Monday, March 8, 2010

The Rabbit

"This town's gone to hell," Big Walt told as we broke for coffee. "Look at that," he said sweeping his arm toward the shops across the street. There were a couple of Mexican fruit and vegetable stores and a Vietnamese fish market with several people shopping at them.

"I grew up in this neighborhood," he said. "Now it's a fucking slum."

"I mean, San Francisco used to have class. I used to be proud to drive a cab here. Half the scumbags these days don't know how to act - know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I think I do."

"I mean, used to be you'd take a bar or restaurant call and, if the customer left, the bartender or the hostess'd give ya a couple bucks - maybe even a fin. Just by way of appreciation. Remember that?"

"Yeah, I do."

"Now they look at ya like you're bothin' them. One hostess snapped at me, "they're gone - whatya want me to tell ya?

"'How about tellin' me you'll give me a couple bucks for my trouble,'" I told her. So she told me, 'how about I just call another company' - and in a snotty tone of voice. As if that would be a punishment. 'Go ahead' I told her, 'soon enough you won't get no cabs at all.'"

"I don't pick 'em up anymore," he continued.

"Bars and restaurants?"

"Yeah - and hostesses. I'm done with those bitches. Ditto for waitresses. And bartenders - they're all a bunch of low-class snobs. They actually think they're better than we are!!! I mean, how much brains does it take to carry a drink? ... And, I've had it with freaks and weirdos ... I don't pick up guys with baseball caps on sideways or backwards, women with tattoos, girls with rings in their noses, guys with red tattoos, guys with their pants hung around their knees, girls with holes in their jeans, men with sandals, women with big boots, guys with sunglass on top of their heads ... and sailors? Who needs those cheap drunken bums ... And, construction workers used to know how to tip. Not anymore ... I don't pick up Australians, Italians, the English or tourists from Minnesota for the same reason ... I don't pick guys carryin' big radios or anybody talking on a cell phone. Drives you crazy. I wouldn't own one myself ... And I don't pick up minorities."

"But Walt," I pointed out, "more than half the people in this city are minorities."

"Somebody's got to make a stand."

"What about yuppies?"

"I used to pick up the women until I had this investment banker type - you know, your typical Stanford snob bitch. She snapped out a location without so much as a hello - like they do - and I started to drive when she suddenly screamed."

"What'aya yelling about?" I snapped. "You could cause an accident doin' that."

"But there's an animal back here," she said.

"Don't worry about that," I told her, "it's just a rabbit."

"A rabbit?!"

"Don't worry about it, it's dead."


"Yeah - I keep tellin' the day driver to clean it up but the lazy bum just ignores me."

"Would it take too much effect to throw it out yourself?" she asked in this snotty, sarcastic voice.

"I tell ya - I snapped. I mean, if there's one thing I can't stand it's sarcasm. If you got something to say. just come out and say it."

"You know," I told her, "one thing I can't stand it's sarcasm. If you got something to say, just come out and say it."

"Why don't throw it out yourself?" she asked in the same snotty tone of voice.

"Because it's the day driver's responsibility not mine." I told her again. "Not that responsibility is anything you'd know about. No - you just sit in the back, snap out commands and think you get someplace by magic - You don't think about how much skill and training goes into this job - how much real intelligence - not the abstract shit you live on - if it weren't for my responsibility you wouldn't even get nowhere alive - and you talk to me - I wouldn't talk to a dog in the tone of voice you use on me! Thanks for treating me worse than your dog!"

"And thanks," she cooldly replied, "for finally revealing the meaning of that obscure biblical passage."

"What biblical passage?" I asked her.

"The one that goes, 'and she was smote by the jawbone of an ass.'"

"I mean, a Stanford graduate and she can't even get the quote right - it's 'He was smote' ... "

"So what'd you say?"

"I didn't say nothin'. I 86'd the bitch ... "

"I tell you, man," Walt continued, "I'm getting out of this business . Used to be you could earn a decent living - not anymore."

Flying Off to Roma

Tall, wearing a stylish pants-suit and in her early thirties, she put a couple of packages onto the back seat before climbing in herself.

She was open, friendly, and attractive but not my type - not that it would've mattered. Thinking of me as a "partner" simply would not have entered her head. She wasn't a snob. She just belonged to a different world. She would no more think of having sex with me than she would with a pet cat she was fond of.

"I've got to run some errands ... it'll take three or four stops," she said breezily, "I hope you don't mind ... I can always grab another cab if you have to be somewhere."

Usually, I do mind. But my policy on this is: if they ask - I don't mind, if they demand - I do. Besides, she looked like a true San Franciscan, that is, a 30% tipper.

First we went to her laundry.

"I've been dating this fantastic man," she told me en route, "he's a little bit older but he's highly successful. He has just the littlest touch of grey hair - but he's very fit ... he plays baseball and he has a great sense of humor."

"Sounds like a good catch ... if you ladies still talk like that."

"We don't talk like that - but we think it," she said with a laugh as she got out to drop off her clothes.

When she returned, we headed for her wine shop.

"We go to the operas and ballets and we eat at all the top restaurants."

"Sounds great."

"Yes, he spoils me ... but I've met this other guy ... he's more my age - actually a little younger and he's not nearly as stable or secure ... in fact he's a little wild ... but he's ... how shall I put it?"

"More passionate."

"Yes - exactly - more passionate. Exactly the word. Passionate. Anyway ..."

We arrived a the wine shop.

"... to be continued."

She came back with the wine and I drove her to a fancy foods store.

"So my problem is," she continued, "he wants me to go to Roma with him."

"Which one? El Appassionato or Mr. stable."

"El Appassionato," she replied, "very appropriate name."

"So what's the problem?"

"Well ... maybe he's a little too appassionato, too wild."

"He's wouldn't want to marry you?"

"I ... don't ... know if I'd want to marry him. I'd have to worry too much about where was all the time - if you know what I mean? ... but still ..."

"He's very passionate."


"So you're afraid that things ultimitley won't work out in Roma and your trip might cost you Mr. Secure."

"Exactly," she told me as stepped out to buy the groceries.

When she returned, I asked her,

"You don't intend to tell Secure that you'll be traveling with Appasionato do you?"

"Well, of course not!" she replied. slightly annoyed by the question. "I'll tell him I'm going with the girls."

"Then, I don't see what the problem is ... go to Roma and if you come back, the older dude will still be waiting for ya.'

"Are you sure?" she asked, concerned and a little doubtful.

"Of course. If you don't go to Roma you'll regret it the rest of your life."

"I guess you're right," she said, sighing with relief. "That's a load off my mind."

She counted out the 30%, then happily tossed in an extra ten.