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July 28, 2007

July 28, 2007 - Transients

           Had an interesting conversation with a man from Atlanta today.  He was here on business for a conference on IT security.  We talked a bit about that and then the conversation shifted to the ubiquitous presence of bums in the city.  Many of them hover around downtown, but they can be found nearly everywhere.  I know some of you are saying that’s mean, or not politically correct.  Right.  Well perhaps, but I’m getting a little tired of walking through Balboa Park and seeing them urinating in the bushes, farting, burping, drying their dirty clothes on the sidewalks, leaving all their trash and empty 40oz bottles everywhere, shouting aimlessly, shitting behind buildings, getting in fights with other vagrants, asking me for money, and perhaps worst of all attracting other bums.  Many of them have fleas.  Yes FLEAS!  I don’t make this shit up.  I’d hate be a business owner and have them sitting out front.  There are certain gas stations that I don’t even go to anymore because I got tired of being hassled by smelly lazy individuals.

            Anyways my passenger wasn’t too fond of them either.  He told me an interesting story.  Back in 1996 the summer Olympics came to Atlanta.  In preparation they rounded up a large number of the bums in the city and told they that they could get a bus ticket anywhere that they wanted, but that they couldn’t stay in Atlanta.  He told me that the City of Atlanta offered them a bus ticket to anywhere in the country.  I’m not sure if this is true or not but it makes you wonder.  If so, I’m sure that some of them were happy to leave.  The man said that many of them migrated to San Diego before the Olympics took place.  What a nice gesture of them, passing the buck so to speak.

           This is a transient that I saw in Loma Portal the other day.  He looks quite dashing in that girls high school cheerleading outfit with his greasy tattered hair.  Before he walked past me he was just mumbling and cursing and I could smell his foul body odor from fifteen feet away.  Disgusting.  


July 27, 2007

July 27, 2007 – The Chilango and Pure Platinum

Today I was sent to “The Palms”, which is a large condominium complex.  Or perhaps better known as the “Taco Towers” to the locals.  I didn’t come up with the nickname, the people who inhabit the condos did, so no hate mail ok.  I have heard numerous people who live there refer to the towers as such, actually it’s Mexicans that live there for the most part who call it that.  They have a good sense of humor.  Until recently I wasn’t familiar with the term.
            I was on the cab stand yesterday and overheard two Mexican drivers talking about “Chilangos.”  When I asked what “Chilangos” were they told me that it was a slang term for wealthy Mexicans that were natives of Mexico City.  From what I gather it didn’t harbor a negative connotation.
            Then I realized that I had picked up a Chilango just the other day.  When I arrived, a man in his late 50’s approached. He was well dressed and wanted to go to a strip club that he had been to the night before.  He sort of looked like a spokes person for Dos Equis.  Now that I think about it that’s what he was drinking that night.  Huh. 

 He was quite drunk and his English was terrible but we were able to still converse a little.  He told me that he was out visiting his daughter who lives in The Palms for a week or so.  When we got to the strip club, Pure Platinum it was called he asked me to join him inside.  Being how it was a busy night I told him that I had to go back to Cortez and try to make a little more money for the night.  This guy was persistent.  He even tried tugging me out of the car.  I was getting a little irritated, but the man had such a jovial demeanor that I just couldn’t be angry with him. 

After a bit I agreed, but with an agreement.  I told the man that I could only stay for 90 mins tops, that he would have to pay the meter for the way there as well as to take a ride back in my taxi, pay whatever waiting time accumulated, and that he would have to pay my cover.  He gladly obliged.

He was quite accommodating, overly so in fact.  He kept trying to buy me water, which I wasn’t interested in.  He didn’t care, even at $8 per bottle.  $8 per bottle? Really?  This guy bought me three waters, I think I only drank one. 

So the 90 minute mark had come and passed and  I was ready to go.  This wasn’t exactly some classy joint either.  Problem was that this guy was absolutely smitten with this one girl.  She was Hispanic as well, although he was convinced that she was Russian for some reason.   He kept looking over to me and telling me how beautiful she was.  She was not.  But I humored him, how could I not.  I think he was buying her drinks too, I could only imagine what they cost.  He wasn’t worried, and I wouldn’t be either if I had a quarter inch thick stack of hundreds in my hand.  This guy was spending money like it was water.  $8 water to be exact.

