Today’s post is an excerpt from MBIP Contributing Writer, Commenter and Pal, Jaws the Cabbie’s book, “Two Fisted Cab Driving Tales.” You can buy the book here: Two Fisted Cab Driving Tales at Lulu. It makes a great Christmas gift! Okay, take it away, Jaws!
Oh, I don't suppose I'm ever gonna forget this guy. What a moron!
I picked him up at The County Drunk around closing time in the middle of a winter storm involving a lot of sleet and frozen rain. Seems like every time I get a major head case like him in the cab, the weather is in the process of going apeshit. Every damn time, people, I'm not kidding!
So I have to keep one eye on the road, and one eye on the nutjob in the back seat via the rearview mirror. Makes me feel like a fucking chameleon and gives me a headache, let me tell you. Then I have to play armchair psychologist and try to find a way to talk the fucker down off the ceiling and at the same time keep the cab from sliding into a ditch. What fun! My world and welcome to it. It's not fair. Real shrinks get paid one hell of a lot more than I do, and it's really just not fair.
Asshole comes walking up to the cab after being shoved out of the bar by the bouncer, tells me to, "Follow those girls in that car over there!"
The bouncer walks over, shakes his head and says, "Just take his ass home and get him out of here, he's fuckin' drunk!"
Gee, no kidding! Ya think?
He gets in, and before the door is even closed, he says, "I said follow those girls! I wanna talk to them!"
I snatched a glance at the girls he was raving about and it was clear they wanted nothing to do with him. They were hurrying to their own car and looking over at their shoulders at my cab as if it were a plague-barge. They got in and drove away fast.
"Follow them!" he yelled as he pointed regally at the fleeing vehicle with the two frightened female objects of his desire in it.
I shook my head sadly at this and I said, "Listen, pal, I'm not Mannix and this ain't no stunt car. I'm not chasing anybody tonight, even if we weren't in the middle of an ice storm. Tell me where you live and I'll take you home."
He says, "Columbia Heights."
I say, "Fine.”
And we were off, driving into the storm and the night, and I saw him glaring at me in the rearview mirror. Joy!
As I said, there was an ice storm going on that night and after several hours of rain, snow, sleet and a little more rain followed by still more sleet and snow, the roads were all crack-glazed and utterly lethal. The only good thing was that because of conditions, there was very little traffic. Still and all, it requires total concentration every second just to keep the cab, which by now is handling like a hockey puck, on the road and out of some ditch by a lonely stretch of highway.
I don't know whether it was a strong work ethic or just plain old greed that kept me out so late that night, (the business was really great that night) but now with this drunk pain-in-the-ass in the back seat I was now cursing myself under my breath for having not gone home hours ago. When I'm under stress, sometimes my mind plays funny little tricks on me and at this time, like a disc jockey with a perverse sense of humor and a sound effects machine that can play tape loops at the touch of a button (I believe they are called cart machines), my mind began to play the theme song from the old Mannix detective show.
For you younger readers, this show used to be on the tube back in the late '60s/early 70's. Old Mannix was always jumping off of bridges onto moving cars and driving like a maniac while chasing after the bad guys, and he had a cool theme song. But this night, it wasn't cool at all. The Mannix theme just added to the absurdity of the situation and made my headache worse. And now it was stuck in my brain like a sliver, playing itself over and over again.
The drunk didn't waste any time getting pissy on me. Sitting back there with his arms crossed against his chest and glaring at the back of my neck, he starts asking me all kinds of personal questions. I answer using as few syllables as possible.
He asks, "Are you afraid of me?"
"No, but if you'll take a look around, you'll notice that there's ice all over the place, and I'm definitely afraid of that. Please don't distract me so we both don't wind up dead. Thank you."
That shut him up for a minute or so, but then he started in on me again. Mean little jabs directed at yours truly and generalized nastiness. If there were some kind of Congressional medal for assholery above and beyond the call of duty this guy should have had one. Jeez, what a jerk!
The ride only lasted ten or fifteen minutes or so, but it was one of those types of situations where every minute, every second, seems to stretch into forever—the heart-stopping skids on the glare ice, the drunkmouth abuse emanating from the back seat, and that goddamn Mannix theme song going on and on inside of my poor aching head.
Wheee! I'm going nuts here, I'm thinking to myself.
Somehow I managed to get the guy to his apartment in Columbia Heights.
"That's fifteen-forty," I told the drunk.
"I already paid you," said the drunk.
"No, you didn't," I said.
"Yes, I did!" said the drunk.
"The hell you did, pal. Now pay up or I drive you to the cops!"
That did it. Now the guy's in overdrive. He's got a hot rivet up his ass and by God he's gonna make sure that I know it. He's bouncing up and down in the seat and screaming incoherently at me, and by now, I'm beginning to realize how this is all going to end. The pepper is in my hand, my trusty little canister of Cabbie's Little Helper at the ready, and I'm watching this guy's every move... waiting for the moment of truth.
"You owe me fifteen-forty, my friend, and I want it now," I said and prepared myself for his reaction. It worked out pretty much as I expected it would, he made a lunge for me and I let him have it.
"Quit spraying that shit on me!" he said.
I kept praying that shit all over him, and said, "Find the fuckin' door handle and get out of my cab you asshole! MOVE IT!"
It took him awhile to find the door handle, but he finally found it. And when he finally got the door open and got out, he danced a little jig, ran around in a circle and then ran head first into a tree and knocked himself flat on his back. He got back up, ran into a mailbox and knocked himself back down again. He got up, made it to the sidewalk going up to his apartment building, ran a few steps, slipped on the ice and fell on his ass again. He got back up, made it to the door and let himself in. I said fuck it and took off.
To hell with the $15.40, it's just not worth it. My head throbbed like a rotten tooth, and it was time to go home. Fuck this! What an idiot!
