Saturday, September 29, 2007

German goodness

M5: a nice machine

Worth a second look

Argument over Reed

I got Reed tonight, a regular customer who is semi-psychotic, smells bad, and throws a Class A fit (in public) if his hand is not held while he shuffles from the restaurant to the taxi. You can read about Reed here. I'd really like to smack the hell out of him. I can't do that, of course, but I can fantasize.

Tonight I was on a lucrative stand that was producing $30 rides all night. It was busy and everyone was making money. It's more than that, though. There was a good rhythm. I was getting great rides that were quick and mostly freeway. Then I'd return to our zone and get another one within five or ten minutes. Some nights we sit for hours between fares, dreaming of nights like tonight.

Then Reed came along, the bastard.

He provoked a radio fight from me, which is extremely rare. I believe it was my second in over two years of driving. I was second on the stand that was moving, and the first guy up got belled to pick up Reed. It was a definitive bell: "Pick up Reed at XYZ restaurant." The rules say you must pick up the fare you're assigned to (it's actually a law). If a driver wants to refuse, all he has to do is say so on the radio, and the punishment is banishment from service for one hour, after which time he can check back in on the radio.

Naturally, the first guy up didn't do it that way. Instead he called that he picked up a flag at that same restaurant, but it wasn't Reed, "and can you please send the next cab for Reed." The dispatcher called my number. I took issue with that. Refusing a bell is a one hour banishment. Of course, the driver tried to circumvent this by claiming to have picked up a flag. He was lying. We call it a ghost ride, where you call in a fare when you're actually driving around empty, staying to streets where it's unlikely to see our cabs.

I asked for a rule clarification on the radio: "Is there no penalty for picking up a flag when you've been given a specific bell?"

The dispatcher kept saying "10-9?", which is the code for, "Please repeat, I can't make out what you're saying."

The barbarians were in league against me. So I said, on air, "If there are no penalties, then I'm getting a flag too, and can you please send the next cab for Reed?" I then immediately went and picked up Reed. As much as I hate the bastard with a burning passion, he still deserves a ride home. While I was watching him, unamused, shuffle at a snail's pace toward my taxi, I went in and spoke with the bartender. I confirmed that no other cabs had stopped there. None all night, in fact.

I drove Reed for the entire $4 distance and wished him well. The poor weirdo has no idea the sorts of battles that occur among drivers just so they can avoid him.

A couple of hours later I found myself parked behind the driver who called in the ghost ride (and fucked me). I got out of my car; he got out of his. A third driver was already outside, and when he saw us get out, he said: "Round 1, ding!" The driver immediately tried to explain. They all do that. They act like barbarian scum behind the wheel, never hesitating to steal money from the next guy, but on stand they're perfect gentlemen. I told him he was scum and I don't appreciate him messing around with me and costing me money. He tried to protest, but I went back to my car and got in.

There's no point trying to force someone with bad character to behave in a civilized manner. And, the last guy who popped a scum like him ended up losing his job and paying $10k in medical bills (broken nose that required two surgeries). Avoiding Reed isn't worth that.

The streets are mostly lawless, and there isn't a whole lot I can do about it.

Three drunken sailors

I picked up three drunken navy guys from a bar, and it quickly became apparent that two were together, and the third guy, far and away the most drunk, was on his own. He was also incoherent and looked on the verge of passing out. I asked the other two if they minded sharing a cab. They didn't. The next puzzle was the third guy's destination.

The two were going out to Coronado where they're stationed on the U.S.S. Lincoln (Nimitz class aircraft carrier in from Washington). They ended up getting out the guy's wallet and finding his military ID card. It said "72", which is the Lincoln's CVN number. So off we went.