What was really obnoxious was that all these strippers from the club kept coming up to me and asking me if I “want a dance.”  I tried being nice about it and simply told them that I wasn’t there by choice and that I was actually trying to get my passenger to leave.  One stripper/hooker came up to me and got right to the chase.  “Do you have any money for me,” she said.  “Nope” I offered.  Needless to say she wasn’t thrilled.  But seriously, that’s pretty fucking rude.  I’m not one of your regular shitbag customers who just got off his job at the cannery and decided to start the night off at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday with a round of the clubs cheapest beer.  Give me a little credit.

After a bit the man had grown fond of another girl and abandoned the “Russian.”   Well since I was his company she started hounding me for money.  She quickly realized that I wasn’t interested and dropped the subject.  Then she let is slip that the Chilango had gotten so drunk that he actually bought a lap dance with her and forgot to cash it in.  Well why let it go to waste right?

So we made our way over to the other side where they had these barstool like objects that she sat me down on.  Not only were here movements jerky and sporadic she was overwhelmingly ugly.  I couldn’t really get a good look at her earlier.  I was quickly regretting my decision…  She had an ass that was probably twice as wide as her torso, complete with lumpy cellulite, a big gap between her front teeth, and worst of all, this creepy lazy eye that she kept gazing at me with.  Needless to say the lap dance sucked, thank god I didn’t pay for it.  It’s a shame though because I bet the Chilango would have really enjoyed it.

By now it’s nearing 2 a.m. and the bouncers are scrambling to get everyone out of there and my passenger isn’t interested.  The manager then comes over and speaks to my fare in Spanish instructing him that it’s time to go.  Then the bouncers came over.  After escorting my passenger out of the club we went back to Cortez.  When we arrived back at The Palms the man gave me $120 for a $100 fare.  I was pleasantly surprised, and satisfied, but tired.  It was time for bed.

July 23, 2007

July 23, 2007 - Earl

              Earl is out driving again.  No one really knows why… 
              Earl is Catherine’s father.  He used to own/run the company.  He may still own it, I’m not really sure.  Anyways, Earl is way to old to be driving a cab.  I have no idea how old the Earl is, from the looks of it probably in his mid to late 80’s.  Yesterday one of the drivers made a funny comment about how Earl is really starting to look like a mummy.  Now that I think about it he does look like a mummy.  One that wasn’t wrapped in gauze of course.  Most of the time Earl has a glazed over look on his face with his mouth agape.  He has no business being behind the wheel of a large automobile, and it’s not like there are no warning signs about his driving either.  He gets into car accidents like they’re going out of style.  I bet Helen Keller has a better driving record than Earl.  One of our regular customers, Mrs. David, routinely checks with the drivers to see is Earl is still driving.  Mrs. David is absolutely terrified to drive with him and recently has refused to continue doing so.

P.S. This is just someone who shares a likeness to "Earl."

          Also, I heard a funny quote the other day, It came from a funny SNL skit, when SNL was still funny, which has long passed.  Anyways, it was from a segment called "Deep Thoughts with Jack Handey."  I found this quite fitting.

           "When I die, I would like to go peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather did.  Not screaming and yelling like the passenger in his car."- Jack Handey

July 22, 2007

July 22, 2007 - El Mejor

            Franco doesn’t like to play by the rules and this has created trouble for him over his years here at Cortez Cab.  Turns out that Franco steals rides, and he does it often.  Problem is that he is not clever enough to disguise what he is doing.  One day one of the drivers who had been done wrong by Franco decided to have a word with him.  Franco got a fist right to the face, as well as a broken nose.  From what the drivers told me this happened years ago and Franco still hasn't changed.  I think having my nose broken would be enough for me to stop stealing other drivers rides, but that’s just me…
             Catherine offered the driver who broke Franco’s nose, Adolfo, an ultimatum.  Adolfo had the option to either leave the company, or to pay for Franco’s medical bills.  Adolfo figured that he was better off cutting his losses and leaving the company.  Adolfo was quite personable and is missed by the drivers who worked with him.  My best guess is that Catherine took care of things with Franco’s bills.
             As the days progress and I talk to more and more of the drivers interesting stories like this keep coming to light.  It seems a little strange to continue employment of a company worker who battered another co-worker.  This wasn’t exactly a little scuffle that we’re talking about.  Wouldn’t the police usually be called in such a situation, and if nothing else wouldn’t the employee be fired?
          Just seems a little odd that’s all.

