Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A note about emails and photos

I receive emails frequently, and it takes me a very long time to respond. This is because I only check email once every other week or so, and sometimes monthly. This isn't because of lack of respect, and I apologize to anyone who was hoping for a faster reply. I suspect this is why three interview requests (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and San Diego Union-Tribune) didn't pan out. It's just the way I am. Maybe I'll use an autoreply explaining that it may take a while to get back. It seems to me that by vacating the rat race of an office, and instead taking it easy driving a taxi, I could let go of the torture instruments tools of the rat race.

Voicemail -- I had so many complaints from friends and the cab company HQ about slow responses to voicemail, I called Sprint and told them to kill voicemail altogether. You would not believe how calm life can be without 24/7 access.

Photos -- I've been leaving the camera at home for the last several months. I bought a new video camera and I commandeered the camera bag for that, and I don't want to carry the camera in the car without any protection. When I get a new bag/case for the still camera, I'll start taking photos again.

Amusing, but not amused, cop

I was stuck in the Gaslamp Quarter last night after a drop-off at the new Hard Rock Hotel on 5th Ave and K street (or is it L St?). I think they were surgeons, based on their conversation. After sitting in a line of cars that was stationary for no apparent reason (after dropping off), I tapped my horn once, briefly. A voice tried to speak to me through the passenger window, which was open. I turned down my stereo and looked, finding a bicycle cop. "What?" I asked. "Horns are for emergency use only," he said, "and trying to get cars to move is not an emergency." I stuck my head out the driver window and bellowed as loudly as I could: "Let's get a move on!!!" I looked back at the cop, who had a blank expression. He has dealt with my kind before.

Sailor's take on war with Iran

I drove a guy who is stationed on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, one of our latest and largest Nimitz class aircraft carriers. I asked if he knew about the recent incident with the Iranian speedboats, or the Russian bombers who just buzzed the Nimitz, a similar carrier currently at sea. He had. I suggested they might be trying to provoke us into war.

Him: "I hope not. I'd never see dry land again."

Annoying customer

Last night I was belled to a residential address. It was dark out, but I could see the address number on the side of the house. Through a picture window I could see about five adults and one little girl, perhaps six, watching TV. I backed up, pointing the car at the windows, and flicked my high beams twice. Legend has it that it's illegal to use a spotlight or flashlight, and it's frowned upon to use a horn after 10 p.m. I immediately put the car in a normal parked position on the street, making sure all my lights were on -- normal car lights and the taxi light on the roof.

The little girl came to the window and looked at me. After about a full minute, she went and sat down, deciding not to alert the adults that a taxi was in front. I flashed my lights several times, and toggled the roof light (I left the car on the street, not pointing towards the house). The little girl came to the window again (nobody was more than ten feet from the windows), and this time spoke to a woman. She pointed at me, and the woman looked. Then the little girl sat down and they all watched TV some more.

I started my meter and turned off the car and lights, and began to read a book. I had officially made contact, which is when HQ allows us to start the meter. Undoubtedly some drivers start it immediately, and we also have some drivers who never start the meter until people are in the car. I only do it if people are rude.

After several more minutes a woman came out to the car with the little girl. It was the same woman who saw me. She asked about the meter and I explained that I turn it on when contact is made, which is ethical and legal. In many circumstances we can turn it on before making contact (such as a reservation with a specific time). "Oh," she said. "But you didn't come to the door, or call." Me: "The girl told you I was here." She said "Oh" once more, then let it drop.

I don't let customers like her change the way I treat everyone -- which is very well. Some drivers let it get to them, and those are the stereotypical guys everyone knows about. They're surly and only respond once, with a nod.

Tijuana hooker price list

In case you were wondering about the costs, here they are, as I got it from an authority source: three drunk, enlisted sailors. Side note: I've had numerous sailors tell me that anyone below E5, which these guys certainly were, are forbidden to go to TJ. That may only apply to out-of-town ships pulling into port for a short stay -- I'm not sure.

+ Adelita's: $60 plus $12 for the room, alcohol extra
+ Purple Rain: $78, room included, alcohol extra
+ Luxor: $150, room and alcohol included (unlimited tequila and beer)

They said Luxor had stunningly beautiful women and, since they "drank so much," it was the best deal in town. Purple Rain had the worst of the girls, but they were still very good. No complaints. They felt Adelita's was the best overall value, with women slightly better than Purple Rain, but not quite as good as Luxor. They told me about Chicago Club, too, but I can't remember the details. It's similar in price/quality to Adelita's and Purple Rain.

Here's an interesting side note: According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, our big daily paper, prostitution is illegal throughout Mexico. It is not enforced, especially in red light districts of major cities, like Tijuana. In fact, the Mexican government has issued sanitary guidelines and instituted regular health checks for the "industry." I read this three or four years ago in hard copy; no link available.

The best seafood in town

I had to give credit to a driver for a great joke. It may be too "inside" for anyone else to appreciate it; I don't know. Here's how it went down.