I got them to the Lincoln and cocked my head a little to wait for the fare. Instead, they got out and one of them came to my window and paid. I thanked them and left. Halfway back to the Coronado Bridge, I heard some groaning from the back seat. The super drunk guy never got out! I thought he had. I had to bring him all the way back onto the base and to his ship. After some yelling to roust him, he stumbled out to the waiting arms of the MAs (Master at Arms, navy security).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Washing my office

If I'm not using the Body Beautiful car wash on Harbor and Grape, I'm at this one, which is located on University Ave near Florida St.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Local TV weatherman in live, on-air scuffle

This is our local ABC affiliate. I didn't see this live, but I've heard people talking about it, so I dug it out of YouTube. Apparently there's a labor dispute KGTV (channel 10). Protesters disrupted a live weather report from the waterfront in downtown San Diego. I thought it funny that the first thing the weatherman said, on live TV, was: "Get lost."

San Diego Union-Tribune story
KGTV 10 News

The Bay from Coronado

After dropping off at 1st and Orange, Coronado Island, I snapped a few pictures of the Bay and downtown. The pylons are for the upcoming air races. All shots taken from Coronado's Centennial Park.


...on my part. No excuses, although there were mitigating factors! I was waiting for an Amtrak train to pass in front of the car on Grape St just east of Harbor Drive (between downtown and the airport) when the railroad crossing guard smacked onto the roof of the taxi. I had no customers in the car at the time. That is just plain dumb. I felt like a fool.

I was stopped in the middle of a five-block traffic jam, a little ways back from a double set of tracks. When the bells and red lights went off, indicating a train was coming, the cars that had stopped on the tracks quickly pulled forward and to the side. I was well back, so I stayed. After what seemed like a long time, I realized the guard hadn't come down, so I started looking around for it. Just then the bar hit the roof.

I have a few small scrapes on the roof. And I did the right thing -- I drove the car to HQ and showed it to the owner. He shrugged and said he'd try to get me into our regular paint shop the next time he sends a car for a complete paint job. There was no talk about paying for the damage.

That was my first error as a driver in 2.5 years and over 4,000 rides. Very stupid, though.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Anonymous battle at the library

I mentioned the library situation yesterday, as part of a long, rambling post. I thought it deserved its own post, so here it is again.

With no laptop in the car, I've been reading novels to pass the down time. I'm still moving through Griffin's Brotherhood of War series. It's about seven books long, and I have been trying to get book 4 from the library for a few weeks now. It's a pain to interrupt a series to wait for somebody else to return a book. There's only one set at the library in my taxi zone, and I've determined that one other person is moving through the same series, one book ahead of me, at a slower pace.

So I'm trying to turn the tables on him (I'm assuming it's a man who is reading a war series). I checked out the next book, the one after the one I need. He'll need that one next. I'm going to hang onto it and make him wait for it. Meanwhile he'll return the book I need, and I'm going to read it and the one I'm hanging onto. I'll pay any late fines just to show the bastard. I'm going to beat this guy, whatever it takes. The ne'er do well can wait for me for a change. I might even leave a note in his next book to taunt him. (Can you tell I've put too much thought into this?)

It even occurred to me that the guy could be one of the older folks in my zone who think a $.10 tip is generous. Marzetti is dead, so he's off the hook.

Bringing drunks to Jack in the Box

For the uninitiated, Jack in the Box is a McDonald's style, fast food place. Most drive-thrus are open 24 hours. And it's common for drunks to ask for a trip to Jack's for a late night meal of hot grease. Tonight was such a night.

I picked up two drunk guys, probably in their late 20s or early 30s, at a nice hotel. They had been visiting friends who were staying there. En route I learned that one of the guys owned a condo in the area, which was a weekend place for when he was in from Phoenix, Ariz. The other guy was his friend from AZ, who often came with to enjoy the mild weather and attractions of San Diego.

Before going to the condo, they wanted Jack's. I pulled forward so the rear window was beside the menus and order station. A harried sounding guy with a strong Spanish (Mexican) accent asked if he could help them. They were drunkenly considering their options while the guy was asking if they were ready. After a lot of friendly arguing and discussion, they had a complex order ready to go. It began: "Large fries." Then there was a long pause while the drunks re-hashed what they wanted, even asking me if I wanted anything. A small coke would be fine, I said.

When the one guy turned back to the order stand, he laboriously explained everything they wanted, to the last detail. Then there was silence. He began to repeat it, then stopped to ask if anybody was listening. He was drunk and if not rude, certainly not polite. After a long delay, maybe five minutes, the employee came back on and said: "Okay, a large fries. Anything else?"

