Sometimes, Cab Driving is Magic

After all the negative cab stories, I wanted to share what is more common… a good night at work.

I went in yesterday right at 4 o’clock, when my shift starts.  I usually get started around 3, but I was writing all morning yesterday and running late.  I’m okay with that.  I got in my cab and immediately started taking fares I normally wouldn’t.  I have found that this is the best way to make money.  Why don’t I do it all the time?  I don’t know.  Because I’ve had so many terrible fares that I’m too careful.  Because I get lazy.  Because I get obstinate.  On the nights when I have a lot of energy and am in a good mood and can take the risk of going out of my way or taking fares that run the risk of being extra extra work or extra slow… I usually benefit.  For instance, I was coming over the Burnside Bridge around 10 o’clock, heading east.  I was booked into the lower SE side zone.  Dispatch sent me a fare over in the Lloyd Center.  I’ve developed a block against the Lloyd Center, as there are so many hotels (where people are likely to get swooped up by the other cab companies before you can get to them) the Rose Quarter and Convention Center (ditto swooped, also hard to find them), the mall (ditto hard to find them) and all the Max train stops (people are likely to call when they are waiting for the train, and then get on the train if it gets there before you do), not to mention a couple bars that are complete vortexes of crazy.  It’s just a pain in the ass and I hate it.  But I took the call, and the woman was going way out Highway 30 to deep NW beneath the St. John’s Bridge.  Not only was it a good fare, but in the course of the ride we discovered that she was in need of an astrologer and look!  She found one.  She said she would happily pay me to do her chart.

I’ve been studying astrology for years and years and I know I’ve reached the point where the only thing to do is to hang out my shingle and start practicing.  It’s the only way to get better.  I’ve  been mulling over how to get started for over a year.  I have a business name. I just have to do it.  And here comes this woman.  I guess it’s time.  (I just opened up an email account for my practice, woot!)

Later in the evening I picked up a super drunk man from a lower SE Mexican restaurant and took him way up to a hotel near Jantzen Beach.  He asked me how long I’d been cab driving.  I said 7 years.  He gave me the usual response of, “Whaaaat?!  No way, that’s not possible!”  Usually I just laugh this off, but I asked him:  “Why?  Why is it not possible for me to have been driving a cab for 7 years?  Do I look too young?  Is it because I’m a woman?”  He confirmed that it was because I was a young(er) woman and that “if you lined up 300 cab drivers, 4 of them would be female, and I would expect them to be trolls.”  Ouch.  I have this conversation with people in the cab a lot.  I have a post on gender and cab driving mulling around in my head that I will write someday soon.  The idea that because I am ‘pretty’ and ‘young’ I should use this apparent social currency (based entirely on my physical attractiveness) to get a ‘better job’ is so insulting and ridiculous.  But one thing I’ve certainly gotten good at is getting my little digs in at the patriarchy with innocent questions (such as, why is it surprising that I’ve been cab driving 7 years?) and earnest, honest answers about my life, as well as trying to ignore the assumptions and stereotypes these people are operating from and just have a conversation.  So when the “YOU’VE been driving 7 YEARS?!” conversation led into the “What do you REALLY want to do with your life?!” I ignored the implication that because I am young, pretty, white, and American I obviously have something BETTER that I am WORKING TOWARDS because cab driving is obviously for ugly, old, decrepit losers and foreigners and I am BETTER THAN THAT.  Ugh.  It makes it worse that I AM working towards something else… worse because I don’t want to prove them right.  I usually obstinately refuse to admit that I am doing anything else with my life and force them to discuss with me why I shouldn’t want to be a cab driver forever, which forces them to admit these prejudices, and more often than not just gets awkward.  Awkward isn’t bad.  But… last night I was in a good mood and astrology was on my mind, so I told him, and he gave me business advice and it was actually kind of helpful.  So much of the beauty of cab driving is digging beneath these things that annoy me about people and their differences in belief, politics, ethics and morals from myself, and just getting to be two people, having a conversation, heart to heart.  It is a daily practice in patience and compassion and those 7 years of cab driving have profoundly changed my whole attitude towards humanity.


One ingredient for a magical night at work is to NOT be focused on work the whole time.  I spent much of the night thinking about astrology.  I was also thinking a lot about Alaska.  I work in a cannery there in the summers and in the last 48 hours there has been a lot of Alaska-related rumblings in my life.  Emails from friends, fishermen I know tagged in pictures on FB, emails from my boss, texts from coworkers.  I spent a lot of hours driving around listening to country music (<3 Garth Brooks) and thinking about all the slow dancing I hope to do at the Red Dog this summer.  Throughout all this country music singing and thinking were random fares, people I don’t even remember, going home from bars, going out to bars, going grocery shopping, going about the random business of life and being kind and pleasant enough to me that I managed to make an okay amount of money and I DON’T REMEMBER THEM AT ALL.  Bless all of their hearts.

Around midnight I got a call to Exotica, a strip club off NE Columbia in the north Portland industrial area.  There is a truck stop not too far from there and Exotica seems to be the strip club the truckers frequent most.  Into my cab climbed three completely wasted guys, two apparently white and one Indian man.  He had a thick accent and was ranting the whole time about how Exotica wouldn’t serve him because he was Indian.  I suggested that possibly they wouldn’t serve him because he was screaming and slurring every word and seemed really aggressive and drunk, and that at the next club (the Landing Strip), perhaps it would be best to let his buddies order.  But what do I know?  I’ve never been inside Exotica and I’m Scandinavian-white through and through.  He yelled in the backseat the whole way while the man in the front seat exclaimed repeatedly how pretty I was and how “he wished it had been me dancing up there instead of the girls at Exotica.”  This came out way less creepy than it probably seems reading it.  He also said that he “wasn’t used to being so low to the ground [because he was usually in a semi-truck] and felt like a police dog.”  This made sense only to him.

After dropping them off I got a call to the Eagle, a gay bar on N. Lombard.  It was an IVR button call (many bars, restaurants and hotels around town have installed buttons that they can push to call a cab instead of having to use the phone.  It’s handy for them but often results in a ‘no trip’ [customer isn’t there when we arrive] because people are too drunk, forget the cab was called, get in another cab, never existed in the first place, but who knows because we can’t call them) so I went inside to find my fare.  I love the Eagle.  It’s like the shittiest dive bar in the world but there is always gay porn playing.  (Once I walked in looking for my fare only to find a man who I had recently been in a college class with, and had a little crush on, standing at the bar stark naked ordering a drink.  We made eye contact, we both blinked, I smiled and then yelled “RAAADDIOOOO” to let the bartender know the cab had arrived.  It was weird and funny and made me really happy.)

Last night the fare was a very, very drunk deaf man.  He got into a bit of an altercation via notepad with the bartender, and when he got in the cab he was very upset.  It took him awhile to write the address down for me, and he kept pointing back at the bar and saying “mean!” in the slurred voice you often hear in deaf folks.  After he passed me the pad with an address in Vancouver written on it, he covered his face with his hand and started crying quietly.  I turned and, realizing I couldn’t comfort him verbally, took the chance of patting him on his knee.  He looked up and made eye contact and I made a “sorry!” face, and he started bawling at the top of his lungs and covered his face again.  I patted him on the knee again and then got on the freeway towards Vancouver and let him cry.  My GPS got us there, he paid with a credit card and said “Thank you, you’ve been very good” and then stumbled up the streets toward his house.

After that, it was 2 a.m. and I went home to bath and bed.  May every night be as easy, entertaining, heartwarming and profitable.


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