“You Ray?” Short little Latino guy, probably in his forties, old tattoos on his arms, Hawaiian shirt.
“Yeah.” Paying for a damn cab so I don’t have to walk to work.
“Hop in the front, man.”
I open the front door of the yellow minivan, and after the guy moves the CD case, the insulated lunch bag, and the wicker beach hat, I climb in. He throws the CD case into the back seat, puts the hat on, and hands me the lunch bag.
“Here, this is yours now—my last fare left it in here.”
“Oh.” I take the bag, and after a few seconds, I put it down on the console hoping he’ll forget about it.
“Where ya headed?” He asks.
“Neils Thompson Drive. You know it?”
“Fuck no, man—I barely even found this fuckin’ place. I was just about to leave your ass and I just happened to see your building.”
This explains why he’s parked right by the exit of the apartment complex rather than in an actual parking spot.
“You know Burnet?” I ask him.
“Yeah, I know Burnet.”
“Just go there, make the U, and turn right on United.”
“Oh, okay.” He throws the minivan into drive, shoots out into traffic, and then slows down to about forty miles an hour. “Yeah, you’re my last fare, and then I’m goin’ the fuck home.”
“You been working all night?”
“Hell yeah—that’s why I wasn’t gonna wait around for you. I can’t find you, I’m off work, you know?”
“So what do you do?”
“I work in a warehouse.”
“Yeah? That’s a sweet job, right?”
“In this heat? I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘sweet,’ really.”
“Still that’s gotta be a pretty great job.”
“It’s a job.”
“Well, quit then, bitch. You don’t like it, go find something you do like!”
“I didn’t say I didn’t like it—I just said I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s great.”
“Fuckin’ a, right?”
“Sure.” I notice he’s moving over to the left lanes, which will actually take us further away from Burnet Street. “Hey, man, you need to take this right. All the way over.”
He moves over immediately. “Yeah, man, I know where we’re goin’, shit. I’m just tryin’ to get your money, you know—‘s my fuckin’ job, bitch.”
I just look at him, a little confused by this mixture of hostility and blatant honesty. He doesn’t even notice.
“Man, my last fare, it was this time-call, like you: be there at a certain time, and I pick you up, right?”
“This broad, she makes me wait for half an hour, screwin’ around with her bags and shit. Runnin’ back and forth, tellin’ me she’s almost ready, shit. I thought she was goin’ to the airport. She finally gets her ass in, she tells me, ‘No, not the airport, just down here, to the [I can’t remember the name of the hotel he said].’ We get there, it’s a seven-dollar fare.”
“Bitch makes me wait half an hour, and then it’s a seven-dollar ride. You know what I told her, I told her, ‘Lady, this one’s on me. I got this one.’ Didn’t charge her a thing.”
“There’s a reasoning behind my math. See, she got me this time—laugh it up, bitch. I don’t like bein’ laughed at—I’m a man, you know?”
“So she laughs this time, but it’s the last time. I remember names, see? I’m a hood rat. I work the same neighborhood all the time. Next time she needs a cab? I call in, say, ‘Hey, that broad owes me money—she don’t pay her fare.’ Who’s gonna go pick her up? You? You ain’t gonna pick up some broad that don’t pay her fare. I sure as hell ain’t.”
“Laugh it up, honey, you won’t be laughin’ for long. See this place over here? That’s where all the crackheads hang out.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Shit, yeah. Crackheads, whatever you want to call ‘em. Mostly they do speed, but I just call ‘em crackheads. You ever need a crackwhore, that’s where you go to get one. Right there, see that?”
“Yeah, they’re all right. I know that there’s a couple of titty-dancers that live right there, too. Right there,” Pointing.
“So this broad, she’s the kind that can’t keep her head screwed up straight if it’s attached, she’s running back and forth, tellin’ me to wait just a minute. She left her lunch in here—that’s her lunch bag I gave you.”
“Yeah. No lunch in there now, though. There was a banana, two pieces of bread, and a, uh, whatdayacallit? Avocado. And a bottle of water. Can you believe that? Who eats that for lunch? I ate that shit. Not for lunch, though.”
We’re in the industrial park where I work, so I tell him it’s cool to drop me off anywhere.
“Man, you’re in a fuckin’ cab! You don’t walk—I take you there! Where at?”
“Just right here’s cool, man.”
“”No, where do you work? You don’t walk, you’re in a fuckin’ cab.”
“That building right there, that’s where I work.”
“That’s more like it.”
A truck begins backing up and the cabbie leans out the window and yells some stuff in Spanish. It doesn’t sound friendly.
“All right,” he says as we pull up. “How much do I owe ya?”
“I think around twelve bucks,” I tell him, trying to joke with him. He whips out his wallet, opens it up to display the bills inside.
“You want money? I got money.” I laugh, yeah, man, ha-ha, joke, whatever. “No, man, I got money.”
“Yep,” I say, and hand him some money. The fare only ended up being $8.55, so I’m sure he’s pissed that I didn’t need to go to the airport or whatever. “Later, man.”
“Have a good day at work, man!”
I’ll be walking to work next time.