The drunks laughed uncontrollably, partly because they had spent a lot of time for nothing, and also because they had mostly forgotten their large order. So they had to re-create it on the fly while the employee kept asking the routine questions -- what size soda? A No. 2 in medium or large size? Was that a large fries on the side? Did you say Diet Coke or regular Coke?

The employee was getting more and more frustrated. When the drunk said: "I also need a double cheeseburger," the employee said, "I don't sell double cheeseburgers. Look at the menu!"

This is where I spoke up. "Gentlemen, I believe the man has reached his breaking point." They agreed and said to the microphone: "Whatever you have down is good enough." I sped forward before the employee could say anything else.

You kind of had to be there. It was a good time, and I got a free coke out of it.

On the ride to the condo we all agreed that we'd never heard a fast-food worker yell at the top of his lungs: "Look at the menu!" Poor guy was working bar rush by himself. After taking orders he went in the back to cook the food himself. I felt bad for him, but it was still funny.

Coronado bridge

The first one is from the street by Tidelands Park. The second is...obvious.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Juan St connecting Old Town and Mission Hills

Brain surgery and air races

Last night I was staging in front of a nicer restaurant, having foreknowledge that a lot of long rides came into that restaurant about two hours earlier. You tend to accumulate knowledge from the streets -- watching enemy cabs do dropoffs, speaking with doormen and bartenders, etc. So I'm standing outside my cab with the radio turned all the way up so I can hear my number. I'm chatting on the cell with a friend. Three guys walk out of the restaurant and walk past my car. I glance at them to see if they'll make eye contact, approach me, or gesture that they need a cab. None of the above.

After what seemed like a minute, I glanced behind me, to the other side of my car, and there they are. The lead guy puts his arms in the air in a disrespectful gesture of "well, are we going to wait all night?" I asked in the tone an adult uses with a child, "Do you need a taxi?" "Well, yeah," the guy said. I said nothing more, and just got in and waited for them to enter.

Turns out they're all very drunk and about as rude as anyone I've driven. I asked if they were in town for the air races (Red Bull is sponsoring Extra 300 races over San Diego Bay this weekend.*). The guy in front, the rudest of them all, said they were in town for a neurosurgery conference. They're all brain surgeons, specializing in the removal of tumors.

Based on their behavior in soliciting the ride, I'd say these brain surgeons are the dumbest people I've ever encountered. Anyone who thinks a cabbie has a telepathic ability to determine if somebody wants a ride is an unconditional idiot.

*I had a couple of reasons for asking if they were associated with the races. First, I've driven a couple of groups who said they were with the upcoming event, and they were rude bastards. Maybe it goes along with that sport? Secondly, I saw on the freeway an Audi SUV with red decals all over it -- all proclaiming the air races. The guy tailgated me unbelievably close, and I was in the slow lane driving the speed limit. When traffic to the left opened up, he floored it and just kept accelerating -- way, way above the speed limit. Real pricks, these Red Bull Air Race types. I was going to buy a ticket to Saturday's main event, but now I'm planning to watch for free from Coronado Island, because jackasses aren't getting any of my money. If I'm close enough to get good photos, I'll post them here.

Long post, mostly complaining: enjoy!

Problems with the "new" car

Well, that didn't last long. My partners and I were given a shiny new Ford Crown Victoria two weeks ago. It was pristine by the standards of our cab company -- new paint, no dings, scratches, or dents, a clean interior, and everything worked. It even has cruise control, which is rare (most of our cabs are police interceptors which tend to lack cruise).

Two weeks into the new car, two of the windows have malfunctioned. The driver side window is one of the dead ones, and it jiggles down as I drive, which causes a 1-inch gap of loud air to jetstream directly into my left ear. I had to manually pull it up and tape it into place. That's a nice touch, letting customers see that your taxi is literally taped together. Besides the two dead windows, one of the switches for the remaining good windows stopped working. I can control it, but customers can't. I get to apologize and explain the window situation at least three times each day.

