Monday, April 2, 2012

15: The sprinter, the addict, advice from a cop, a cutie, and a player

Two or three weeks back, when I took the two special-needs fares to their pizza party, I rolled down the window to chat with another driver for the same cab company (who had also brought a fare to the special-needs pizza party). He leases his cab for a week at a time.

A week ago he called me to see if I was interested in a 'ride share'. He works during the day, but spends the evenings with his family. This leaves the cab sitting in his driveway all night. The company charges an extra $157 to put a second driver on the cab - if you work 7-nights it can add up to a significant savings. I don't know if I'll stick with it, because I'd sorta rather sleep at night.

But night fares are mostly cash, and you get a different type of passenger. This past weekend I worked my first Friday night, and met my first sprinter. And I'll certainly never do better in terms of $-per-foot than the (likely) meth addict who'd refused medical intervention.


The first fare on Friday was taking a young man and his younger brother to get dinner at Jack-In-The-Box. They would have walked, but his arthritis was acting up. "Aren't you a little young for Arthritis?" He was 19, and has had problems since he was 14. While waiting in the drive through line, I wrote a supplement recommendation on a card, and told him that it's really important to use butter and coconut oil instead of "paint" (margarine). He mentioned memory problems, so I immediately emphasized the memory-enhancing properties of that supplement.

The next passenger was going back to the hospital, where her boyfriend was being held for observation. He'd passed out at the restaurant he worked at. "Was he standing over the fryer?" Yup. :) The real hazard from fried food is that they now use paint (linseed oil, canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil) in the fryer, instead of tallow, coconut, or palm oil. I'm sure that's why the guy passed out.

The Sprinter

I found The Sprinter around 12:30am. The computer screen said "Tiffany, Sonic Drive-In."  When I pulled up the manager was doing final tasks to close up for the night, and I parked and waited. A dude showed up and claimed that Tiffany called for him.

My intuition 'suggested' I ask for a deposit, but he put me at ease by expressing concern about the fare being more than $40. I did the quick mental calculation, figured about $15, certainly less than $20, so he'd be fine with his $40.

He said he'd recently moved to Phoenix from somewhere in Texas, and that his car was broken down - thought it was the head gasket (major surgery). I told him about how my personal car had stopped running recently, how I thought it was the timing belt. But it was just the ignition coil, and it cost more to replace the window and the key cylinder from the attempted car-theft than the ignition coil (it sat in a K-Mart parking lot overnight, next to a bunch of cheap motels).

"Was it a Mexican?" asked the young man. I said it was probably a drug addict, 'cause I don't play the race game, and the mexican gangster I had on one of my first nights paid in full with a tip.

Anyways, we got to his destination, and I parked in the driveway. "Do you have change for a $100?" No. He gets uncomfortable, starts going through his pockets... "My mom has some money, I'll be right back." My taxicab trainer warned us about this, and said that once they leave they're gone.

"Why don't you leave your phone, so I know you're coming back?" But by that point he'd already opened the door, so he sprinted away. Sorta pissed me off, but I'd 'seen' it coming and didn't do anything. It'd take an hour to file a police report, and it wasn't worth the $16.40. Karma takes care of sprinters like him (which I informed him of as he ran away).

Advice from a Cop

The next call I took was a few miles to the north. It's rather challenging to read house numbers late at night. I had some success reading the painted numbers on the curbs, but when I saw the flashing red & blue lights I knew where my fare was waiting.

Officer Steel was waiting outside, and the other cop was inside the house. The family had called the fire department, but the guy had exercised his right to refuse medical intervention, and the firefighters had departed.

I was called to take him to ... somewhere near 51st Ave & McDowell. The guy was taking his sweet time coming out. I struck up a conversation with the police officer standing guard outside, and told him about meeting my first sprinter. "Welcome to Maryvale."

