Sunday, May 11, 2008

Secret to winning friends: chocolate cake

Last night I picked up at a KFC, actually it was a combination restaurant, with a KFC, Pizza Hut, and something else. I got the two guys, younger guys who were drunk, half way to their house, when one of them opened one of the bags of food.

Him: What the fuck is this?

Other guy: What?

Him: This isn't our food! We got the wrong food.

Other guy: What did we get?

Him: We made out. There's a lot of good stuff here, but what are we going to do with this?

He held up a chocolate cake with white icing, packaged in clear plastic. It said Pillsbury on it.

Me: I have a suggestion...

That chocolate cake was the best tip I had all night, and I mentioned it on the radio: "I just got an entire chocolate cake for a tip. How cool is that?" Another driver immediately said: "What's your 20?" He came straight over to my location and got the first piece. It didn't take long for the rest of us to polish it off.

A new market for idiots

I may have developed something new in the taxi trade. We have a number of bad customers -- okay, I'll say it, they're idiots who should be smacked in the head -- and we cabbies are always getting creative in our efforts to avoid them. I've chronicled a lot of the games we play on the blog -- stuff like keeping track of their movements to make sure we're somewhere else when they're about to call, or claiming we have a flag or a flat tire just to get out of driving them.

My new idea involved Reed, who most of us call Rat Claw on account of his half-inch-long fingernails and slovenly appearance. I was first on the cab stand nearest the restaurant he dines at on Friday nights (this was last Friday), and I was watching the time. I know he usually calls HQ for a taxi around 10:15 p.m., and it was 10:05. Being first, I was unwilling to give up first place in line, but I was considering vacating anyway, just to avoid him. Some things are more important than money!

Before I could decide, I got the bell on the radio. I complained loudly, and several drivers offered their condolences, in person on the stand, and a couple made funny comments on the radio. "What are you going to do with all that money?" Reed's rides are $5.60, and he usually tries to pay $5. I offered to pay the next guy in line to take him, and he took Reed off my hands for $5! I was willing to go to $10, but I didn't have to. He thought he was getting a good deal (I guess he's flat broke and desperate for money), and so did I. I explained to the dispatcher that the next guy offered to take him, and please keep me first in line for bells. No problems there.

Several drivers have now purchased idiots from me. I'll pay hard cash to avoid an awful stench, wandering and incoherent conversation, or a really short ride. It's worth the money, especially if I don't lose my place in line.

A good deed

I did my good deed for the year month day. We had a lot of drunks last night. It was Saturday night and the city was very busy with wedding receptions at hotels, plus the bars were packed from one end of town to the other. Somewhere in the madness I found a digital camera. It was a small, black, Kodak, with nothing on the outside to ID the owner. So I turned it on and looked at the photos. All black people, and pictures of the inside of a navy ship. I searched my memory and realized I had driven only one carload of blacks, and since I forgot to keep a trip sheet last night, I had to try to remember where I had brought them.

They had gone to Chuey's restaurant, which is an 18-and-up nightclub on Saturday nights. The next time I drove by that area, which is under the Coronado Bridge on the San Diego side, I cruised by the club. Amazingly, the same guys were on the curb trying to hail a taxi. They got in and one of them was asking about a lost camera. He described it and so got it back. He was happy, and while I was there I did some wildcatting (picking up outside my zone) and made a cool $25. I don't wildcat too often, as the $2400 fine (allegedly) frightens me a bit, but I didn't see the sense of leaving them there when they wanted a ride.

Taxis in Dubai and Hong Kong

Last night I drove a man and woman who are in the U.S. Navy. They're in port for a few days and they commented how nice I am and my taxi. Too many compliments, really, even about my good driving. What's the deal? I asked. They had recently been overseas, and took a lot of cabs in Dubai and Hong Kong, and here's what they said:

In Dubai "the cabbies are insane." They break every law imaginable, and it's somewhat frightening to ride with them, and it's also a lot of fun -- like being on a ride at Disneyland. The cabs there have a little black box near the meter that beeps whenever the car exceeds the speed limit. It's an annoying reminder to the driver that he needs to slow down. Some drivers let off the gas when it starts beeping, and some don't care. The Navy guy said he and his fellow servicemen often hand a driver a $20 bill and say: "Keep that thing beeping the whole way. We're in a hurry." They always oblige.

They also told me about a problem they had in Hong Kong. A driver had placed a small piece of tape over the decimal point on his meter, and when they got to a restaurant (from the port area), the fare was $15.00, presumably in Hong Kong money, but it looked like $150 on the meter. A shouting match ensued, and the navy people walked away from the cab without paying anything.

They told me after all the weird cabs, and cabbies, overseas, they were glad to be sitting in a large, clean, comfortable car being driven at the speed limit.