Today I had lunch with a taxi buddy, J___, who just so happens to reside (and currently in taxi exile) in the town that is my birthplace, Puyallup, which is about a 30 minute drive from my front door. Having left there at about 18 months old I don't have any real connection other than the obvious fact of my birth, though still I enjoy returning,sometimes imagining what my life would have been like if my father hadn't moved us to the Mohave Desert. Anyway, I felt I was more than past due to see J___, given I wasn't able to make it to any of his preliminary hearings, which ended finally in a fourth degree misdemeanor plea, brought down from the initial felony assault charge. Yes, he was indeed arrested for a taxi transgression, which however justified, resulted in him being booted out of Yellow Cab. Like the title says, this a story every taxi driver reading should heed. You could be next if you allow yourself to be swallowed up by the frustration and madness that can be, and often is, taxi as we all know and love and hate it. You can't give in no matter how strong the temptation.
J___, a true veteran driver, age 45, so he isn't a kid, was the kind of cabbie always "blowing off steam" because he liked the money but hated the experience. That, by the way, explains why I normally only drive 2 days a week and always taking vacations here and there and everywhere. Taxi will destroy you. Let no one tell you differently. J___ was always quick, perhaps too quick in expressing his displeasure. It was this habit that eventually sunk his good taxi ship. Have no doubt about it. He is a great taxi driver. He knows the routes and he doesn't play games. Maybe it was that inherent seriousness that did him in. You have to roll with the taxi punches because they are coming your way, aimed directly at your overall sanity.
The incident happened quickly, perhaps over a 3-5 minute span. J___was sitting on the Mecca (Cafe) stand on the lower Queen Anne (zone 170) when he got a bell (dispatched call) to the Melting Pot, which is just a sharp turn up the alley, then left onto Mercer and there you are. Going north up the alley he encountered some fools, drunk or otherwise, who wouldn't get out of the way. J___then opened his big taxi mouth and an argument ensued. Again CABBIES! always keep those doors locked until the customer is approaching the taxi. If not, bad things can happen. I have my own story which I will share someday. And wait do you hear how the local police responded. Such a joke!
Finding the left rear door open, one of these idiots stuck his head in and spit onto J___'s head. All this was caught on camera. Continuing forward, J___ went to the Melting Pot but unfortunately the fools were in hot pursuit, chasing his cab.
Now this is when J___made his fatal decision, quickly whipping his taxi around and sailed toward his assailants, lightly striking one of them. If they had been pointing guns I am sure he would have been forgiven. Instead he was arrested. And now he is struggling to pay the bills. Will he ever drive a taxi again? I hope not. He is a bright guy and I recommended he start on the road to a college degree. He can do better than remain in the taxi asylum. There are plenty of inmates, including myself, to keep shepherding all those drunks home. Hey J___ my friend! do something else.
And to all those brethren of mine beneath the top light, keep those doors locked!