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March 29, 2008

March 29, 2008 – Tourists

            I’m often amazed by some of the questions tourists ask…  There are a number of rumors in Cortez but here are two of my favorites.

            Cortez has a bridge that connects it back to San Diego, which is an alternate route from the point where Cortez connects on the south end by way of a state highway.  Anyways, somewhere or another someone decided to start a rumor that if the bridge ever fell into the bay that it would float.  Really?  This two mile long fifty foot wide mass of concrete and steel weighing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of tons, would just float in the water???

            Ok, lets just roll with this for arguments sake.  Suppose that the bridge fell into the bay and was floating there like some bathtub toy, blocking access out of the bay, and one of Navy vessels needed to make their way out to the ocean for whatever reason.  They would be shit out of luck right.   Nope, that’s where Cortez’s exploding highway comes into play.  Some people believe that there is enough dynamite laid under the state highway, which happens to be like a quarter mile wide, to blow a gaping hole in it to let ships pass through to the ocean.  Not to mention that this opening would have to be hundreds of feet wide and dozens of feet deep to give a proper berth for such huge ships…

            Well, those are my two favorites, but I heard another absurd one from a tourist today.  Apparently one of the employees on the ferry that shuttles tourists from San Diego to Cortez is telling people that Cortez has a zero percent crime rate.  Really, that’s fucking unbelievable.  Literally.  So lets assume that this crime rate is averaged throughout the year, thus the city would have no annual crime.  I’m amazed that this isn’t national news, a city with no crimes at all!

P.S.  - You're welcome to make fun of my shitty drawings all you want.  Therein the charm lies.

March 25, 2008

March 25, 2008 – Showdown With The Sarge

So once again, here we are, mono a mano – me and The Sarge.  He turns at me with an surprisingly imposing glare, despite his short stature.  His mustache is neatly trimmed.  Braun?  Shall I ask him?

  I nod politely.  I admire his panache. 

Today is the day I prove my innocence.  I stroll in looking quite dapper myself.  I dress up and put on a tie.  It was a real struggle putting on a tie this morning, it’s been years since I wore one.  I had to use a diagram that I found on the internet.  And even then it was only occasionally.  Judges notice these things.  Dressing up shows respect for the court and what it represents.  Me, well I just am interested in winning my case.   This day has been months in the making.  It can be rather intimidating contesting the officer in court, I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t think I had a shot.  But I brought pictures, diagrams, and one hell of a compelling story.  This all weighs in as well.  Here is a person who is willing to take the time to not only dress up, drive to court, wake up at 6:30 a.m., take time to take and develop pictures, draw diagrams, and take time off work to come to Chula Vista of all places.  I was already off of work, I work nights, but the judge probably didn’t notice. 

So I explained how the officer’s view was obscured by the curving, dimly lit road – State Road 57.  I explained to the judge that I was headed South and turned to the East just as another vehicle was headed West and turned North.  All at the same intersection, all at the same point in time.  The amazing thing was that these events happened nearly simultaneously with two nearly identical late model sedans giving the impression that I illegally took a u-turn instead of heading eastbound.

Then the pictures and the diagram came out.  The Sarge threw his hands up in disbelief.  The sea was angry.  He made it a point to correct some of my sketches more mundane details.  I held my composure and stated my case.  No theatrics, no bravado, just a well planned defense.  I came out on top.  I won.  The Judge did have one request however – my trip sheet.  I didn’t have it with me, but I agreed to bring it in at a later date.  I was informed that my case would be dismissed upon my submission of this.

The Sarge stormed out of the court after quickly gathering his papers.  He was not happy in the least, but that was to be expected.  If I was worried about hurting his feelings I never would of came.  But that’s not something that much bothered me.  I’ll have to be more careful from now on, and do my best not to garner any additional scrutiny in Cortez…

March 5, 2008

March 5, 2008 – Frank Menderson

            So a few weeks I brought up one of our notable customers – Frank Menderson.  He’s one of the local trolls that we have to cart from time to time.  None of us drivers are too fond of him.  With Frank you get the same old shit every time.

