Taxi Stories 

A cabbie shares tales from the streets of Memphis.

click to enlarge screen_shot_2011-02-16_at_11.43.35_am.png
click to enlarge GREG CRAVENS

Eddie Tucker, a noted Memphis graphic designer, has in recent months also begun driving a taxi and writing about it. These stories are excerpted from Tucker's blog,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It was a beautiful day and business was like the ceremony for a Jewish infant's rite of passage — brisk.

After getting my first espresso of the day, I staked out the Westin hotel downtown. On Thursdays, many out-of-town business people return home, and airport trips make good fares.

The first fare was two guys from Mystic, Connecticut, who discussed business the whole way. I should have asked them about the pizza. The second was a guy from Boston who began the trip with a phone call to his kids. I told him about my daughter and how I miss her and how precious her childhood days were to me. Both fares had good tips.

The only other passsenger worth mentioning was a middle-aged guy whom I picked up in East Memphis and took to the Grove Grill. As he was giving me directions, I told him about a new retaurant in the Cooper-Young neighborhood called Sweet Grass. Turned out, he's a good friend of one of the chef-owners. I told him to tell his friend that I'm constantly singing their praises.

click to enlarge GREG CRAVENS

Friday, November 12, 2010

I learned early on that when you go to the cab-yard to get a cab, you can get stuck with anything from a Mercury Grand Marquis or Crown Vic to an Impala, unless you request a particular cab by its number. I prefer an Impala. They're nicer, plus the later models have two electric outlets — one for my Tom Tom GPS and one for my spotlight.

One drawback of getting a different model car each time is figuring out the details:Does the gas door have a secret release? Which buttons lock and unlock the doors? How do you turn on the dome light? Can I adjust the seat or not? Is anyone locked in the trunk? Does the bumper make my ass look fat? Yada, yada, yada ...

Anyway, back to Friday night, which was also brisk — 27 fares from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.

I picked up a guy in the Medical Center. He wanted to go to a bar in Frayser, which is a pretty good distance. He was a nice looking, burly, middle-aged guy, neatly dressed. When he got in the cab, I thought I was going to die from the excessive cologne. I had to do all I could to keep from gagging.

He was also drunk and slurred, "I'm gonna let you in on someding. I'm gonna beat the shit outta guy and settle a long-standing score. If I call you when I'm through, can you come get me?"

"Oh darn, wouldn't ya know it? I think I left my cell phone at home," I replied. Along the way, he kept talking about taking care of business.

"Do you believe in what goes around comes around?" he asked.

"Sure do," I answered.

"I just don't want to end up at 201," he said.

I offered some advice: "Just sucker-punch him and get the shit out of Dodge." I got a good tip. Hope he's okay. He reminded me of Nick Nolte.

I picked up four young women in Central Gardens. They were all dressed up for a night on the town and wanted to go to McEwen's restaurant downtown. Soon, they began changing their minds about where to eat and whether or not they should see if Ashley wanted to go. We got about a half-mile, when one realized she forgot her keys. I didn't mind waiting, since the meter was running. Eventually, she returned, and we picked up Ashley at Boscos, then headed downtown. They kept changing their minds about where to go. I tried to convice them to go to Ronnie Grisanti's, which is about 10 miles from where we were (cha-ching!), but they eventually settled on McEwen's. The fare was $32.60. Without all the detours, it would have been about $14. Isn't this fascinating?

I picked up a guy who got in the cab with a snare drum and wanted to go to a house in the Cooper-Young area. I asked if he was in a band or if he just enjoyed carrying a snare drum. "The wife's gone to another gay birthday party," he said. "I've had my fill of gay birthday parties. I'm a musician and artist. Gotta have my outlet, ya know." He went on to say he majored in graphic design.

"I'm a graphic designer," I said and told him my background and mentioned several logos I was sure he'd seen over the years.

"No shit!?You did those?" he exclaimed.

My next fare was a very elderly gentleman who was standing with an elderly woman in front of an apartment building. As he got in, I noticed his oxygen tank. The woman stuck her head in the window and asked, "If I give you $10, will you let me ride along and bring me back?" I said I'd be happy to.

"Go on, driver! I don't want her to come along," the old guy said.

"Ma'am," I said. "He doesn't want you to go." She looked dejected and returned to the building.

"That woman's gonna kill me yet," the old man said. "I came over here to lie down with her for a little while, and she wouldn't let me go! Hell, I ran out of oxygen after the first five minutes."