And there's more: I found the car two quarts down on oil one morning. It had been a busy morning shift for one of my partners, but still, we were hoping for a car that doesn't drink oil as bad as the old Falcon did. This one is much better, but 2qts in 200 miles is not a good sign.

The transmission is nearing the end of its life. It shudders violently up hills, and makes numerous (and unnecessary) up and down shifts. When the Falcon's tranny exhibited the same problems, it was six months before it grinded to a halt.

And the dash lights don't work. I can see the dim outline of the needle on the speedo, but can't read any of the numbers. From driving in daylight I know what my speed is based on the angle of the needle, but it's kind of a hassle. Straight up is 65, the freeway speed limit. The temp and oil pressure gauges are in total darkness. More than once I saved the Falcon's engine by watching those gauges move. The engine in the new car will blow if I lose a water pump at night.

The car looks good and rides well, but for the first time in its 12-year, 200k mile life, it is being driven at least 1200 miles per week. I'm afraid it's going to be all down hill from here.

HQ has been notified of most of the problems, and we're patiently waiting a call back to get some of them (or all, one can hope) fixed.

Problems with my Sprint internet service

I'm about to cancel my Sprint cellular (EVDO) internet account. It will cost me $150 to kill the contract before it expires, but it's almost worth it. Part of the reason is I can't use the computer in the car any longer, and that was the motivation to get the service in the first place. My new taxi has a split bench seat, which is not conducive to mounting a laptop. Also, the cab company owner expressed a desire that no permanent mount be made. He's a Luddite, pure and simple. I have so many tools that make the service better for customers, it's absurd: mapping software with GPS, internet for finding things, etc. When our drivers can't find places, they call me on the radio so I can look it up for them. Somehow that's not a good thing, according to the company owner.

Also, I've been having technical problems with the internet connection. It disconnects frequently, and there's no great way to reset it. If I click "disconnect", it hangs permanently and I have to reboot not only to reconnect, but to kill the connection management application. That's completely unacceptable in 2007. The internet has been around since 1969, and the web since 1993 or so. This stuff should be figured out by now, even with relatively new cellular connections.

Also, since I updated to the Rev. A system (broadband speed) modem, I've been trying to update the software and firmware. There's an Update Software section in the Sprint connection software, and I've tried updating several times. It tells me there's a new version available, and then spends 10 minutes downloading, and just when it's almost complete, it hangs forever. I went to the site of the modem manufacturer and found a link to download the same update. Sure enough, that link doesn't work, either. I think that's called "a confederacy of dunces".

Tonight, for the first time, I was able to successfully download the update from Sprint. After the download, I told it to install, and while it was "updating hardware", it hung for one hour, 35 minutes. I couldn't get online at all. It was an ungodly hassle to fix it. Hunter S. Thompson might have called it a "colossal fuckaround". I spent at least two hours trying to get back online, cursing like a drunken sailor the entire time. In the end I had to use Vista's rollback feature. That works great, if little else from Microsoft does. I finally got everything updated and it's finally working now. We shall see if the hanging problem is fixed. Those sons of bitches.

After all this nonsense, for the not-cheap price of $60/mo, I'm about ready to quit. I might go back to cable and WiFi. That's only about $35/mo, and it always works. And it's fast.

Even some problems with an anonymous bastard at the library

With no laptop in the car, I've been reading novels to pass the down time. I'm still moving through Griffin's Brotherhood of War series. It's about seven books long, and I have been trying to get book 4 from the library for a few weeks now. It's a pain to interrupt a series to wait for somebody else to return a book. There's only one set at the library in my taxi zone, and I've determined that one other person is moving through the same series, one book ahead of me, at a slower pace.

So I'm trying to turn the tables on him (I'm assuming it's a man who is reading a war series). I checked out the next book, the one after the one I need. He'll need that one next. I'm going to hang onto it and make him wait for it. Meanwhile he'll return the book I need, and I'm going to read it and the one I'm hanging onto. I'll pay any late fines just to show the bastard. I'm going to beat this guy, whatever it takes. The ne'er do well can wait for me for a change. I might even leave a note in his next book to taunt him. (Can you tell I've put too much thought into this?)

