I had been saying to fellow St. Louis cab drivers that the warmer it gets here the crazier things will get. One driver said “man they say that every summer it is going to be a long hot summer” and I said “yes but St. Louis summers are usually hot humid and full of death and gunplay”.
With the economy in the shape that it is I have been seeing signs for weeks that things are getting ready to get worse. Passengers running more scams than usual, passengers with no money, women wanting to barter, and street urchins approaching the cab offering anything from power tools to meat.
The first day I got hired as a driver the GM of the company looked at me and the woman getting hired next to me (who had just got home from a long bid in prison) and said “you all should know that this is a dangerous job”.
He did not have to tell me. I had known of several cabbies that had gotten killed over the years in St. Louis (not to mention the countless stories I read of New York cabbies getting killed).
I also knew that you can make the job more dangerous that it has to be. You can do this by staying too long in bad neighborhoods late at night or picking up people who just don’t seem right to you. The driver has the authority to ask for money up front and should use it.
There are those on St. Louis related blogs and news sites like the St. Louis Beacon who would have you believe that St. Louis is not a dangerous city and that there is only a “perception of crime”. Antonio French, a good guy who was just elected to the Board of Alderman (like the city council), even recently insinuated we should tone down our conversations for fear of giving the city a bad image (Antonio obviously is not familiar with the expression you cant put lipstick on a pig and when it comes to race, crime, the economy, health-care, public-transit, and class St. Louis is a blue-ribbon winner of the pig prize at any state fair).
Early Tuesday morning was kind of slow and I moved around the city picking up what I could. A little after midnight I heard a fellow driver take a trip from the airport going over to Maryville, IL ( the same Maryville where there was a church shooting a little while ago).
A couple of hours later I heard another driver reporting that there was an abandoned cab on the parking lot of a gas station at Grand and Natural Bridge on the North Side. About an hour after that I was getting calls on my cell phone that there were reports that a driver from my company had been shot and killed.
There was no confirmation from the company over the radio but drivers began huddling on posts talking about what was being reported on the news. At this point no one really knew what happened and there was a lot of speculation as to what happened.
After going home and waking up I began to get news of the full picture. A driver had been in a notoriously bad area on the North Side and in the backseat of a car ( with what we now know to be a 22 year old white female who, in this 100% black neighborhood there is a 100% chance was a crack ho). A black male approaches the cab and shoots the driver dead at close range and then throws his body out onto the street. If we are to believe the female (which I don’t) she panicked and got in the cab and drove it to the gas station and yelled for the police.
The name of the driver was Jerome, and he was a good man, a Vietnam Veteran, former firefighter and a piano player and he did not deserve to die at the hands of a robber who does not want to work for his; but wants to take the hard earned fruits of others. However, he should have known better and the lesson is leave crack hoes alone and don’t relax in the backseat of your car in well-known drug areas.
Our company did not miss a beat and all the drivers went on with business as usual (although many would later attend the funeral). The next day a driver was assaulted by a passenger picked up at the Moolah Theater. This assault could have simply been prevented by having a glass barrier between the front and backseat like cabs in many other cites do. But, it is my understanding, that city leadership trying to put lipstick on a pig do not want the barrier because it would send toe message to visitors that the city is a dangerous place (which every cabbie knows for a fact it is and that the danger here is not a product of our imaginations).
The next night progressed as usual and business picked up. I picked a guy up on The Hill (an old Italian neighborhood where, amongst others, Yogi Berra and Joe Garogiola grew up). I took him down to the Hoosier Heartland in deep South St. Louis a place that is to local rednecks what the Nejd is to Salafis.
After dropping the guy off (on what I suspect may have been a drug run) I noticed that I had missed several calls and text messages on my cell phone from my wife. I immediately called her and she told me she was in labor and I rushed up the highway to pick her up to take her to the hospital telling her to get the kids ready while I contacted a sister to pick the kids up from the hospital.
Part Two: The Hospital
Part Three: The Aftermath