July 17, 2007

July 17, 2007 - The Texan

Today wasn’t very exciting. It was rather slow actually, which can be nice sometimes too.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather it was busy and I was making lots of money, but I like a little relaxation here and there at work too.  Usually when it’s slow I get together with the other drivers on the cab stand and just shoot the breeze about whatever.  One observation that I have made is that there seems to be a correlation between how long someone has been with the company and how dissatisfied they are with it.  Their dissatisfaction seems to stem from a number of things, many of which seen to be unrelated to their job.
            Anyways, I had a good customer today.  We talked for a while about politics, the weather, our hometowns, and what’s fun to do in Cortez.  Cindy was her name.  She was going to the airport to catch a flight back to Dallas, TX.  I find Texas to be an interesting state.  Everything seems so different there, especially compared to California.  Cindy told me that in Texas you can bring your gun to the restaurant, the movies, the grocery store etc...  Actually in California you can do that too, except your gun has to be completely visible and it can’t be loaded.  You can’t even have your ammunition on the same side of your body as the gun.  Never understood the reasoning behind that…  Then again, there are a lot of things that I don’t understand about California.
            Cindy was a gun owner and appeared quite fond of Texas and it’s politics.  So we got to the airport and the fare totaled $24.60.  Cindy gave me a $50 and said keep it.  I’m happy with a dollar or two so when I get double the fare it’s a great ride.  I guess things really are bigger in Texas.

July 15, 2007

July 15, 2007 - Blown Engine

            I got a call from Francio today.  It appears that the engine in Cab 103 has blown, albeit this isn’t a big surprise to me.
           Yesterday was a busy day, I wasn’t keeping track but I probably took 15 rides or so.  It was a little busy for me to check all the fluids in the car.  Truthfully I’ve already gotten a little lax about this.  The trip (taxi log) sheets too for that matter.  It takes time to do this each day, although not much, and just taking the time to check the oil and coolant can take a few minutes.  This may not seem like a long time, and it’s not, but in that few minutes a few drivers may clock into work and I may be a few spots back in the taxi order (lineup).  This may cost me a fare at the end of the night, and if the average fare is probably around $12 that is a good enough reason to get right to work.

Anyways, towards the end of my shift I heard this sound that appeared to be a knocking in the engine.   It didn’t sound terrible and I felt that perhaps I was over analyzing things…

So yeah, the blown engine was primarily my fault because the taxi had only like a quart or two of oil when Francio finally checked it.  Although Francio didn’t check it immediately either.  He thought that he would wait until the engine seized and the car was undriveable before he checked it. 

After hearing of the bad news I received a strange call from Catherine.  She indirectly accused me of destroying the car, though in a strange way.  Catherine told me that since I had not been washing the car it was likely that I had not been checking the oil either.  These are things I consider to be unrelated. 

I had not been washing the car, this much is true, but for different reasons.  I don’t wash the car because it costs me time and money and customers really don’t care if the car is dirty, unless the car is absolutely filthy perhaps.  It’s like painting a turd, sure it may look nicer, but it’s still a turd.  I really don’t appreciate Catherine’s passive-aggressive manner of talking to me about these matters.  Anyways, many of these cars have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles, things are likely to break sooner or later.  That doesn’t exonerate me in the current situation however.  

July 12, 2007

July 12, 2007 – My Not So Clever Co-workers

I’m beginning to see what the guy who was training me, Julio, was talking about in regards to the drivers, and how they’ll step on your feet to get what they want.  None of their methods are very clever. 
            So here’s how it works.  We have a radio in each taxi that we use to contact the office.  Taxi drivers are required, by the City of Cortez if no one else, to call in whenever they pick up a passenger and state the pickup location as well as the eventual destination, to comply with record keeping requirements. 
            Problem is that only one driver is able to transmit over the frequency at once, and when there are 20 drivers or so working this can be difficult.  Many drivers however don’t respect the call in order.  It’s like anything else, you wait your turn in line and wait till everyone else has already called.  If nothing else it’s common courtesy. 
            Some of the drivers, more often than not, choose do disregard this informal agreement that we have as drivers at the company.  They may either jump to the front of the line or key their radio’s mic as to cut off the radio transmission of whoever is talking.  There are a number of ways that these drivers attempt to manipulate the system, although none of them are very clever.  If nothing else it’s obnoxious, but if I have been waiting and another driver just jumps in it’s unfair as well.  When drivers do this I have to wait longer to be given a call by dispatch, and if I have to wait longer for a call chances are that I won’t be able to take as many rides during my shift– hence less money.
A caricature of one of our bandido cab drivers
          The main other way that some of drivers try to circumvent the company policy is to maintain their spot in the order of cabs that are waiting for calls while taking a fare.  The drivers have coined a term for this.  “Smuggling.”  For all practical purposes this is taking a ride without calling it out.  This is dishonest as well because it gives that driver an unfair advantage over the other drivers to make more money, and is doing it at everyone else’s expense.   It’s not very dignified, that’s for sure.