My last fare of the night was a young woman whom I picked up at her boyfriend's apartment building. He reached in, gave me $10 to cover the fare, and kissed her goodnight. I asked, "How are you tonight?"

"Oh, not that great. I think my boyfriend's having an affair," she replied.

There must be something about the back of my head that says "counselor," but I don't mind.

"I don't know what's wrong with me," she said. "I'm not bad looking. I'm very loving and compassionate. I'm easy to get along with, and I love sex."

"First of all," I offered, "don't blame yourself. Second, you don't know for sure if he's having an affair. You can continue to be miserable by wondering and being suspicious, or you can get to the truth right away. Just ask him if it's true and tell him why you suspect it. If true, then you can ditch the asshole and get on with your life."

When I let her out, she touched my hand and said, "Soulmate."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday proved to be a good day. The weather was great, and I had four airport trips.

The first was a businessman from Northern California, Silicon Valley. He said this was his first trip to Memphis and gave me the impression that he thought Memphis was some backwater town. So, I told him about FedEx, Holiday Inn, Schering-Plough, International Paper, UTmedical school, Sharp Manufacturing, Nike, and St. Jude. And about Memphis being the home of the blues and the birthplace of both rock-and-roll and soul music. I told him about the National Civil Rights Museum, Stax Records, the Smithsonian's Rock 'n' Soul Museum, and Gibson Guitars. He left impressed.

Next was four yuppie women. Their husbands were out of town, and they were costumed as sluts and wanted to go to a club in Midtown. They talked about their kids and about a mutual friend who breast-feeds her baby every time he cries and who for months wouldn't let anyone know the baby's name because she might be embarrassed by it. Turns out, the kid's name is Leo. I guess they call the mother Loco.

As soon as I let them out at the club, a young woman hopped in the front seat, slammed the door, and said, "Take me home."

"Where do you live?" I asked. "I'm not gonna let that bastard treat me this way," she replied. "Don't blame ya," I said. "Now where do you live?" At this point, a six-foot-two white rabbit approached the car. Off came the head to reveal none other than her husband. Apparently, he was kicked out of the club for some reason. "That's it! I've had it," she screamed. He got in, and she directed me to Mud Island. He was soused. According to her, they'd been married for only two years, and she was "sick of his fucking drinking!" Her ranting went on for the entire trip. I offered her candy, but that didn't help except to get a small laugh. He didn't say much. An apology here and there.

When we arrived, she stormed into the house, leaving the rabbit to pay the fare. He was too drunk to count accurately, and, as a result, I got a nice tip. I wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Bugs Bunny have similar problems.

click to enlarge GREG CRAVENS

Friday, November 19, 2010

I worked the 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift.

I picked up a couple at the Botanic Garden. They were from upstate New York, where it was snowing when they left. They were here as tourists and marveled at the beautiful weather. In fact, they couldn't stop asking questions about our weather. I felt like Dave Brown. We also talked about Graceland, and while they weren't big Elvis fans, they were nevertheless impressed and moved by the tour. I told them I had been to Graceland twice and, back when Elvis was alive, how it was always comforting to know when he was at home. I gave them some suggestions on other places to go and dropped them off at the Rendezvous. One whiff of barbecue and I was headed to Corky's in East Memphis. Corky's has a drive-through window so I could eat in the cab.

I picked up a topless dancer and took her to work at the Gold Club. Unfortunately, she wasn't dressed for work. She also wasn't very friendly. She had me wait at T.J.Maxx while she did some shopping. With the meter running, I sat there and imagined she must be buying something to wear on the job. All I got out of her was that she was from Hot Springs. She was thin and looked to be all of 12.

Later, I went to one of those by-the-hour motels on South Bellevue, where I picked up a very attractive woman. "Whew!" she said. "Those people are crazy. I was invited to a party and sat there thinking these folks need to get a degree and get some jobs." She told me she was originally from Pennsylvania and has two children in the Navy and two in high school making A's and B's. She was nice. I had to take her to South Memphis, where I didn't linger very long.

I spent some time trolling downtown and was flagged by two guys, one from Wisconsin and the other from St. Louis, who decided to meet up here for some R&R. I took them to the hotel, and they asked where in town would I go for an evening out. I suggested they eat at Sweet Grass in the Cooper-Young district and take in some live music at the Young Avenue Deli. Good tip to them and them to me.

