Misadventure, mayhem and meltdowns — this cabbie sees it all in a single shift.
#1) 2K TO WESTGATE
“Y’ever read those taxi-cab stories?”
I play dumb, telling him I don’t because it would be like being at work.
“I bet it’s crazy in here all the time, yo. All the time—don’t lie to me.”
The night’s first passenger heads home early for having pissed his pants. Despite our mutual protestations, I’ve forced him to sit on my newspaper. The roads are shitty with snow. Four-car pileup on Burlington Street Bridge, tedious traffic.
“So do you like driving a cab?”
“I dunno,” I tell him. “I found this thing running at the Kum & Go.”
#2) FAREWAY/TREK TO BOSTON WAY
Marilyn prattles about her gentleman-friend who belongs to another congregation; how this is causing him to spiritually slip; how she fears dying by aneurism, stroke, heart attack. Then she exits the cab before I’ve brought it to a halt.
Deadhead back downtown.
#3) BUS TO BOAT
Pretty girl, large hat, light bag, just arrived from Champaign to, as she puts it, “screw another girl’s man.”
#4) GABE’S TO DEMPSTER
Man who has had foot surgery, wife out of town. Help him shop at John’s where he claims to be a connoisseur of wines, cheeses and tobaccos. Nice house, writing a novel, cheap bastard.
Deadhead back downtown.
#5) JEFFERSON BLDG TO SO. LOWELL
Tired woman whose Yorkshire terrier waits for her at home in the front window.
Back downtown, step out Deli-5 for smokes and coffee.
#6) SODO TO DT
Bartender surprised to hear I work 12 hours straight.
#7) OCM-CVS TO HAWKEYE CT.
The guy who works the jewelry kiosk in the mall, singing woes of his girlfriend’s infidelity.
#8) HARTIG DRUG TO 20 AVCV
Creeper dude who asks if I ever worry about getting raped at gunpoint.
“Yeah, you know. Or robbed, or whatever.”
#9) BOSTON WAY TO HY-VEE/RETURN
Diane is in a rare good way, psychologically. She gushes for our local bar scene but complains there are no men for her.
“They’re all college students.”
She goes into Hy-Vee with a Hefty bag fat with empty cans and returns carrying two fresh cases of Busch Lite.
“And what’s this?” she inquires along the way home, putting an unwanted stroke on my five-day beard. “I don’t know, maybe I’m just desperate. But you’re looking awfully good tonight.”
#10) IRPC TO MAYFIELD
My adventure buddy, Scott. I haven’t seen him in a while so we’re all smiles and whistling assholes. We talk about golf and prostitution. He tips me plenty and encourages me to get a membership at Finkbine come spring.
#11) SHAKES TO EAGLES
Janet and Ed, drunk and arguing in the parking lot. Janet always sits up front and hollers at Ed over the seat. Always arguing, always stinking of beer sweats and cigarettes.
Ed complains his arm is killing him.
“Because you tried catching a fifteen-hundred pound power broom, you damn idiot. You goddam fool.”
They talk about having lived homeless in Denver, scrounging along Federal Boulevard where they ate out of dumpsters and how a store manager warded them off by pouring ammonia over expired beef.
“Always sunny in the rich man’s world,” says Ed.
#12) 725 BOWERY
#13) 600 S. CAPITOL TO CURRIER
Three mousy women preparing to drink in the dorms. I tell them more snow is coming.
“Yes,” “Yes,” “Yes,” all at once, a triple jinx.
#14) BURGE TO SEVILLE
Woman going home to nap before her night shift in the ICU–Neurology. We share a fascination with death, severed heads, general trauma.
#15) BOAT TO DT
Eight barely-clothed fluffies pile inside this can, three in front nearly sitting in my lap. I am gassed by perfume.
Step out Deli-5 for more smokes, a piss, more coffee.
#16) MILL TO BENTON
#17) BENTON TO THE MILL
Equally quiet couple.
#18) BURLINGTON TO 420 NOGO
Argument over the fare in which I play tough guy. Dickweed doesn’t believe I know where he lives so I promise a free ride if I can’t find the place without help. Dickweed lies in attempt to trick me so I charge everything I can, including for his dog.
#19) SAM’S TO CORNELL
Guy finished with his 14-hour day and finally going home.
Deadhead back downtown by way of the Wendy’s drive-thru.
#20) GRIZZLYS TO DT
Two dirty old men going “to sniff the ladies.” Guy in front calls himself “Slob” and pays the whole fare. Says he used to drive at Yellow, no tip.
#21) 630 S. CAP
#22) 7TH AVE. TO GABE’S
Mustachioed roofer who has threatened to murder our beloved rookie, No. 12. Pays in quarters.
#23) 328 CLINTON TO THE BOAT
Obnoxious. Low tip, wrong fare.
#24) 328 CLINTON TO RIVERSIDE
Maker-outers. Still the wrong fare, unintended heavy tip.
#25) 328 CLINTON TO BENTON
Finally the right fare. Racist fucks, no tip.
#26) DT TO EASTMOOR
Scatters a burrito across the backseat then barfs the rest upon exiting the cab.
#27) 420 NOGO, RETURNING TO BURLINGTON
Friendly this time around, minus the dickweed and the dog. Dude tells me: “My buddy got an OWI tonight on a hit and run. Cops came right after you dropped us off.”
#28) IOWA TO RONALDS
Flamboyant dude telling about a puker at the party. At his apartment, we see a drunk kid on a stretcher getting loaded into an ambulance.
“Partytown everywhere you go,” he chimes.
#29) BUS TO SHRADER
Lonely Irish drunk who lives with his dying father. His voice deepens over the course of the ride until he’s speaking naturally like Darth Vader. Shakes my hand three times before finally leaving off.
And then it’s over. I fuel my taxi, park it and turn in the keys, and then I check my math, count my take and tip my dispatcher and with finality say something like, “Fuck this popsicle stand.”
Hy-Vee for breakfast/beer then home in the cold, marching into pink seashell sky turning orange as the sun rises like a mountain fire.
Vic Pasternak has been driving a taxi in Illinois City, Ohio, for over a decade, ruining his chances for a solid career and shortening his lifespan. He enjoys fishing, preying, chainsawing and long walks alone.