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...

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