I was on my way home, but I hadn't turned off the computer yet. Then this message appeared on the screen: "SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY CALL DISPATCH."
Okay. I called dispatch.
"This is forty-three. What's up?"
"Forty-three, we just got a call from your last fare. Says he's got friends in the Mafia that will be coming to get you soon! What happened out there?"
I told dispatch what happened. Then I asked dispatch if the guy sounded like he might have been drunk and psychotic when he called. The dispatcher said that the ordertaker had said, "This guy sounds really nuts!"
And I said, "Yeah, well, if it looks like a psychotic duck, quacks like a psychotic duck, and swims like a psychotic duck...then it's probably a psychotic duck, right?"
"Yeah, I suppose."
"Well, gentlemen, I rest my case."
"Okay, forty-three, we wanted to hear your side of it. We'll reinstate you, but look out for those Mafia guys, alright?"
"Yeah, I will. I'm real scared, can't you tell? I'm so scared I think I'm gonna go home now, get off all this ice and sleep like a baby."
"Okay, forty-three, sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite."
Cool! I went home and did exactly that.
It was about two weeks later on a Friday night, about half an hour before bar closing time, and there was a sleet storm going on—a bad one—and the driving conditions were garbage. I got a "Customer, See Bartender" call to The Country Drunk and I pulled up to the entrance. I didn't even have to go in, there were two guys just waiting there and they walked up and got in. They looked a little on the scruffy side, but they weren't too drunk and they didn't seem to be looking for trouble. So far so good.
The big one said there was one more coming and he was really drunk and it might be a few minutes, so go ahead and turn on the meter. Okay, I did. That's fine. I took several minutes for the friend to come out, and by the time he did, my attentions were elsewhere. I was wrestling with the adult proof wrapper of a bag of junk food trying to get it open and I didn't look up to see the third party who'd gotten into the cab.
"Where to?" I asked as I decided to deal more effectively with that bag of junk food at another time and threw it aside.
"Columbia Heights," said the big one.
"Cool," I said, and started driving without looking back at the third party at all.
It didn't take long for the third party to start making an asshole out of himself. First he started arguing with his buds in the back seat. They told him to shut up. That just made him worse. He began to harangue his two acquaintances in an increasingly strident tone of voice, and then I heard him punch one of them. That strident, petulant voice was familiar...all too familiar...and suddenly the Mannix theme song was back inside my head. Oh, no! Can't be! Please, no!
But it was true.
I looked up into the rearview mirror just as the big guy told him if he ever did that again, he'd shove his head down through his butt-hole, yep, Pepper Boy, again. Ice all over the highway, cab sliding around like a hockey puck, and Pepper Boy in my back seat cutting up on me. Again. With the Mannix theme song playing in my head like a background score.
Deja vu sucks, don't you just know it? Sucks little purple 'n green boogers! I just couldn't believe it.
After Pepper Boy slugged his friend, a profanity festival ensued in the back seat of my cab. Leave it to a car load of drunks to use every four letter word known to the English language in the space of five minutes or so, and mispronounce every last one of them.
I kept a poker face, watched the road, and hoped that Pepper Boy's friends would keep him occupied for the rest of the ride, and that things wouldn't get too violent back there. The argument continued to intensify, and it was beginning to look like the big guy was going to make good on his threat to shove Pepper Boy's head down through his butt-hole.
We reached the outskirts of Columbia Heights and by that time Pepper Boy's two ex-friends, particularly the big guy, decided they'd had enough of him.
"Pull over into that gas station on the right!" said the big guy. "We're getting out! Asshole here can pay you!"
Thank you, God.
So I pulled over into the gas station, they got out and left me all alone with Pepper Boy and his attitude. Now, Pepper Boy turned his attention to me. The light of recognition went off in his eyes. He leaned over the seat, started slapping me behind my right ear and asked me if I remembered him. (Sigh) I did. The pepper spray was already in my left hand and ready to go.
"Yeah, I remember you, do you remember this?" I brought the pepper up in one smooth motion and coated his face with foam.
It was deja vu all over again. I screamed at him to find the door handle and get out. I yelled at him that he knew the fucking drill. He found the door handle. He got out. He danced another jig in the middle of the tarmac, ran around in a circle, and this time a new twist. He threw a kick at the front passenger side window before running into the station to wash his face, knocking over racks full of candy bars and snack chips as he went. Left a nifty well-defined footprint in the middle of my window. Fuck it! My night totally ruined, I went home.
The next day when I got into the cab and turned on the computer and prepared to go to work, a message was waiting for me on the screen: "SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY CALL MANAGEMENT ASAP.
I called management. Management gave me the number of a Columbia Heights detective and told me I'd have to call him and that the detective would have to call Blue & Orange before I could go back to work.
"Hot diggety damn, I'm up on charges over Pepper Boy," I said as I dialed up the Columbia Heights detective.
The Mannix theme song was back inside of my brain and I thought that I'd probably shoot myself in the mouth if I had to deal with any more of this shit.
I shook my head and scowled down at the phone as I dialed.
It took a couple of tries that day, the detective was out on business, but I finally did get hold of him and introduced myself. I said, "I drive cab forty-three for Blue and Orange and I believe you wished to speak with me."
I told him what happened, and that I felt I had no choice but to act in my own defense, and I also suggested that Pepper Boy not be allowed out without a keeper and a leash. I also suggested that he be placed into a program of some sort until he learns how to behave when out in public. My conversation with the detective was both animated and sincere. The detective chuckled a bit as he said that was pretty much how he figured things went and that I was justified in my actions.
He said he wasn't considering any charges at this point and that he'd call up Blue & Orange and tell them so. The last thing he said to me was, "You know, he was a dink to us too."