Sunday, January 28, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Confession 11 - Crazy Little Thing Called "Life"

As the title denotes, life is not lacking a sense of humor. Just take my job for example. You’ve read the confessions. I see some really crazy stuff. Granted, it’s not nearly as crazy as the stuff New York cabbies probably see, but it is for FoCo.

I also seem to have a genuine knack for picking the cabs that have “issues”. I’ve gotten used to this, actually, so I try to have a sense of humor about it. I’m sure, however, that the office personnel just roll their eyes when I come in and tell them what’s wrong with my cab this time. That thought actually makes me laugh. I’m not trying to find reasons to not have to work; I just genuinely find problems with these cars.

Anyway, enough rambling there. It’s confession time!

Last night was looking like it would be a rather dismal night. The car I picked, which was incidentally one of the only two left, was having issues. Actually, this thing had been through quite a lot. It had over 580,000 miles for starters. When I got in, the meter wasn’t working, so I figured I would just have to calculate the fares with my calculator. When I put the car in drive, it took absolutely forever to even start to accelerate. When I would punch the gas pedal, the RPMs would rev up and then slowly come back down as the car ever…. so….. slowly….. began….. to….. consider….. the….. idea…. of….. accelerating………………. maybe. But it actually did run and I really didn’t feel like missing yet another night of work, so I decided to go with it. I would just have to be careful when pulling out into traffic.

Just to give a better illustration of how much “character” this car had, after driving about 3 miles, the meter actually popped off of the dashboard and rolled onto the floor beside me. The hood had some strange bumps and awkward angles in it – a good indication of the considerable repairs that it has gone through. If this car could tell stories, I’m quite sure its confessions would blow anything I could possibly write out of the water.

Oh yeah, the car also shook quite violently if I tried to accelerate after completing a turn. I laughed and told my customers that it was the “built in massage feature.” They usually laughed and thought nothing else of it.

Well, the night was going rather uneventfully. I talked with some cool people, but I also had the misfortune of meeting a jerk from the Hunt Club. I have actually noticed that, almost without exception, the people that I drive from the Hunt Club are the most unpleasant individuals I meet as a cabbie. And this is not just a casual observation after a couple of experiences. They genuinely are completely unpleasant people. I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it’s because I’m not a hot chick and so they hate me. Maybe it’s because they realized that they just wasted hundreds of dollars and have nothing to show for it. Or maybe they have come to the realization that the only way they can get remotely close to girls without receiving a restraining order is by going to a strip club. Whatever the case, I think it’s pathetic and a waste.

The only exception to this was one guy who was there just because his girlfriend works there. He seemed like an okay guy.

As for the jerk, Mark (There, I divulged his name! Vengance is mine! Mwahahahahaha), I was supposed to pick up at the Hunt Club last night, fortunately for me, he decided that he didn’t actually need a ride. That was a good thing because I’m pretty sure he would have thrown up in my back seat. That’s something I avoid at all costs.

I got a call about an hour later from someone who incidentally happened to be at the Hunt Club, and he asked me if I want to pick a guy named Mark and his friend. I laughed lightly and said, “No. I was supposed to drive that guy earlier tonight and he was not a very nice person. So no, I won’t drive him.” It felt so good to be able to say that!

About half an hour later, I was cruising around through old town looking for someone who needed a ride home. It was about 1:45am. (Side note: isn’t it odd that the vast majority of my confessions occur around 2:00am?) I saw a guy flagging me down and he seemed okay from a distance, so I pulled around.

Closer up, he was really grubby-looking and dirty, perhaps 40 years old. His skin was thick and prematurely worn and stressed from over exposure to bitter conditions. His clothes were very dirty and he carried a tightly packed backpack. A second guy was tall and very skinny. His clothing was in about the same condition. As they were approaching the cab, I wanted nothing more than to just drive away. I probably should have, if only for my own personal safety. These guys looked extremely dodgy. The second guy’s motor skills were terrible. He struggled just to climb into the back seat of the car. I would say it was comparable to seeing a giant graham cracker try to bend and fit in. Somehow he managed to get settled in. His hair was grey and wiry, though he couldn’t possibly have been as old as he appeared. I can usually smell it when people have been drinking a lot. But from this guy I caught no odors of alcohol. His brain must have been completely fried by drugs. It was a really sad sight.

