The night started getting strange around two in the morning. I had just left from taking a break and watching an episode of 48 Hours on the A&E network with my wife ( for those of you unfamiliar this is a reality TV show that follows homicide detectives in various American cities on the first two days of the investigation and shows murder scenes, interrogations, etc.).
Traditionally Thursday nights are very busy because of the college crowd going out to party. This year however Thursdays have been very slow. Last night as no different and my first trip after my break was a pick up at a local hospital.
A Middle-aged man wrapped in a blanket walked up to my cab and got in. He didn’t smell all that good and despite the aroma of my jasmine air freshener and my fine natural smell (mA) in the air I had to crack my window. He told me he needed to go to East St. Louis and I told him that would be about $20 or $25 and asked if I could have the money upfront. He gave me two dollars and said that was all he had and I told him “look bro, I’m not running a charity, I’m in the business of making money so you gotta get out”. Hopefully the hospital gave him a voucher when he went back in; but all I know is it is not my business to give free rides.
After waiting a long time for my next trip I got desperate and took a trip in an area known for drugs and a lot of nefarious activity. Just because the area is bad doesn’t mean that all the trips are bad and a lot of working men and women who are honest and going about their business order cabs out of these areas.
As I drove up to the address that I was supposed to be picking my passenger at I saw a woman doing some kind of ballet dance in the middle of the street. As she approached my car she was jerking and fidgeting and I started to ask her for money upfront but instead just let her get in. She said she needed a roundtrip and asked me to take her to an intersection that does not exist in what North Siders call the West Side but most white St. Louisans just see as the North Side. After we figured out where she needed to go I took her to that intersection and she looked around and told me to drive around the corner to another address. At this point I knew she was sending me on a drug run and she was going to get out of the cab and buy crack and either smoke it before she got in or take it home to smoke. We pulled in front of the house she pointed to, I asked her for the money that was on the meter, she gave it to me, and as she was leaving she said “don’t leave me” and about two second later I hit the gas. Cabbies can wait in front of a lot of places; but a crackhouse isn’t one of them unless they have a habit or a death wish.
It is ironic that my next passenger was located at another hot spot for drugs on the south side. The guy who got in my cab I have given rides to several times before. We have never talked that much; but I just intrinsically know he is a drug dealer. If you have been around then you know how to spot certain things. I decided to strike up a conversation with him about the economy. His insight? “Man the economy is fucked up dog, you hear me? I voted for Obama , I put my faith in that nigga, and now that he won he needs to do something.” He next told me he has never had a job in his life and his brother is doing life in federal prison for drugs and murder all but confirming my previous suspicions. I wished him well and told him Obama is going to create jobs for us all if he can, hopefully leaving him with some hope for the future.
After a little while things started rolling a little bit and on my way back from the airport (where I dropped off a man who lives outside of Denver) I picked up two last year law students from an upscale apartment building named the Dorchester. It was a couple and I had to drop of the guy first in University City and then take the girl to the Central West End. The last time she was in my cab she had bragged that she had landed a $160,000 a year job in Chicago upon graduation. I was in a hurry so I swiped the credit card and let her out without getting the confirmation. Well, it turns out that she is going to need that fat salary, because on this night her credit card was declined for a $22 charge.
Not a great night, but the night ended with a good airport run in the borderline freezing rain. On the way home their were accidents on all major highways and I said to myself if I stay out a little while longer I may make a few extra bucks; but I am taking a risk in wrecking this cab and hurting myself, so I took it in praying for a better Friday night.