He said it takes a different kind of cop to work in Maryvale than Scottsdale. In Scottsdale you never know if the drunk kid's father is a lawyer, while in Maryvale it's a point of pride to having taken a swing at a cop. He said that places west of 27th avenue are ghetto (which is not exactly true - Phoenix is patchy). He'd had his share of street fights, and lived overseas for a while. That night there'd been a double shooting over to the southwest; some nights they have scenes with 14 shootings.

His advice was to keep my main cash bank separate from the change, so if I got stuck up I'd have a small purse to 'forfeit', while protecting my main bank. He also suggested having a backup cell phone, because all phones can dial 911 with or without service...

I asked about the guy I was there to get, and the officer said he was probably a meth addict. He finally came out, and the family helped him into the back seat. I started the meter and started to pull away, but then he said he needed his son's phone number.

The cops pulled away, and we moved to the driveway where everyone else was still standing. I wrote down Alfred's #; someone went to find the passenger's son. A woman came to the window and said something like "we just want you to get help". 'Grandpa' responded that he just wanted to lay down, he just wanted to get some rest. Alfred asked what the meter was. $3. The woman said he could come in and lay down... Alfred asked again what the meter was, and I repeated $3. He pulled out $7 for me, and 'grandpa' got out of the cab to go back inside.

I think $7 for 30 feet works out to $1,232/mile, or $0.23/foot. It would be nice to get that rate more often.

A Cutie

After that fare I left for the east valley. On my way there I got a call from the taxi company's customer service department. She asked if I'd found a wad of cash in the back of my cab. I stopped and looked, but there was no wad of cash.

My first call in Scottsdale was at Walmart's Garden Center entrance. The store was closed, and I didn't see anyone, so I turned towards the main door and called the number. She said she was behind me, but that she couldn't walk very fast because of her heels.

She'd gone to a bar with a friend, ended up at another friend's house, but didn't like that he was wasted, and started walking back to her car. There were any number of streets that she didn't recognize, and when she got to Walmart she decided to call the cab company to take her back to her car in Oldtown Scottsdale.

She asked to sit in the front, because she didn't like the limousine treatment.. She moved to the Valley when she was 25, maybe a year or two before. Kansas had gotten old. She had knee problems, so I suggested a supplement or two that could help. She might've been able to walk back to her car from the drunk friend's house, if she hadn't gone the wrong way.

A Player

The next fare from that night was 7200 N. Scottsdale Rd, the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. When the passenger was not waiting in the lobby like it said, I used the restroom, went back to the cab, and noticed that the pickup was not scheduled for 5am. A few minutes later a tired-looking fellow trudged into the lobby. As he told the staff he was checking out, I noticed the CR logo on his bag. "Do you play for the Rockies?" Indeed, this was the case.

He was going to the airport, so I asked a few more questions. Is the rest of the team leaving today?  No, they're taking the team plane on Wednesday; he's leaving early because his baby girl had just been born on Wednesday.... Is this your first season in Colorado? Yes, before he was in St. Louis... Do they spring train in Florida? Yes. How do they compare? Florida is sticky, whereas Arizona is much more pleasant. But he didn't much care for the cool snap a few weeks before, when they had to wear beanies and sweatshirts.

He was tired, so I didn't talk much. He left a decent tip, percentage-wise - said he appreciated that I was on-time. I just checked the Rockies' roster, and I don't see his or his roommate's last names. Baseball players work for a living too - I wonder how much non-superstar players make.

It's pretty easy to get a cab in Scottsdale at any time of the day. While there are working-class areas in that city too, there aren't ghettos like elsewhere. Calls in other parts of the valley can linger for a long time before they're finally picked up or dropped, 'cause drivers are wary of getting stiffed (the system tries to call passengers back after 1/2 hour to make sure they're still interested, and if they don't answer the fare gets dropped).

I did fairly well on Saturday, because I avoided the ghettos entirely. I'll have to check my notes, because Saturday evening wasn't nearly as memorable as Friday.

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