Taxi, for better and often worse, is an extremely intimate affair---two to five minute-long rides translating into quick and animated relationships, often special and memorable, arriving at the destination ending what could perhaps had proceeded for hours, if not years. In other words, in a very brief span of time, you quickly get to know and become involved in the lives of complete strangers.
One recent example is Tina, a woman I keep transporting between the homeless camps and the Airlane Motel, and then once more back again to the bushes or whatever else she might be going, our ten minute rides a Birdseye view of Tina's ongoing struggle at maintaining any semblance of humanity dignity. For me, while I may never see her again, I can't help caring about her and her situation, perhaps calling it human to human recognition of another individual and their plight to live and survive.
Mike, whom I saw again on a Tuesday afternoon as he staggered into the cab completely drunk, is another one of these folks generating my empathy and concern. That he suddenly turned into a kind of monster was shocking to me, and why I decided to spotlight his story---a man who is now drowning after many years of remaining fairly safe and sane while standing upon more or less solid ground.
Picking Mike up at N. 85th & Greenwood, I was surprised that he wanted to go to the 3rd & Pine MacDonald's and not his room at the Seals Motel. For at least the past year I have been transporting Mike from the Seals to various destinations and back again, getting to know him somewhat well, Mike a survivor of a serious industrial accident, having lost his entire left arm. Our relationship over the months had, until two days ago, always been extremely cordial, Mike making a point of giving a good tip. Again, it was a real surprise when suddenly Mike became somebody quite unlike the person I thought I knew.
Having fallen asleep, the trouble began once he awakened, making a few odd remarks but nothing unusual considering how drunk he was. I suppose it was a mistake on my part to not question him when Mike suddenly decided to change his destination to 3rd & James and the shelter where he was now staying. Yes, some great upheaval has completely altered his life but just what I never had the time to find out. And now Mike was instantly on the attack, angry that we were not at MacDonald's but DESC.
Asking him to consider that perhaps the alcohol was affecting his actions, I told him to "just give me $25." as I backtracked to 3rd & Pine. Unfortunately my kindness and patience wasn't appreciated because Mike was now pretty much out-of-control, belligerent and surly, telling me to "wipe that stupid grin off my face."
Readjusting my parking place closer to MacDonald's, Mike paid me with a debit card while demanding a receipt. Upon receiving the receipt he proceeded to examine it thoroughly, clearly and intentionally doing all he could to delay his exit, all his actions saying "f__k you!"; that I am going to do anything I want except perhaps getting out of your cab.
Understanding full well that this was complete madness, I said "Enough! Enough!" and swung around and opened his door, telling him that" I have had the patience of a saint" but now it was time to leave. At the precise moment he started getting physical, three SPD cops showed up and escorted Mike out, asking if he would like to go to detox. Having already accepted another fare, I didn't stick around to see the conclusion but I did hear one officer mutter that he didn't need to be critiqued, Mike obviously now turning his wrath upon them.
Calling the tavern back, I voiced my concern, expressing that the bartender talk to him upon his next visit. No, I wasn't mad. Instead I only wished Mike a better conclusion given his present dire circumstances. I speculate that somehow the money he has been living on has disappeared but how that happened I will probably never know. in one sense, what occurred is just like the taxi I know and hate. It is crazy and remains crazy. Regardless of the money, driving a taxi is "nuts" and you can quote me upon that, compassion and sanity all pouring down the taxi drain! Good grief! Charlie Brown, Good Grief!