When they both were settled in, trying to warm up from the cold outside, I asked them where they needed to go. They said they needed to go toward the Charcoal Broiler. This happens to be right next to what is probably the most ghetto and dodgy trailer park in the city.

I am generally not a very judgmental person, but I was started to be extremely cautious. Everything just seemed wrong. So I asked them plenty of questions, trying to figure out what they were up to that night, where they were from. Whenever possible I would dart a glance toward them and try to pick out some identifying features that I could easily remember.

Just as I was hoping that I wouldn’t get robbed by these two guys, something crazy happened. I actually wasn’t a bit surprised by this either. My transmission went out! I tried downshifting and hitting the gas pedal but all that would happen was the RPMs would rev up. I was heading East on Mulberry, a high traffic road, and was losing speed fast. I did what I had to do – I pulled over and explained to them what was happening. I ended up parked next to Carls Jr. where the cab finally came to a stop. I apologetically told them that I couldn’t go any further because the transmission went out and then called dispatch. After several minutes of talking on the phone, they found someone who could come get me and these two guys.

As we were waiting for the other cab to arrive, they whipped out some rolling papers and something to fill it. You’ll have to excuse my ignorance because I have no idea what pot is like, never having smoked it. I’m guessing that’s probably what these guys had, but maybe it was just tobacco. I don’t know. But I told them they’d have to get out of the cab if they wanted to smoke, so they did. The other cab finally arrived and I got my things and loaded them up, as did the other two guys. We took them to their extremely dodgy trailer. I was glad I didn’t have to go there on my own, especially after the other cabbie said, as we were driving away, that it was probably the biggest crack house in Fort Collins.

And after that, I got dropped off at base and went home. I didn’t make much of any money, so in that sense it was pretty much a waste of a night. But I am glad that things worked out the way that they did. I didn’t get robbed, I officially concluded that the Hunt Club sucks, and I managed to kill a cab without being at fault. I’m pretty sure that you would probably agree that life truly is not without a sense of humor.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Confession 10 - The Night Off

Today's confession picks up where we last left off. As you may or may not recall, I had just decided that it was a bad night for cars and I really am death averse. So, that being the case, I decided to opt out of working for the night.

Upon my arrival home, I began pondering what I should do. After all, it's not every night that you actually get out of work and can actually do something fun. On a purely sporadic and whimsical... umm.... whim... I decided to take a previously humourous activity to the next level.

The concept was simple, and originated with my good friend Regina. We had previously taken paper bags, drawn on faces, and used them as masks for taking rather hilarious and random pictures. For an example, the following picture was probably the best scenario we have come up with so far:

As I was saying before, on a rather spontaneous basis, I decided to take the mask fun to a higher level: a music video! Apparently I have a reputation as being a dancer. I cannot attest to this because I haven't actually really seen myself dance. But apparently I was at least entertaining enough to win $100 doing it several years back in a talent show.

So with that, I give you the very short "Masked Dancer" music video.

But before watching, please remember that upon clicking "play", you hereby waive any use of this video for the purposes of blackmail.

And with no further ado, here it is!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Confession i - A Mid Winter Night's Foreshadow

Yes you read that right. It’s not a typo. This is confession i – as in the imaginary number; the square root of negative one. Given the strange nature of this particular confession, I figured that such a numeration was only appropriate.

I’ve never really been one to believe in luck, fate, astrology, curses, or even manbearpig. Life is what you make of it. I stand by that. But at the same time, I’m also not stupid. I do recognize that sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes there are indicators or warnings, sometimes there aren’t. I’m sure we all can think of times where we should have done or not done something, and we ended up regretting it bitterly. Last night, I am convinced, could easily have been such a night.