            Frank’s like clockwork.  Pretty much every day, except Sundays, Frank takes a taxi between 6 and 7 p.m.  Here at the company we have an option of “holding.”  This means that we are opting to be available for a much narrower range of possibly fares.  For example since we know that Frank will be coming out from a residential address, we will “hold the base,” which means that we will only be accepting calls from the Navy base – not that those are any more desirable usually…

            So every day a handful of drivers, myself included, hold the Navy base in hopes of getting a better ride.  Frank only ever goes out to one of his two favorite local restaurants.  The fare never comes out to more than $5 or $6 and our tip usually consists of rounding up to the next dollar.  Were not impressed.

            If we just accept calls from the Navy base there is a chance that we will get a ride that just goes a few blocks as well of course, but we may get a great ride too.  Sometimes you get hundred dollar rides out of there.  Sometimes if you don’t hold the base you’ll get a call at a different residence.   Those can be good too.  Often times they go to the airport.  But by holding were guaranteed that we won’t have anyone grasping on to our arm with their long crusty fingernails and clammy hands, they won’t be carrying around a bag full of outdated tattered newspapers, they won’t have been wearing the same clothes that they’ve had on for the last 6 days, and they probably won’t smell like pee.

March 3, 2008

March 3, 2008 – Fender Bender

            Got into a little fender bender today.  Just a minor one – no damage.  Everyday around rush hour (between 3 and 6 p.m. here in Cortez) there is a giant traffic jam.  There are two main roads in and out of Cortez.  These roads take the brunt of the traffic in and out of the city during these times.  They’re a mess.

            You have A street that takes you over the bridge into Cortez, and B street that takes you out back to San Diego.  There is a way to bypass this and take the highway on the south side of town and go around the bay but it is much longer. There are two ways to get across to the other side of Cortez. You can stop at the stop sign at A street and dart across the road, which you have to do across B street as well.  If you’re able to get across this is much better than going to the stop at the first main intersection to cross.  MUCH quicker.

            Cars pile up at the stop sign that crosses A street because it’s well known that this is a much faster route.  What you have to do is watch for the car to merge onto A street, quickly look to your left, as it is a one-way street, and shoot out if the coast is clear.  So the guy in front of me darted out and I looked out to the left to make an entry onto A.  Coast was clear.  I darted out as well only to find that the car in front of me had hesitated and stopped 20 feet directly in front of me directly in the roadway.  What the fuck!  Anyways, I just bumped him.  He was cool with it since there was no damage.  We parted ways.

            Catherine has this policy that ALL accidents need to be reported, regardless of who is at fault or if there is any damage.  She has these accident report forms that are nearly unreadable because it looks like the original has been photocopied dozens of times.  Actually it’s like the original was photocopied, then the photocopy was photocopied, and that photocopy was photocopied and so on…  Say fifteen times or so. 

Those accident reports are unnecessary in my opinion, and I don’t have time to do that.  Other drivers tell me that even when you are not found to be at fault Catherine will try to hold past accidents against you.  Even if you got rear-ended.  Unbelievable!  We also have a deductable of $1000, which is quite high in my opinion since we drive around 40 or so hours more per week than most people.   Even as good drivers were much more likely to get into an accident because we drive more than most people. Some of the more veteran drivers tell me that Catherine gives them an ultimatum, although perhaps not directly, that if they want to continue work there that they have to pay for the damages out of pocket - even if they exceed $1000.  That doesn’t strike me as fair. 

Since I work in transportation the reporting of accidents may be a federal requirement.  I’m not really sure, or worried for that matter.  

March 2, 2008

March 2, 2008 – Town Drunks

            After a while of working in Cortez you start to notice a pattern.  I have recently noticed one.  Cortez is full of drunks. You know the ones that are out at the bar every day at 5 p.m. and make a total ass of themselves, or start crying telling you some personal detail of their lives, or being to drunk to remember their address, or what they’ve already asked you, or asking the same question over and over, or leaving their beer bottles in the back, or trying to smoke in the car with the windows up, and so on…

The NAVY is the worst!  They smell like B.O, don’t know which Navy base that they are trying to get to, and worst of all is when they try to pick a fight with you.  The sad thing is sometimes you see them doing the same thing every night.

                   They’re not bad people, sometimes they are quite pleasant.  Some are real nice to talk to.  “Smokey” is no exception.  We all love picking up Smokey.  He is one of the best tippers out there.  Not really sure what Smokey’s story is, all I know is that word around town is that he is an excellent golfer.  Smokey usually takes several taxi’s throughout the night, but the optimal time to catch him is on the ride home from the bar.  Smokey is quite the conversationalist but usually easily gets confused and says “I don’t know man” or “I like your style.” Statements like this have become the norm and are expected on a ride home with Smokey.  