Monday, September 17, 2007

R.I.P. Robert Jordan

Author Robert Jordan died today. His Wheel of Time series is one of the best in the fantasy genre since Tolkien. From AP:

    Author Robert Jordan, whose "Wheel of Time" series of fantasy novels sold millions of copies, died Sunday of a rare blood disease. He was 58.

    Jordan, whose real name was James Oliver Rigney Jr., was born and lived in this southern city most of his life. He died at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston of complications from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, his personal assistant, Maria Simons, said Monday. The blood disease caused the walls of Rigney's heart to thicken.

    He wrote a trilogy of historical novels set in Charleston under the pen name Reagan O'Neal in the early 1980s. Then he turned his attention to fantasy and the first volume in his Wheel of Time epic, "The Eye of the World," was published in 1990 under the name Robert Jordan.

Unfortunately the Wheel of Times series (The Eye of the World is book one) is unfinished. Truth be told, I kind of dozed off around book seven (there are 11 right now). I and a lot of other fans was hoping he would get the thing finished.

    A graduate of The Citadel, South Carolina's state military college, Rigney worked as a nuclear engineer at the old Charleston Naval Shipyard before taking up writing full time in 1977. He served two tours of duty with the Army in Vietnam. He was decorated several times, including winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Random shots


I forgot I'd taken this shot at a hotel on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

Running over a fire hydrant

Q: What happens when a cab driver runs over a fire hydrant, causing a colossal mess, including flooding a restaurant?

A: He gets fired.

It was one of our newer drivers (the geographically challenged one). He was doing a U-turn in a restaurant parking lot when he hit the hydrant. The water went about as high as the trees, maybe a little higher than a traffic light. A dozen cops and firefighters were at the scene. I saw what looked like two feet of water in the parking lot, and the restaurant closed several hours early that night. We're expecting the cab company to receive a hefty bill.

Side note: I finally got my Navy badge. I meet all the qualifications, and I had one in the past, but for some mysterious reason it took no less than seven trips to the Navy access office (called Pass & Decal) to get a new badge. I complained about it several months ago.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dull evenings

Not many interesting customers this week. There was a big Symantec conference in town this week, and they were mainly talking about work, amongst themselves. I had one interesting guy who kept asking me if I could hook him up. He was drunk, and when I asked if he wanted drugs he just laughed. For girls, I suggested Tijuana. He never would tell me what he was looking for. Another interesting ride was a woman, about 30 and very attractive, who was drunk and told me how she had recently turned down a marriage offer from a wealthy man. She wasn't in love, she said. She wanted to know if I thought she was foolish. I told her "no", it didn't make her foolish. Poor maybe, but not foolish.

A few pics from the Gaslamp Quarter:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Monday, September 10, 2007

Downtown San Diego

10th Ave

E St

A Ave

E St

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Trouble in paradise

East Village bust in front of Starbuck's at Market and 11th

I found this action just around the corner and down the street, at Island and Park.

Misc shots from downtown

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The cat, the hat, and the stoner

Last night was very slow, but I had a few memorable ones...

The cat

I had my first feline in the car last night for a short, local ride. It was probably a $6 fare, and eventful. I picked up a lady, attractive, perhaps 35, and two little kids. They all piled in the back. Just before I put the car in Drive, I heard a meow. Not just a meow, but a low-pitched, throaty meow that meant a cat was A) in the car, and B) very unhappy about it. The lady asked me if I minded their cat coming along. I didn't.

Me: Does it like car rides? (smiling)

Her: Yes, actually, she does.

Riiiiiight. Two blocks into the ride and the lady was stifling a scream. I tilted the rearview mirror to see the cat, which the lady was holding like an infant, digging its claws into her. When we got to their residential house, the lady opened the back door and the cat bolted. I saw blood on her neck. She was okay, but what an ordeal. The kids thought it was the funniest thing in the world. Me, too.

The hat

We have a new driver who seems gun-ho, working about 60 hours per week. Nice guy from Chicago. We had cleared at the same restaurant, coincidentally, and then both took positions at the same stand (on the radio), and so I followed him to that stand. En route I saw that his tail pipe was broken and hanging almost to the ground.