P.S. - This is not one of our actual drivers, just what I feel to be a comical caricature of one.

July 7, 2007

July 7, 2007 - Roid Rage

Earlier as I attempted to enter the bridge back to Cortez, the local police waived me down with their flashlights and instructed me to pick up a passenger in the Barrio Longun district.  I wasn’t particularly interested in picking up this passenger, and normally we aren’t allowed to, unless we are directed to by a police officer, which supersedes any local taxi ordinances.  I didn’t actually talk with the officers, they just directed the man towards my car. (The photos below is roughly where I picked the man up)

           As the man approached I could see that he was big, probably 250lbs of mainly muscle, sweating profusely, with large dilated eyes moving around furtively.  He wanted to go to this porn shop on the other side of the downtown area.   The man was non-combative, but scary nonetheless.  He just kept rambling and babbling incessantly about one conspiracy, or at least what he perceived to be a conspiracy, or another. 
            He seemed like a bright individual, at one time at least, possibly with an advanced degree of some sort, who was well versed in history.  Almost like someone who had worked for some covert faction of the government, at some point in his life.   It was obvious the man was on some hard drugs.  My best guess would be PCP.  Perhaps to escape things he had done or seen, things average man couldn’t dream of seeing or doing…

I mean this guy was lit up like a Christmas tree.  He was just drooling blood, dripping it all over his shirt.  No wonder the cops wouldn’t pick him up, it was nice of them to pass him over to me.  When we arrived at the porn shop, F Street, he asked me how much it would be to Oceanside, and if he could get a card to call for a ride later.  Oceanside is a great ride, probably at least $100.  After some quick thinking I gave him a blank company card and told him to call back later, knowing full well that we couldn’t pick him up downtown.  Well, he didn’t know that and I thought it would be a good opportunity to diffuse the situation, after all, I didn’t know if he actually had any more money and who knows how far along in his drug induced state he would be by then.

P.S. - This is not the man who I picked up in my taxi that night, just someone who shares a resemblance.  

July 6, 2007

July 6, 2007 - Nighttime in Cortez

I have been driving the cab for a few weeks now.  I like it.  I’ve never had a job like this where I could just come in and leave as I please.  The vacation time is great too.  Whenever I want to take some time off of work I just let the office know 8 days in advance and I can take up to two weeks off.  There’s a certain sense of freedom that goes along with driving for a living.  The time goes really quick.  I like it best in the later evening hours because things are so tranquil in Cortez.  It’s like a ghost town here at night.  Nighttime gives me a great opportunity to shoot photos too, night photography is a hobby of mine.

July 3, 2007

July 3, 2007 - My First Cab Partner

            Things have been going well here at the taxi company.  It’s busy, and the money is good.  If you are willing to put lots of hours in the money is can be really good.  The veteran drivers have been telling me to save up while it’s busy because winter brings a lull in business.  It’s a strange setup, at least compared to what I am used to.  The way it works is that you pay a flat amount each week, which is currently $310 to use the taxi.  The lease covers the overhead such as the dispatcher and office staff’s salary, as well as repairs for the taxi, insurance, permitting, and use of the company name.  Usually the office pairs drivers up that have opposing schedules. 

            In my case I have the car available from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. each day and the other driver works the opposite shift.  I don’t necessarily work all 12 hours, and I hardly ever do, but I pick and choose which hours within that time frame that I want to come in.  There is no schedule, formal or informal. 

           Right now I am paired up with Francio, but he goes by “Tim.”  I get along with Francio just fine, but the other drivers not so much…   Not sure why, he seems like nice enough of a guy.  Francio came here from Brazil a few years back.  Things are sometimes lost in translation but overall the communication between us flows pretty well.  No complaints.