Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interesting chain of events

Maybe this is not interesting. I sometimes don't know what might be interesting -- I've seen so many odd things after driving for three and a half years, it's all just another day to me!

Last Thursday, July 3, I noticed there was a metallic clunking coming from the front left suspension. This is the 4th time I've had this problem since I got this cab last September. The last time it was serviced, I had a little chat with the owner, and it didn't go very well. "I think your partners are driving the car too hard." I don't agree with him. I believe the mechanics are doing their usual lousy work. Also, the hood has never fit well, which tells me the car has been crashed in the front some time in the past. It's possible there are bent pieces, possibly the frame itself, and that's causing undue stress on anything that's mounted to it (i.e. suspension pieces). But no, it must be the drivers!

When I finished working I dropped by the office to fill out a work request. This had to be a stealth operation, conducted in the dead of night, to avoid the owner. I really didn't care for another lecture about driving the car gently when my partners and I always drive the car gently.

After describing the clunking sound in detail on the work request, I included this note:

    MECHANICS: Please do not remove anything from the cab. The last time the car was in for service, a full bottle of glass cleaner and a new roll of paper towels disappeared. Thank you!

Also while at HQ, I got to see what the new graveyard shift dispatcher looks like. To my great surprise, he doesn't look retarded. He wasn't even drooling. They don't make people more stupid than him, so I wasn't expecting a normal looking person. This guy cannot manage the lineup and mispronounces absolutely everything, in a very comical way. We've been mocking him mercilessly on the radio, and I don't think he's bright enough to realize it. The drivers often discuss the mystery about where on earth these people come from. Where does the owner dredge them up? There must be a headhunter in San Diego who specializes in extremely low IQs.

I took off the next day, which was Friday, Independence Day. Even though I usually make around $400, I decided it's not worth the effort. The owner dispatches on the 4th because it's really busy, and he makes everything stressful and problematic. Also, the streets are so crowded with cars and peds that it takes forever to get anywhere. And people are angry they had to wait so long for a cab. I decided I'm no attorney -- I won't do anything for money, so I took off the 4th.

Saturday night I worked, and it was fairly slow, but I had several nice rides, like Pacific Beach and Chula Vista. The clunking was still there. I work nights, and so the daytime driver of my car handles bringing the car in for service. I often have no idea if work was done, or when. You'd think I would know the car was in for service because something that used to be broken is now fixed. With our mechanic, Fred, you can never really tell. Things he has "fixed" usually break two hours later, and it often takes three or four tries for him to actually fix a problem correctly. Instead of relying on a "fixed" car, I know we've had service done because all the stereo presets have been changed, and I'm usually missing something from the car -- like the pliers I keep in the door pocket for fixing the trunk latch (fails at least three times a day).

When I first checked in with dispatch at the beginning of my shift, she announced that the next ride I got that went anywhere near HQ, I needed to stop by and pick up an envelope. This is radio code for: "You've been selected for a random drug test." Three hours later I still hadn't had a ride out in that direction, so I called her. "It doesn't look like I'm going to get a ride out there. Does that paperwork need to be picked up tonight?" I was hoping not. The rules say we have to get the test done within two hours of picking up the paperwork, so if I can miss the pickup, I can skip the test. Delay it, anyway.

I despise drug tests. I don't do drugs, ever. I don't even drink, except for maybe three beers in the course of a year. As a good Libertarian, I don't believe that my habits on my owner, personal time are any business of my employer. On top of that, it can take two hours to get the test done, and that's time I could be on the streets making money.

"I don't know," she said, "I guess so." So I was off the hook for the night.

On Sunday the 6th I was off again, as Sunday is my usual day off. Monday I worked, and it was slow. Tuesday I tried to work, but the car wasn't in front of my house. I called the office and spoke with the 2nd shift dispatcher. She said she didn't know where my car was or if there was a spare available. The owner was long gone. She did mention that my partner had also called to inquire about the car, which was a clue that it was being serviced. So I was forced to take the night off. Not a big problem. It doesn't really take much to get me to take some R&R time.

Tonight, Wednesday, the car was there. When I climbed in I found a plastic bag containing a new roll of paper towels and a new bottle of Windex glass cleaner. My complaining about the mechanics being thieves paid off. There was a sticky note on the bag saying I may want to keep them in my house. Interesting. The mechanics are robbing us blind, and the solution is to keep things away from them, not fire their thieving asses and hire honest people.

On the dash, blocking out the speedo, was a handwritten note saying: Alignment at XYZ address, 7:45-8 a.m. Thurs or Fri. I left it there after I was finished working tonight. My cab partner will have to take care of that. There is no clunking in the suspension, but the car wanders all over the road; hence the alignment.

Ahhhhhh, and to conclude the festivities, I ran down to the health place for that urine sample. After a half hour of waiting, I was called to the back room where I was asked to piss in a cup, but not until they looked under my hat to make sure I had no contraband piss. These drug screens are humiliating.

Lo and behold, I could only manage a few drops! I was told I had three hours to come up with some more, and I am not allowed to leave the building. I downed a 20-oz bottle of Coke I bought from their vending machine. Normally I can take a 19-oz piss 10 minutes after drinking a 20-oz Coke, but this time -- nada. So I chugged two, 20-oz bottles of water.

By now I needed a smoke, but they wouldn't let me. "You can't leave the building."

It was two hours before I could manage enough to fill up the little cup. What a waste of time. It was a two and a half hour piss. I must have been really dehydrated.

Now that the cab is fixed and I've gone through the drug screen, life can get back to "normal".


Ricky Scibbe said...

That's interesting, either California drug test regulations are more stringent than in my neck of the woods, or you're being required to test under the Federal regulations. I do urine collections for cab drivers all the time, and they're free to come and go as much as they like provided they get something to us eventually.

Ted Martin said...

It may be a requirement of our insurance company. I'm not sure.