At the start of this shift I headed to Scottsdale, figuring that there are plenty of people in that area who can afford to take a cab. I picked up a passenger in east Phoenix that took me to Scottsdale Rd, then took the guy from a massage establishment further north on Scottsdale Rd, to his hotel in Oldtown Scottsdale.
Then... nothing. There were a lot of cabs in the area, and this was a Monday. I surveyed the available fares, and it seemed like the east valley was being neglected. I got on the freeway headed south for the greener pastures in Tempe and Mesa.
East-Valley Refugees from Phoenix
My first fare in the east valley had been stranded by public transit. He didn't realize that the bus he needed doesn't run past 8pm (or so). Apparently the buses in the east valley only run east-west after that time, and he needed to go south.
I asked about how long he's lived in the valley. He moved to the east valley from South Phoenix about 3 years ago, and said that he likes Gilbert much better than where he used to live.
This passenger goes for dialysis 3 times a week. His daughter and grandson live with him - he watches his grandson when he's not getting his blood filtered. Before his kidneys failed, he was on drugs for gout and rheumatoid arthritis. Then his feet started swelling... The doctors did a kidney biopsy, which he said caused his kidneys to fail. His feet stopped swelling after his doctors decided he didn't really need the drug they'd given him for the arthritis. Whoops.
This started last September. He had me stop at Circle K for soda & chips, just before dropping him off. I'm sure he's been drinking soda and eating chips (fried in paint oil) for a lot longer than he's been getting his blood filtered.
The next fare was at WalMart, where I found a woman in a wheelchair. She was able to get in the car, and I folded up her wheels to put in the back. This woman was also a refugee from Phoenix, and thought Mesa was much cleaner/nicer than where she used to live.
The next fare was two ladies going to the Circle K about a mile away. I waited, then took them back home. They each emerged from the convenience store with a plastic bag and a big styrofoam soda cup. I sighed, but didn't say anything. I wonder if people would buy those if they made the connection between carbonated High Fructose Corn Syrup (which is frequently contaminated with Mercury) and their weight. Oh well.
I picked the next fellow up from a Mexican restaurant, but before leaving the strip mall we went back to his car, so he could get his chemistry goggles. This is just a basic college chemistry course. He's looking to do something besides being an electrician - an Electrical Engineer, maybe?
It's much more important to have a profession that you like than a piece of paper on the wall, so I asked what he'd like to do. He'd love to do search & rescue, but how do you get into that field besides through the military or police?
This was a good fare which left me at the south edge of Mesa. I thought I'd call it a night. When I was almost 1/2 way home, the fare screen buzzed... If I'd been fully awake, I would've noticed that the zone was quite a backtrack (5 miles?) and rejected the fair. But I hit 'accept', and groaned about having to go back to Scottsdale Rd.
When I got to the bar, there were three people left. It was almost 2am on a Monday, which is last call in Arizona. The guy denied that he was the Ryan I was looking for, and I had to no-show the call. Grr, $2 wasted.
But if not for the decoy fare, I never would have met....
The First Drunk Indian
When I called to say I was on my way, the passenger said he wanted to get to the liquor store before 2am. On a tight schedule, I raced over.
He expressed some concern about getting harassed by cops, even though he was in a cab - I said he'd be fine. He's probably gotten in trouble for that before (or underage drinking), so I was happy to take him to Sam's just to keep his drunk ass off the roads.
This passenger's mother just got arrested and sent to South Dakota on meth charges... The order for the liquor store included a few 40's, and some (thin) cigars -- maybe these were flavored. He chatted with the store clerks (he's a frequent customer, apparently), told them about his mom, and how she'd evaded the law for a couple years.
I took the fellow back to his home on the reservation (compare road density east & west of the 101), so he could resume his Monday-night drinking, and was considering open fares when the computer asked if I wanted to save another drunk from herself.
Sent by the Great Spirit
Each of the cabs reports its location (obtained via GPS), to the central computer. When a passenger schedules a pickup, the dispatching algorithm offers the fare to the first taxi in the zone, then to taxis in neighboring zones, then it is announced to everyone. When the computer buzzes with a fare offer, it tells the driver which zone it's in, and approximately how far away it is.
I was told this fare was about 300 yards away. It's always nice to get a fare that you don't have to chase for 3 miles, or 15 miles, so I jumped on this one. I plugged the address in to the GPS, and it was on the other side of McDowell Rd.
I pulled up to the approximate location, and found a single well-lit house surrounded by a chain link fence. I considered going up and knocking, but the gate was mostly closed, so I called instead.
She must've seen my cab, and said she was closer to McDowell. I turned around, saw the white lights ahead that she must've been referring to and started moving. Then she said "stop!" over the phone. I didn't even see her before she opened the door and got in - this was a very dark area. She was short of breath, and after a moment started to tell her story...
She'd been drinking with "friends" nearby. Then they kicked her out of the house, and locked the doors. It was getting a little chilly that night, and she called another (better?) friend for help. The friend offered to pay for a cab to bring the passenger to her apartment near Hayden & Roosevelt (about 2 miles).
I consulted the GPS to figure out where exactly we were going, started the meter, and took off. She tried calling her friend while we were en-route (for the exact address), but the friend didn't answer.
When we got to the cross-streets, she said with a touch of despair, "I guess I'm going to have to go to jail" - no money for her fare, no friend to pay it, nowhere warm to spend the night. I bet she's spent the night in jail before - drunk indian #1 (who I took to the liquor store) said cops on the reservation tend to be hard-asses, and I'd bet the jail has a revolving door for drunks from the reservation.
"Where do you want to go? I'll take you anywhere you want."
The prius gets good mileage, so it wouldn't cost me more than another dollar or two, on top of the $2 I'd already spent on her. She was rather intoxicated, and didn't believe that I'd take her farther, for free. "I was sent by the Great Spirit to help you. I'll take you anywhere, where do you want to go?" She gave another intersection in Mesa, 5 or 10 miles away. I consulted the GPS and got on the freeway.
"Do you get drunk seven nights a week?" No, usually 4. Her father and grandfather both died from alcoholism.
I suspect that one of the causes behind the native american alcoholism epidemic is that they don't have anything else to do to spend time (it's complex, but this is part of the problem). I asked what she does when she's not drinking. She's working on getting a social security card, so she can take classes at a community college. I don't remember what her interest was.
We got to the general area, and my passenger was able to direct me to her intended location. She said if this one didn't work, there was another house/apartment nearby that she could also stay at.
She sent me a text at 2:49am "Hey was up", and another at 3:18am, "What". You can't save everyone, I'd done what I could, and didn't text her back.
Drunk Whitey Pays For The Charity Fare
John was at an apartment complex, and just wanted to get home. He was rather drunk, and had me stop at a convenience store so he could get cigarettes (which he despises). His apartment complex was rather polished.
When we pulled up to his apartment, he left his State ID card with me while he ran up to his apartment for cash. I wondered if it was really his ID card, as the address didn't match the location, but before long a winded John appeared with cash in hand. He more than paid his fare, then added a few more dollars in a fit of drunken confusion.
Maybe the great spirit was acting through this fellow to say 'thanks'.