Monday, December 2, 2013

Instant Taxi, Part II: the overly-ambitious rookie

I recently posted a diary about how I am sometimes able to appear instantly. This happened again last Monday night. I only had six fares (and a cancellation) over the 12 hour shift. Much time was spent waiting between my 'appointments'. One good fare is worth 10 small fares, so at least I didn't lose money.

Usually taxi driving is a solitary occupation, but on this particular night I was sent to offer advice to an overly-ambitious rookie.

The first fare was a setup. She'd called hours earlier for a time call: "please pick me up at 9:40pm". Then she changed her mind and called back to cancel, but Skynet did not register this cancellation. I'd gotten off to a late start, received her pickup request 15 minutes early, proceeded to the location, and asked the guy standing outside if he was the passenger I was looking for. He was not, but went inside to let her know.

She came right out to say that she'd canceled. I asked her to please call the company to cancel, so that I wouldn't have to pay the fee assessed on all call-center scheduled fares. "I canceled once already..." - "Please try again," and I drove away. I was pleasantly surprised when the cancellation came through a minute later - many passengers who've changed their minds about going somewhere leave us drivers stuck with their charge. The next fare was offered as soon as the cancellation came through.

The passenger was a woman going home from Phoenix Children's hospital. Her 2-week old grandchild had an infection that was being treated with IV antibiotics. Grandma was irritated because she'd called back after 20 minutes of waiting, and learned that her cab order had not been put through.

My second passenger was going home from the urgent care next to the children's hospital - she had the sniffles.

My third passenger went about 15 miles into Tempe - this was a bit of a ride for that time of night, but people have their motivations... He was wearing a white jacket, which made him easy to see. Sometimes I see people out running at night in black, and only notice them because of the reflectors on their shoes.

I don't like Tempe much, so after this passenger I went north on the freeway into Scottsdale. I was going to the curve where the 101N turns to the west, but then I noticed I was in Position 1 for the area I was in, and thought that would be fine too. I parked near one of the bars in that zone and tried to nap for a bit, but the cab was not very comfortable.

2.5 hours later the meter buzzed to offer my next appointment. This was just after 2am, which is last-call at the bars in Arizona. I pulled up to the establishment, and saw a man getting into an independent cab. The bartender gestured to my prius and told his customer, "that's your cab". This guy asked me "how much to Tempe?" The other cab driver offered $15, as he knew his night was over otherwise. I didn't know what to say - Tempe is rather large, and a bit of a drive... Then the passenger apologized to the independent driver and got into my cab, as I had been sent for him specifically.

I was rather interested in the products the passenger is a sales rep for, but his purpose in the night's schedule was to get me back to Tempe.

just like following a hyperlink...

After dropping the passenger at his home, I thought about where to go for the morning. While it is possible to catch fares between last call and the morning rush (which starts between 4am and 5am), these late-night fares are few and far between. I eventually decided on zone 223, which has the hotel next to the Mayo Clinic Hospital. This was about 20+ miles from where I was. But I needed to use the restroom first.

I asked Skynet for the locations of nearby Quick Trips gas stations. The station on Priest near the US-60 (C) was closer, but the freeway access from the station at Rural & Baseline (D) was more convenient.

Another of the company's cabs was parked off to the left. Parked in close proximity were two Tempe Police cruisers, a firetruck, and a fire ambulance. I was curious, but figured I had no business wandering over, so I parked a half dozen spaces to the right. I hit the prius' power button (so I could lock the doors with the remote), and was about to tell the system that I was taking a 10-minute break when I was offered a fare for 17 yds. "Hmm... Okay." Accept.

I locked the doors and walked over. One of the officers looked at me funny, like he was thinking "what do you want?".

I said "did you guys call for a cab?" The officer softened immediately, and said, "your new cab is here, she'll get you your change..." Then he tells me that the passenger is going to "xxxx S Dorsey."

The passenger's first driver came over. She told me that the passenger couldn't tell her where he was going, then he started hitting the seat. I asked how long she'd been driving - it was her fourth night. "You can drive days too, you know..."

getting the passenger home

The passenger had been at a club... Maybe he'd just been drinking, or maybe some other substances were involved. His fare was almost $10 when we got to his apartment complex - this was paid in cash. After the transaction was completed, I offered to take him closer to his apartment. "all the way to the back, then turn right."

No further guidance was received, so I just stopped almost at the end of the parking lot. The passenger got out, and as he was swaying said, "this doesn't look right." I asked what his apartment # was. He answered with the number, so I told him to get back in, drove to the front of the complex, looked at the map, found the building #, then drove back to the right location.

Somewhere in the loop the passenger laid down and fell asleep. I tried to gently shake him awake, but this did not work. Next I tried the strategy used by the Mesa Police officers who helped me out the last time a passenger fell asleep on me. I opened the rear door and yelled as forcefully as I could, "WAKE UP!" There was no response. I opened the other door, pushed the passenger to a seated position, and yelled again, WAAAAKEEE UPPPP!!!, but this still did not elicit a response. While holding the passenger in the seated position (to keep the blood from the abrasion on his cheek from getting on the seat), I pulled out my phone, looked up the Tempe Police non-emergency number, and called.

I gave the dispatcher the preliminaries, told her that I'd just picked my passenger up from their officers at the QT at Rural & Baseline, and asked if they could send those guys over.

The officer appeared in short order. He came over to the cab, and gently spoke to the sleepy fellow. He perked right up and got out of the cab. I offered that he'd claimed apt #xxxx as his own, and followed them to the door. I noticed something in the officers hand, like a broken pixie stick...

The passenger produced his keys, but he struggled to get the door open. The officer offered to help, the keys worked, the passenger was wished a good night, the door was closed, and the officer and I returned to the parking lot.

I told the officer about trying to wake the passenger up like the Mesa Police officers had done, but that it didn't work. The police officer then said that smelling salts work great. OHHH! the "pixie stick"! Most first aid kits have them - he thought I should have them for my line of work. I responded that I've only had to call the police 3 (now 4) times in my year-and-a-half.

the night's last passenger

I next proceeded to the Mayo Clinic Hospital area, as was originally planned. After setting my alarm for 5:50am I leaned the seat back for another nap. The meter buzzed at 5:45 with a fare in the area just to the north. The passenger appeared, announced his drunkenness, and his desire for Taco Bell.

Taco Bell's lights were off, so we went to the nearby McDonald's. The passenger didn't really want breakfast, complained about the lack of options, then ordered anyways. We pulled forward, and after a minute he asked me to bail out. I suggested the 24-hour Mexican restaurant just to the south. When we were almost there I mentioned Jack In The Box, which sounded much better to the passenger. The diversion added a good 6 miles to the trip, which was just fine by me.

* * * * * *

In other news, our friend has a new mailing address - all INMATE MAIL is to go to the other facility for processing, I guess.

If I read his letter right, his is a case of mistaken identity. The other Michael Crawford got in a fight with some police officers in Portland while our friend Michael David Crawford was in Santa Cruz. The other Michael Crawford is 6'3", while our MDC is only 5'10".

Mike has a window with a view, and the food is pretty good. The latest letter said that the prison law library will be just fine, and said to send his thanks for your letters and packages.

I was wondering when if/when I'd get a reply... Finally I just sent another letter with some more reading material. A few days later a letter arrived - MDC's pen had run out of ink, and it took most of a week to get a replacement (there was a 9 day gap between the hand-printed date on the letter and the postal cancellation).

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