When I arrived at work, I was ecstatic that there was actually a nice selection of cabs that I could drive. Usually there are only a couple of vehicles left by the time I check in, and I end up driving the big beastly Ford Aerostar that gets approximately 2 gallons per mile. You read that right. Gallons per mile. Don’t you just love American cars?

I picked one of our Honda minivans because they carry more people and are pretty comfortable. When I was checking the vehicle out, I noticed one of the headlights was out. I honestly don’t have much trouble driving with one headlight; I’ve done it before. In fact, I had been doing it Wednesday night, completely unaware of course, when a kind police officer pulled me over and burst my blissful bubble of ignorance. So, knowing that the Fort Collins police exercise no reserve in pulling over someone with only one headlight, I decided to pass on that cab.

Next, I opted for a Camry. We have a bunch of those cars and I like how they drive as well, particularly since they are virtually identical to my Corolla. So, as I was checking out this vehicle, I opened up the hood and immediately noticed a sweet smelling steam rising steadily from the radiator.

“No way. No way am I driving this one.” I thought to myself. I also had learned just one week ago the travails of driving a car that leaks engine coolant. That particular reality check hit me down in Denver in Cherry Hills. An overheated cab in Fort Collins on a Friday night, probably at 2:00am just like the rest of my confessions, is not my idea of a good time. So, I passed on this car.

I tried a third car. It started up fine and everything checked out alright. Well, all but the horn. Technically we aren’t supposed to drive without a working horn. But I figured I would just conveniently forget that little detail. I checked out and hit the roads of FoCo.

I got about 3 miles up the road when I started to notice that the car just happened to be teetering on the edge of losing control. Whenever I would get above 30 mph, the car would start to swerve back and forth, rhythmically. It wasn’t just a casual swaying. This was the kind where your hands leave imprints in the steering wheel because it’s impossible to maintain control. I have never experienced anything like it. All the traffic was flying past me at normal speed and I couldn’t even keep the vehicle going straight at 30. I was lucky there were no cops around because they probably would have pulled me over thinking I was drunk.

So, I called dispatch and explained my predicament. They said I could bring the car back and get another one. Whoever said “third time’s a charm” must have only tried twice. There’s another thing I don’t believe in: stupid cliché expressions like that one. So, I carefully drove back to the base. They gave me yet another car. I was sincerely apologetic. I didn’t want to be a pain, and I’m really not that picky. Apparently it just wasn’t my night for cars. Actually, I was surprised the each vehicle kept getting worse and worse. Finally, I was walking out to the fourth cab of the night, when I noticed it was totally covered in snow. Apparently it hadn’t been driven in a while.

“That’s odd.” I thought to myself. As I started wiping it off, I noticed that the driver side of the vehicle was dented. Okay, it was actually totally bashed in. In fact, neither of the two doors were able to open.

“Yeah, that one had a slight fender bender, but it should still be drivable.” they told me.

Okay, go ahead and put yourself in my shoes at this point. The first cab I picked had a burned out headlight. I probably would have gotten pulled over. The second vehicle had a leak in the radiator, so it probably would have overheated and left me stranded. The third vehicle couldn’t even drive straight when it got about 30 mph (I’m still puzzled about that one), and I would have almost been guaranteed to get in a wreck if I drove it. The fourth vehicle had actually been in a wreck and only the two passenger side doors could be opened.

As I said, I don’t really believe in luck, fate, or anything like that. But I do have common sense. And common sense was telling me that it was not going to be a good night. I would be lucky to get out of it without getting killed.

So I did what any person with common sense would do. I went home. I would rather have a lack of a confession than see how things could have gotten worse. And thus explains why this is confession i. It’s the confession that doesn’t exist, because hopefully I managed to avoid something I would have bitterly regretted.