MBIP contibutor, commenter and pal, Jaws the Cabbie wrote a book a while back called, Two Fisted Cab Driving Tales. Every now and again we’re going to run an excerpt from the book and this is the first story in Two Fisted Cab Driving Tales, so I thought we’d run it as a two-parter for the weekend. Here’s the first half of this wild tale explaining how Jaws earned his nickname of, “Jaws the Cabbie.” Take it away, Jaws!
Hi. Jaws here. I'm a real cab driver. I've been running a hack for over six years now. I'll be your guide through this crazy-quilt collection of two-fisted, cab-drivin' tales, so hang on to your jock. Most of the stories you are about to read are absolutely true—names and places have been changed to protect the innocent, and come to think about it, some pretty guilty puppies as well. Some stories came to me secondhand from other drivers and are alleged to be true. We'll start with how I got my nickname.
They call me...Jaws.
As I sit here writing this, the date on my Kmart blue-light special Indio-glow wristwatch is three hours away from turning over from June 19th to the 20th. And I realize with a bit of irony that it's almost three years to the day (it was midnight on the summer solstice) that I warded off an attack by a disturbed drunken reprobate of a landscaper by doing a little improvisational self-defense. For convenience sake, herein let the reprobate in question hereby be known as Clyde.
I picked Clyde up at a large apartment complex at the northern edge of Blaine, up by the highway that runs east to west, dividing Blaine and Coon Rapids from the communities of Ham Lake and Andover and running straight into the town of Anoka, Minnesota. It's called Main Street, or Highway 242 if you please.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted him immediately walking back and forth, staggering a little, and flagging me. I knew by the stagger and the shit-eating oversized grin that he was already half in the bag. Boy! Oh, boy! Oh, joy! I'd been working two years straight as a night driver at the time, and I'm as good as any veteran cop at spotting a drunk. Even if he or she is only a little drunk, I can tell.
There are a million little signals (some of them not so little) and believe-you-me you get a sixth sense about almost every aspect to the human condition after you've been at it awhile. Ask any cabbie or any cop. Especially if they work at night!
Clyde had just enough booze in his snoot to make him a happy-time drunk, at least for the time being. Had I known what was going to happen later that night, I would have happily spun the wheels over the tops of his feet while getting the fuck out of there all at the same time.
He got into the cab and he seemed pleasant enough at the time. He brought the smell of beer with him. He wanted to go to the Old Diaper Bar and Grill a couple of miles south on Central Highway, which crosses 242 and heads north practically forever.
As I drove him, the meter ticked merrily away and Clyde was predisposed to talk shop. A landscaper (a fairly common species of worker, and kissing cousins to Roofus Alcoholus; the common roofer found throughout the north/northeast suburbs) he was going to conduct a business deal with an associate at the Old Diaper or so he said. And half in the bag at that. But that's the way it's done up here a lot, so it didn’t strike me as extraordinary in the least. At the time he seemed like a fairly decent guy.
We pulled up to the Old Diaper and he told me to wait for him, he'd only be about ten minutes or so. I'm generally a little leery about such situations, but it was a round-trip and I was in a pretty good mood so I said, "Sure."
Silly me. I fucked up! Ten minutes turned into fifteen, then into twenty.
I went into the Diaper for a little check, and he was still talking to his friend and pouring more booze into his snoot as he did. He waved me on, and I went back to the cab to read my book, hoping that this was not going to turn into a problem. I was really beginning to smell situation all over this situation. My sixth sense was kicking in big time, normally if it is a short run, just a couple of bucks and the drunk starts to get weird, sometimes it just makes sense to say fuck the money, just strand the jerk and go on to bigger and better things, there's better business elsewhere in the night.
By this time, however, I had too much time involved in the fare and I couldn't let it go.
Clyde did come out after forty-five minutes, and now the idiot really is totally faced. And he had that surly little spoiled boy look on his mug that I've come to know only far too well over years of experience (cops and cab drivers all know and dread this look). Christ, situation time! Say as little as possible, get this asshole home quick, get the money and get out quick. And hope for the best.
At first things went just fine. Clyde was dead silent and that was just fine by me, considering the look on his face when he came out of the Old Diaper. I was about three-quarters of a mile from his apartment building when the name-calling started.
"You fuggin' jerk, what d' hells matter wif you, huh?"
"You muvvucker, you goin' d' wrong fuggin way, man. You paddin' d' fuggin bill, man!"
"That's impossible, pal. There's a straight stretch of road between the bar and your place, man, and that's your place coming up on the right. Relax, man, you're home."
"You pullin' in d' wrong driveway, man. You tryin' to fuck me, man!"
Sigh! Night driving, people. Get the idea? Two or three times a night every goddamned Friday and Saturday night, Sunday night too come to think of it, because most of the social happy-time, well-heeled gregarious drunks, the hard tippin' drunks, they do it on Fridays and Saturdays and then go to church on Sundays with a hangover like they're fuckin' supposed to! People who get soused on Sundays tend to have no friends, no family, mental problems and an attitude. Sunday nights can be a pain in the ass too—take it from me!
"You tryin' to fuck me, man!"
"No, I'm not, asshole. I don't date out of my species." (It pays to be a fan of Clint Eastwood movies, lots of great one-liners, some of the best I've ever heard!) "Now, that's twenty dollars for the round-trip and the wait, then you can get the fuck out of my cab, jackass."
I think I should mention at this point that the moment the name-calling started, I initiated S.O.P. for this type of situation and slipped my pepper spray from my shirt pocket and into my left hand, my thumb slipping beneath the safety flap and onto the firing button. I kept my left hand with the pepper spray in my lap, drove with my right, and prepared myself for what I strongly suspected by now was going to happen next. I felt that I had all the evidence I personally needed that Clyde was, in fact, a psycho-butthead and possibly dangerous. I pulled up to the rear door of his apartment and came to a stop. The stage was set for one of the most interesting nights in my recent memory.
Stay tuned for part II, tomorrow!