                  Sometimes I pick up Smokey from the golf course when he is moderately sober and bring him to the bar or back to house and he will usually give about $4 dollars on a $6 dollar fare.  A pretty average to substantial tip, and on top of that he is a nice guy and we all like to pick him up.  However, if you get him leaving the bar at the end of the night he is more likely to give you a $14 dollar tip on a $6 dollar ride, which is an excellent tip.  Well, tonight I was lucky enough to pick up Smokey and give him a ride home from the bar, and boy he was on a good one.  When we got to his place he gave me $30 dollars for that $6 dollar ride.  Funny thing was that he said “Here’s $50.”  Apparently he was too drunk to count his money and thought he gave me more money than he did.  I was more than happy, I didn’t see any need to correct him and tell him he was $20 short.

            We have a long list of town drunks in Cortez.  Interestingly enough most of them live on Margarita St...

March 1, 2008

March 1, 2008 – The Coat Hanger Car Burglar

           Tonight I locked my keys in my car.  Wouldn’t be the first time.  I usually keep a spare in my wallet in case of situations like this.  My spare key however has strangely disappeared…

            I was lucky enough to find a coat hanger near by so I gave it a shot.  I have an older model Jeep and the locking mechanism isn’t all that complicated.  There’s no alarm either which is good, I’d hate to have that going off as I try to jimmy the car lock open.  So I unfold the coat hanger, bend a small hook on the end of it, and slide it into the door between the window and the frame.  I don’t have to break into my car often so naturally there’s a little trial and error.  This isn’t the ideal tool for doing this either so things aren’t going as smoothly as I had hoped.

            My Jeep is parked on a side street and there is almost no street lighting which complicates the process, not to mention making things look a little suspicious.  I’m not worried though, it’s my car after all.  I would imagine most people in Cortez call a locksmith when they lock themselves outside of their car.  Not me.  Locksmiths are expensive.  A locksmith probably costs $50 or so, and quite possibly more here.  I only made $85 today and I’d like to keep that.

            So after 20 minutes or so a patrol car speeds down the street and boxes me in.  And guess who it        was.  My buddy, “The Sarge.”

            The Sarge: Stop right there, get up against the car.
            Me: Ok
            The Sarge: What are you doing out here, are you trying to break into this car?
            Me: This is my car, I locked my keys inside.
The Sarge: Krinkle right, I remember you. (With a big shit eating grin on his face)
Me: Yep
            The Sarge: You stay right there.
            Me: Feel free to run the plate, you can see my keys in the ignition.
            The Sarge: Oh we will.
            The Sarge: Lets see some ID.
            Me: It’s in the car.

            The Sarge isn’t happy right now.  His partner that he is with looks like a rookie - asking a lot of questions but trying to appear professional.  I’m not fooled.  They both have this look on their face like they’ve just stumbled upon a big one. 

            Ok, now lets look at the facts.  If I were a car burglar why would I come to Cortez to break into a shitty old Jeep?  And why would I fumble around in the dark with a coat hanger for 20 minutes?  Was this my first caper?  Wouldn’t I bring some of my own tools with me?  Doesn’t it seem odd that I would come to a city that is crawling with overzealous cops, a city that I work in, and come and try to break into cars?  Equipped with a coat hanger of all things?  Am I fucking MacGyver or something?  That guy could probably get into a locked car with nothing more than a napkin and a large flat rock.  

           A city where I’m driving around all day in, working in the public sector.  That doesn’t strike me as very smooth.

I’m sure that they had the best of intentions, and had every right to be suspicious and inquire about what I was doing here, but after 10 minutes or so wouldn’t they be able to piece it together?  These guys couldn’t find their way out of a wet paper bag.   I’d sure like to meet the detectives that work here, I sure hope that I never have to file a report for anything.  After another 10 minutes or so they were on their way and I was left to my own devices once again.  There was no offer to help me of course, nor was I expecting one at this point.   From what I’ve seen professionalism doesn’t seem to be one of the departments virtues.

After tinkering with the lock another few minutes I was in and on my way home.  I was quite careful with my driving though as I was a marked man…