Pleasant. I AM a little further away than him, but I head toward the job anyway. Maybe there'll be others needing a cab. I'm not even driving fast. Normal speed. I head past Tammany, then turn around and go by again and these 2 guys get in my cab. Only as we head back down to Harrington Corner did I see #57. If he was REALLY there when he bid, he should have already had these guys in his cab or at least he should have been outside Tammany waiting.#57 basically lied and didn't back up his lie by, oh I don't know, DOING HIS JOB. I brought these guys clear across town to beyond Webster Plaza for $11 and a $4 tip.

Then things started lining up... briefly. I was at Main & Maywood and gor Maywood / Florence going to Woodland / Kingsbury for $5. Then I got another fare on Woodland going to Freeland for $5. Then I foolishly / bravely picked up some guy on Main South near King St. going to Shrewsbury Street and I cut him a deal and did it for $5. Then a call from a regular at Funky Murphy's going somewhere, then changing their minds and just went to the Boulevard Diner down the street for $6.

Snow was falling rather heavily. I waited around outside McFaddens for a while. I tried to get a job on Portland Street that another driver was assigned. I was supposed to be out til beyond 3am tonight. I had a regular needing a ride from Hurricane Betty's going back to Proctor for about $10 and then my jail guy at 3am. But it was really getting slippery and hard to see, near white-out conditions as the dispatcher said. I gassed up and went home. The dispatcher tried to lay a guilt trip on me, telling me to try to have some confidence in my driving skills, but I hate snow. I can't drive in a blinding snow storm. I just can't. And what the dispatcher was also saying was "hey, dude, cabs are putting up like crazy and I'll have no one to cover all of these jobs", but that's not my problem. I don't want to end up crashing a cab and owing the owner of the company money I don't have. It made more sense to skip two jobs adding up to $20 and just go home with about $60 in my pocket.

I slowly drove my car back to Tatnuck via some really slippery streets, but I made it safely. I checked my e-mail, got a little more disgruntled over one e-mail in particular and then defeatedly headed to bed and curled up under the covers next to Brooke. I had a really hard time sleeping. I felt like I was letting people down. I felt like I was failing as a provider. I just felt like a failure. But it would have been worse if I'd stayed out and tried doing $20 worth of work in those snowy slippery conditions.

Now it's Saturday morning. I've just called to see if there's a cab I can drive today. Not sure if it's worth it. But we'll see...