I told him about it when we got to the cab stand, about four miles away. He said he knew about it, but hadn't requested a fix from HQ because it might mean a long wait for a replacement car, or they may ask him to wait at the shop for the fix itself -- the bane of cabbies. He got a thoughtful look in his eyes and said he might be able to fix it himself. I was going to suggest he use some mechanics wire, which I keep in my car, but he was already underneath his cab.

He came back out with a dirty shirt and said the problem was solved. I bent down a bit and saw that the pipe was no longer hanging down. I also noticed that he had gone under the car wearing a baseball cap, and came back out with no cap. Now that's a cabbie's field fix. It won't last long, but it'll keep him away from HQ for a few days, probably. This guy will fit in nicely with our crew.

As a side note, this driver used to deliver pizzas in Chicago, and I was able to confirm that if you're an ass to your pizza delivery guy, or stiff him on the tip, your next few pizzas will contain extra ingredients. That's why my guy always gets 20%. When I want a 'za at home, I'm willing to pay extra to guarantee it's clean.

The stoner

I picked up a young kid, perhaps 18-20, at a residential address. He was all "hey, man" and "yo, dude", and could just barely get out where he wanted to go, which turned out to be the Gaslamp Quarter. On the way there he desperately tried to make conversation, but he was too stoned. He was all over the map. I just nodded and said "sure" and "yeah" and "oh" once in a while.

When we got to 6th and Broadway he asked to be let out. The meter said $14.80. He gave me a $20 bill. "You got 20 cents for me?" he asked. I said I didn't, and handed him a single instead. "Oh, wow, thanks, dude," he said. I believe he thought he had given me $15. I didn't tell him it was a 20. We'll call that a marijuana surcharge. You pay to play, right?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I found these little cars, which are available for rent in San Diego, buzzing around me on 5th Ave between A St and Elm (downtown). As I followed, snapping a few pics, I had a feeling things were going to end badly. They were treating them like toys, zooming around and weaving. Eventually two collided, knocking off a mirror. A female passenger jumped out and collected it (last photo).

Behind the Convention Center

I shot these after dropping off at Embarcadero Park South, where a Chargers "kick-off dinner" was being held. The building under construction is the new Hilton hotel (or heeel-tone, as our Mexican drivers call it). The one with the clock tower is the 12th & Imperial trolley station (it has a more elaborate name, which I forget).

Sunday, September 2, 2007

People don't listen

Here's an oft-repeated theme in my cab. Somebody gets in and gives me an address or the name of a business I don't recognize. When I ask where it is, they invariably say the name of the neighborhood or suburb. I can always get within a mile of the place based on that info, so I tell them: "I'll take XYZ freeway, then XYZ St, and then you can give me directions to the exact location, okay?" They always say okay.

And that's where the problems begin. I have made it clear that, while I may not know the exact cross streets, I can get very close before I need assistance. Somehow they heard me say: "I have no knowledge of San Diego. I just got off the boat. I'm an idiot. I don't know what freeways are or where they might be located. We're in Kansas, right?"

They often begin their directions immediately, even though they already know, had they been listening, that that is not necessary. "Go up here until you see the I-5 freeway, then turn when it says 'southbound I-5'." Wow, you mean there's a freeway up there, and it goes south? Say it ain't so! Because I don't happen to know where 16241 Emu Crap Lane is, I must not know the freeway system, either.

Do I yell at them? No. Do I re-explain that I only need help after we make a certain exit? Sometimes. Do I play dumb and oooh and aaaah at every turn they tell me to make? Yes, more often than not. What else am I going to do with idiots who don't (or can't) listen?

Another strange phenomenon: when people tell me which route to take, whether I know the place or not, it's always the long way. Most people don't offer their opinion on the route, but 100% of the time when they've got a plan, it costs them money. I'm greatly amused by this. When I first started driving cab I would politely point out that I know of a way that's faster and cheaper, but people actually get put off by that. They want to be right, even when they're quite wrong. Now I don't correct people about the route.

