Modern American Life at my Taxi Doorstep
Every cab driver, especially longterm drivers like myself, eventually meets almost every kind of individual, of human being, originating from every social and economic class, be they happy, sad, crazy or just plainly mundanely boring. And each one having a story, their narrative entering my cab, and for a few minutes filling my mind with who they are and what they are doing at that particular moment. Most often, I attempt to be what I could call "pleasantly scientific," analyzing while making every attempt not to be judgmental. This week I offer a handful of examples of five recent customers passing through my cab, offering you a peek of what is my daily reality. As the old nursery rhyme goes, "Here's the (taxi) church and there's the steeple, Open the the door (and oh my god!) and see all the people." Yeah, it is basically like that.
"A"---Not Long in the Taxi: Everyone Needs a Social Club
Seattle's "rich" have their Rainier Club, the local Chinese have their Benevolent Associations, the Grunge Rockers have their Crocodile, and Seattle's social outcasts/minor criminals have Joe's Bar & Grill at 500 South King Street. Located at the edge of Chinatown just west of the beautiful Chinese Gate, Joe's is a kind of neighborhood hangout but also clearly attracting folks living miles away. Yellow get lots of calls there, and while I don't particularly like the normal "ruff & tuff" drinking crowd, I always respond, knowing that even the disreputable require rides home. Most often, though "rough around the edges," the passengers usually are minimally well-behaved, which is all I request and little more. Now "A" was a little bit of a different story, first making me wait when he said he would be right out, then leaving the bar not wearing a mask, prompting me to lock the doors. "Do you need a mask?" I asked but no, he said, putting his on.
Once in, he wanted to go 1820 Minor, a building well known to me, filled with ruffians and many not-so-happy folks. Given I was parked on 5th Ave South facing north, and knowing the left turn ahead was illegal, I turned right onto South Jackson, telling "A" I would be taking the "up and over route" past Harborview Hospital, while finally proceeding down 8th to Howell and then there we are. It's a great route, especially avoiding traffic during the later hours.
Now "A" didn't like hearing this, growling "Why didn't you take 4th?" clearly implying I was trying to "rip him off." In my long experience I find that some people hire a cab while others "commandeer " the taxi, something I don't allow, prompting my "I am taking you back to Joe's, no charge!" "I'll pay you extra," he responded . And I say "I don't need your "extra," I've already gotten your "extra" and I don't want any more. Get out!"
"D"---"Jesus Loves Me, Yes I Know Because FOX Network News Tells Me So!"
"D" is irritating as hell because he has never taken much responsibility for anything, and now, totally dependent upon government handouts, paying for his methadone and everything else in his life, he's become an expert upon everything but nothing, hating Biden, loving Trump, hating Socialism but more than pleased to be getting $1200. SSD payments. "That's socialism," I tell him. "No it isn't!" But what does he know for sure I can't tell because he doesn't read, his aunt and FOX News, he says, his prime source and bible. And his license has been suspended for years though not stopping him from driving his hot rod around town. "Be careful," I warn. "I am," he says.
"R R"---The Guy Has Big Feet
"R R" is big, nice guy, huge feet bigger as they are swollen, size 14 or more, in big rubber sandal-like shoes, either his feet or the wet shoes smelling to "high heaven." Stiff, he can barely move, inching, inching into the cab, lying flat upon the seat, and painfully, ever so slowly, even with helping lift his feet, it taking ten minutes or more until he is finally in. With a pile of money in his pockets, he hitchhiked from Florida to Seattle in 1981, taking 8 days, and here he was, years later, now living in the Magnuson Park old US Navy barracks heading to a doctor's appointment. He once drove taxi in Tampa. He was a Merchant Marine here and there and everywhere. But now he couldn't move, something afflicting his legs, the skin looking something awful---red, chapped, flaking---and swollen, nothing good happening with those legs.
"E"----Never Understood I was Taking Her to Her House
"E" was funny in her way, an older woman using a walker, originating from a Madison Valley house. Now I thought that was her house because she just wouldn't or couldn't clearly tell me where she was going on Beacon Hill. Maybe it was dementia of some sort, I don't know but she knew the streets and first she wanted to go to the Starbucks Drive-Through on 1st Ave South, going perhaps twice a year and her $7.00 coffee $5.00 the last time she visited. Back up South Holgate we go and there we stop, corner of 21st South and South Forest. That was her house, that's where we had been heading to all along. "Why didn't you tell me your address," I said. "I know my address," she responded. She likes the color purple. So do I.
"S"---9010 East Marginal Way South to Sultan, Washington
It was a private Boeing Field hanger located a block north of the Museum of Flight, the company Gulf Stream flying in from Buffalo, New York. It had been a long week and he was glad to see me, and I was happy too, a fare all the way to Sultan, a 51 mile drive. At first I thought he was some variety of corporate scion but soon it became clear he wasn't that at all, turning out to be some kind of "personal security" consultant, a US Marine veteran using his knowledge assisting safe transit in unsafe places. "All my friends from Iraq are now dead." We talked about how we were on opposite ends of the military spectrum, he of the many Marine years and me, the 1972 Vietnam-era CO, pretty much agreeing that the military not caring a "rats ass" whether you, the individual soldier lives or dies. Not standing Seattle any more, they moved away from the Northgate area and out to Sultan, buying a house in a large development situated on a ridge northeast of town. "Half of Sultan likes us here, the other half hates us." The fare was $133.00 and he gave me $180.00. And we didn't hit any traffic. That was great!