Friday, June 15, 2012

SF writers and fans are so cool...

Excuse my for being a grumpy old bastard, but I absolutely refuse to spell that word as 'kewel'. I mean, come on, kids, what's up with that? And while I'm ranting here, why do you young doofuses all wear your baseball caps backwards? To show what nonconformists you are? (That's called 'irony'. Look it up..)

Anyway, today I had an actual hugo-nominated SF writer in my cab, one Cathrynne M. Valente. I've fallen out of touch with much of modern SF, and I'm sad to say I hadn't heard of her before, but after talking to her (briefly), I googled her, and I'll probably wind up being a fan. Her novella sounds very intriguing, and she was a very nice person.

And she mentioned my name in her Twitter feed. How ccol is that?

(I must confess--I don't really "get" Twitter... But I digress...)

Anyway, how could I not be  a fan?

And speaking of fans, just last Sunday (Father's Day), I picked up a woman in Flat Rock going into Hendersonville to visit her dad at a rest home. I happened to mention that I was thinking of getting my brother a copy of the John Carter DVD for Father's Day, and we wound up having a pretty far-reaching conversation that touched on E. E. Smith as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert A. Heinlein, and Andre Norton.

I don't usually get to have too many literary conversations in the cab, but that's two in less than a week...

Pretty damn cool...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Interesting Encounter

You do tend to meet some interesting people when you drive a cab--people you'd never encounter otherwise.

I work the Asheville Airport on weekdays, but on Saturdays and Sundays, during the day I am Night and Day Taxi in Hendersonville. The company doesn't have a dispatcher; they just give you their company cell phone and turn you loose.

About Noon last Sunday I was half asleep, sitting in my cab downtown, when the phone jarred me awake.

I picked it up. "Night and Day Taxi."

"Hey, I'd like to request  a cab to come pick me up at one o'clock."

He went on to give his address, but he instructed me to meet him at the convenience store just down the block from him.

As it happens, it was a rainy day, so I assured him it would be no problem to come right to his doorstep. He said no, just meet him at the Marathon store.

I sort of hate time calls like that--they can seriously fuck up your flow. What happens if you get another call at 12:30, do you try to squeeze them in or do you have to turn them down? Time calls just stress me out.

Anyway, I figured I might as well get there early, so at 12:40 or so I was sitting in the parking lot of the convenience store.

He called me at about 12:45. "Hey, I'm the guy who ordered the cab for 1:00, I'd just like to confirm that you're coming?"

"As a matter of fact, man, I'm sitting in the parking lot of the Marathon station right now--I'm looking at your mailbox and your driveway as we speak. You sure you don't want me to come on up to your house? So you don't have to walk through the rain?"

"No, no, no, man, just sit tight. I'll be right there."

It hadn't quite dawned on me yet, but here was a customer who urgently wanted his cab.

I generally prefer for customers to sit in the back, but sometimes I'll clear off the front seat for them, which involves putting my laptop and whatever books I've brought with me to read in my rummage-sale briefcase and depositing it in the trunk. It's more trouble then I usually care to go to, but this guy was talking to me like I was already sort of his buddy, so I figured it might be worth my while to cater to him, tip-wise.

He fooled me, though. He got in the back. "I want to go to the the Octopus Garden at 2000 Spartanburg Highway; I'll only be in there a minute or two, so if you could just wait on me?"

This was turning out much better than I had expected. I was picking him up in Laurel Park and the place he wanted me to take him was down in East Flat Rock--and I assumed I'd be taking him right back to Laurel Park again. Awesome.

I generally try to make conversation with my fares. One good ploy is to ask them what's going on at their destination.

I had previously been told at some point that his destination was a "smoke shop", so I (naively) asked, "What's the attraction at  The Octopus Garden? I know they have the cheapest prices for cigarettes and all, but look at what you're spending on cab fare."

"Naw, man, I  ain't after cigarettes, I need to get some of that herbal smoke, you know?"

I did know, vaguely. "That's the stuff that's supposed to be just like marijuana?"

"You got it, man. They open at 1:00 on Sunday. I've been waiting all morninng."

Okay, so I needed to re-define "smoke shop". Well, that's part of being a cab driver. You live and learn.

It developed that he was joining the marines soon, and that he'd been smoking pot since he was 13 (he was now 27) and that he didn't want to disgrace the marine corps by doing anything illegal. Fortunately, the herbal smoke was just as good as the illegal shit.

Like I say, you live and learn.

I had to wonder if this young man was really cut out to be a marine, but it would have been rude of me to say so.

"I've been staying with my aunt, that's why I didn't want you to come up to the house. As far as she knows, I just went out for a walk."

"In the rain?"

"Heh. Yeah."

We pulled up to the Octopus Garden. "Whenever I pass this place," I said, "I always think of the old song..."

"What old song?"

"The Beatles Song! Come on..."

"Oh, sorry."

I sang, "I'd like to be.... under the sea..."

"I never heard that one. But I bet they named their shop after that song."

Probably. But time flies, and fame is fleeting...

I found myself at a loss for words.

Anyway, I took him back to Laurel Park after he got what he'd been jonesing for, and he gave me a nice tip, and he left me feeling vaguely positive about the future of his generation.

I don't think he'll last too long in the marines, though...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Once A Cab Driver, Always a Cab Driver, Part 2

That last post was a little truncated. I actually had more to say, but it was late and I was tired. Sometimes you just hit that wall called fatigue and you're done for a while.

One thing that occurs to me is that I've been a writer longer than I've been a cabbie--I got my first typewriter when I was ten years old.

Be that as it may, I remember that getting my job as a cab driver for City Cab (now defunct) when I was 19 years old was a real break for me. Even now, looking back, it's hard to see it any other way.

I was fresh out of High School, and my first job as a pizza delivery driver had only lasted a couple of months. I think I lasted maybe a month as a construction laborer. I remember feeling a little desperate, hoping to find something that would last.

City Cab was a small company, with maybe a dozen cars. My first regular assigned cab was a 1968 Plymouth--cab #18. When I first started, the meter read 50 cents on the flag drop (meters actually had flags in those days), and the rate was 10 cents a mile.

I remember the company manager coming to get me on my first day, giving me a ride to work, telling me stories about the cab business. All I seem to remember at this late date was that he told me a high percentage of cab drivers were alcoholics.

City Cab was later bought out by Yellow Cabs of Tallahassee. And my income increased.

I'll probably post some more stories about those days, but it was really a long time ago; memories tend to fade...

Anyway, I just wanted to finish up the truncated post. My next blog entry will probably be about writing...