The Falcon is retired

My cab partners and I were called in this week for a driver meeting. In my two and a half years driving a taxi, this has never happened. It was scheduled for 15 minutes. We were sure it was for some kind of chewing-out, even though all three of us are fairly good workers -- we don't ding the car or get tickets, we wash the car and change the oil. Still, we were dreading the meeting.

We were given a speech by the owner discussing how there were changes coming to the office end of things. A new effort was being made to get cars serviced faster (and better). An office worker was chosen to be the official liaison between drivers and the mechanic. The worst cars in the fleet will be retired, and some newer (or at least better) cars would be arriving. Part of the reason we have such old, run-down cars (the Falcon wasn't so bad, but some of the others are embarrassing), is that the owner doesn't trust the drivers to maintain or even wash the cars. Why give drivers good cars if we're going to let them go to hell? In the last three months, the fleet suffered three blown engines, and three transmissions went out. At least one of the engines had no oil inside, and that driver was fired. I think I've heard him on the radio since then, which means he begged for his job.

Anyway, the owner is changing his thinking, but it's really only a test. He'll put a few good cars into the fleet to see how drivers take care of them. We were asked for feedback, and we said we liked everything we heard. Moments later, a shiny new cab (200k miles, but in fantastic, almost new condition) rolled into the parking lot. "This is yours," he told us. This new car, No. 92, makes the Falcon look like a turd. I hadn't realized how many things on the Falcon didn't work until I took 92 for a spin. The car is immaculate, inside and out. It was purchased from a Ford dealer as a well-kept, used Crown Vic. It was never a police car, which means the thing rides comfortably, unlike the stiff Falcon, and it has carpeting and lots of great electronic options, like cruise control, power seats, and there are several ways to unlock the car -- remote and keyless entry. We were (and are) thrilled.

The only downside: because of a split-bench front seat, there's no great way to mount the laptop. I'll consider giving up the laptop in the car so I can ride in style and comfort.

So, my partners went home in their civilian cars, and I was handed the keys to 92. After working a shift, I'm still thrilled. The Falcon, by comparison, is a high-performance, uncomfortable beast. The new car is plush, but not much happens when I jam on the gas. It does okay, still with a 4.6 liter V8, but it's no Police Interceptor.

The fate of the Falcon

Right after the meeting, I asked the owner what he was going to do with 95 (the Falcon). Nothing, he said. "Do you want to buy it?" he asked me. Well, now, that's interesting, considering my civilian car has been dead for two years and I'm just dragging my feet before donating it to charity for the tax writeoff. It would be nice to have my own wheels again. I told him I was lean, financially, and it wasn't a good time to entertain a car purchase. "I'll take $500 for it, and you can pay me whenever you get the money. You can have the car now, though." That turned out to mean, whenever he could dig up the title. I plan to take the car off his hands Monday, if his office people can get the paperwork in order.

It would really be something to outfit it in full cop regalia: black paint, light-weight cop wheels with those tiny moon hub cabs, performance tires, heavy duty nerf bars on the front, and dark window tint. I'd never get pulled over again! Cops don't pull over their own. Performance mufflers are a must. I can't stand driving a car that's so quiet I can't tell the RPM with my ears. Same thing with motorcycles, I like feeling as if I'm playing a musical instrument with the throttle.

Even though the Falcon leaks and burns fluids, it has a few nice qualities:

    1999 Mustang GT engine last year

    4-speed trans rebuilt last year, and re-adjusted this year

    "Front end" replaced March of this year (wheel bearings, ball joints, mysterious "links" and stuff)

    Dual exhaust with Mustang GT exhaust manifolds

    Custom made laptop mount and a Kenwood stereo with a line-in jack

At any rate, the car is unbelievably used, practically worn out. I probably won't make any modifications. When it finally dies, I'll call the junk yard. I'm sure I'll get more than $500 use out of it. It'll be fun bombing around town with 300 or so horsepower without my boss's phone number emblazoned on the car. Anybody who even thinks about doing something stupid on the highway near me is going to get honked at and flipped off. I've been dreaming about that for two long years.

Outside Petco Park

I dropped off at the Gaslamp Marriott, which is across the street from Petco Park, while the Padres were playing.