Two drivers, who I'll call A and B, have been squabbling on the radio for a few days. B allegedly stole a ride from A, so A is looking for revenge. Last night driver B picked up and asked for drivers to suggest a good seafood restaurant. We all knew where he picked up. Typically drivers help each other, and would suggest a place some distance away (but not too far). Some drivers ask questions like these just to deflect any suspicions a customer might have, even though they know quite well where everything is. If customers suspect they've been taken to an out-of-the-way spot to inflate the meter, the driver can always say he wasn't sure, and that's why he checked. "A" responded to B's request for a seafood restaurant: "XYZ restaurant has the best seafood in town." That restaurant was about four blocks from where B picked up. I haven't heard yet if the trick worked.

Several drivers are now continuing the joke. If they picked somebody up who requests that restaurant, they call it in: "We're going to XYZ, the best seafood in town."


We have a new driver who has already been nicknamed Frankenstein. He's from eastern Europe, with a strong accent, and he's obese with a glistening, bald head. He looks and sounds the part. A few drivers have been imitating him on the radio, to the dismay of dispatchers.

I'm in on the joke, but I also did what I always do for new drivers: I told him to call me for directions, anytime. Many veteran drivers deliberately give bad direction to n00bs, hoping they'll get frustrated and quit. Fewer drivers, after all, is more money for the rest. "Frankenstein" turned out to be a very nice guy. He's from eastern Poland and even though he only knows a little English, he can make a decent joke. In front of a group of drivers standing beside the lead car on a cab stand a few nights ago, he told a joke about a camel that had to be jerked off once for every 100 miles traveled. When he finished (heh), I told him that he was already turning into a fine cab driver.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Credit cards are coming

The cab company owner just announced that all drivers must check in with HQ to get equipped to accept credit cards by the end of February. We will be given carbon forms and mechanical swipe machines. There will be no way to check, instantly, if the card is declined or accepted. It will take two weeks to get our money, and it will be placed against the next lease payment. We also pay HQ a 10% fee on all transactions.

I used to accept cards through another driver who had a merchant account with his bank. After a few declines I quit accepting them. Also, I got tired of all the imbeciles who wanted to use a CC for a ride across the street.

CCs are an absurdly bad deal for drivers. We shouldn't have to accept them. Also, it's not in our contract, so a few drivers are considering refusing, and then suing if their contracts get canceled (fired). I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. If we have to sue and win, keeping our jobs, we'll be given the worst cars in the fleet and suffer untold other miseries. On the other hand, declines only represent a small percentage, and most CC rides are reasonable. To make a stand or not to make a stand, that is the question...

I'll probably just swallow the angst and take the credit cards. It's not THAT big of a deal, and the owner tends to remember people who accept new rules. I have a general policy of going along with employers. It's my option to quit and start my own company any time I wish.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Better than Valentine's Day

I drove three ladies home from a bar on Saturday night, and during the drive they said "men everywhere" are creating a new holiday, one for men. Men are tired of Valentine's Day, and they either want to cancel it or create a balancing holiday. This, according to my customers. They said the day will be March 14, and is to be called Steak and a Blowjob Day. I thought it was a great idea, though I mentioned I thought the day should be "today." They disagreed with a laugh. Well, you can't blame a guy for trying.

A cold breakfast

I got Stan again. He's a local drunk who normally goes downtown and normally pays for his ride. The last time I had him he refused to pay and I had to summon the police (post here). He learned from past mistakes, which were, in the order he made them:

1: customers really do have to pay for waiting time
2: cab drivers won't put up with being told to "fuck off" four or five times, and
3: cab drivers will call the police to make people pay (and it's only a matter of time before he gets a driver who will fracture his skull)

This time around he decided to try to beat the system by getting a ride to an all night diner, then paying, then getting out and ordering breakfast to go. Before he got out of the car he asked if I was going to be "in the area." I would be. Then he asked if I was planning on sitting "right here." Absolutely. He verified just before he closed the door: "Are you going to be waiting right here when I come back from the restaurant?" I assured him I would be waiting. You can see this coming... I dropped it in Drive and lit up the rear tires, speeding away the moment the door closed, and I tapped the horn twice to make sure he knew my exit was not a misunderstanding.

I then called the few remaining drivers on duty and explained the situation. When he called for a taxi again, from the diner, no car showed up. He called back ten minutes later. When dispatch asked where the driver assigned to the call was (not me), he said he couldn't find the diner. That's an obvious lie, as we all know very well where that diner is located. Another car was sent, and ten minutes later Stan had to call again. This time the driver said he was "almost there," and eventually picked up Stan and drove him home. Breakfast was quite cold by then, I'm sure.

Ted 2
Stan 0

I'll let you know how the next round goes.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Saying goodbye to a friend

Here's my friend asleep on the couch about a
year ago. Remotes were his favorite pillows.

My cat died last night. I can't believe it. I've had him three years, since he was about five months old. He was an indoor-outdoor cat who slept on my bed every night and wouldn't let me go to sleep until I played with him for a while. I got home from driving the taxi at about 3:30 a.m., to find him in the dark, at the foot of my steps. He looked fine; I have no clue as to what took his life. What an awful night it was. Today isn't much better.

I'm really going to miss my buddy.

Rest in peace, my old friend.