Got a signal to pick up at Tugs in Harbor Town. Two guys got in. One was pretty drunk. They wanted to go to another bar, Molly Fontaine's in Victorian Village. Later that night, I was sent back to Molly Fontaine's, where I picked up the same two guys, who wanted to return to the first bar. The younger one kept passing out, but when he was awake, the other guy asked him how his interview went with Vince Vaughn. I was able to learn he was trying out for Vaughn's comedy tour.

At around 12:45 a.m., I settled in line at the Beale Street cab stand. I could tell how slow the night was because there were at least 10 cabs in line. After about 20 minutes, a phalanx of cops approached, giving each of us an eagle-eyed look. I immediately felt guilty, but then I was raised by a Jewish mother. Apparently, someone must have sent a cab distress signal, but it was a false alarm. Reassuring nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I try to abide by the golden rule of never discussing politics or religion. But when a passenger breaches the topic, well, I don't want to seem unsociable.

I took this cool guy from home to work at the FedEx hub, and after some small talk about his job, he said, "You know, Republicans just don't care about average Americans."

"I hear ya, my friend," I responded, eager to launch into my tirade. "They believe if businesses are not regulated, they will make so much money, it will trickle down to the rest of us. But they're blind to the fact that this theory never worked and only leads to greed, which then leads to a disastrous economy."

"They said they're going to undo everything Obama has done," he said.

I pointed out that after the big Republican victory in the mid-term elections of 1994, Bill Clinton accomplished more than before. "When voters see over the next two years what the Republicans are really about, Obama will be re-elected. But I'm as frustrated as you," I said, "and there's not much I can do about it except cast my vote." We continued in this vein until we got to FedEx, where we shook hands and bid each other to keep the faith.

I picked up a young woman in Midtown who was returning to Australia after visiting her boyfriend here. Talk about your long-distance romance, Ithought. "Why don't you move up here?"I asked.

"I'm a physician, and I'm about to start training for surgery," she replied. "If I moved here, I would lose that opportunity."

I love talking to foreigners. I got a guy at Oak Court Mall and took him to the Hilton. He was from Germany but wasn't very talkative. I kept expecting him to say, "You vill take me to ze hotel."

Around dusk, I picked up a passenger at Target, going to his hotel. When he got in the cab, he said, "Howdy, mate."

"Australia,"I replied.

"South Africa," he said. He was cool. He lives in Toronto and said that he doesn't like cold weather.

"What's the weather like in your country?"I asked. "About 365 days of golf" was his answer.

I took a young guy on a round trip from his apartment to a couple of stops and back. He had cerebral palsy and walked with his legs bent low, almost in a sitting position. He was a nice guy with a healthy attitude and good sense of humor. Said he prefers not to use a wheelchair and that people often stare at him. I told him to tell them that he's getting ready to take a big shit. He laughed.

Later, I picked up a guy near Poplar Plaza. It was a round trip to a seedy neighborhood north of Summer Avenue, where he went into a house for a couple of minutes and returned. An obvious drug deal. On the way back, he talked about the big Thanksgiving dinner he prepared. When we arrived at his place, he bolted from the cab without paying. I tried to find him and had the dispatcher call him, but, of course, he didn't answer. It was a $20 fare.

I picked up an inebriated CPA at a bar on Highland. As he got in, he asked, "How's it going?"

"Some motherfucker just ripped me off for $20!"I growled.

"Man, that's not right," he said. "Look, I'll give you an extra $20 when you drop me off."

"No, man, you don't have to do that," I replied.

"But I want to make this right," he said. "Just turn off the meter, and I'll give you $15." I accepted his offer, because Mrs. Tucker didn't raise no dummy. So, all's well that ends well.

click to enlarge GREG CRAVENS

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Remember back in the 1980s, when cell phones were big and bulky and had a six-inch antenna? They looked like a gravy boat on a stick. Today, cell phones can do everything short of waxing your pubic hair. They're called smart phones. I have a dumb phone — just the basics. I hardly use it. I carry a cell phone, because Iride a Harley and my wife thought it would be a good idea in case of an emergency, like ordering take-out.

What I don't get is all these people who walk around, glued to their phones, having long-winded conversations no matter where they are. We used to say it "looked like the phone was attached to his head." Well, now they literally are attached to their heads, thanks to Bluetooth. I see people every day who appear to be talking to themselves, and you know what we used to say about them.

My mother used to talk on the phone for hours at a time. It was her way of socializing. Whenever I walked into the room, she would start speaking in Yiddish so I couldn't understand what she was saying. Like I really cared.

I'll never forget that historic night in July 1969, when man first stepped foot on the moon. I was glued to the TV in anticipation of the most significant event in recorded history. My mother, of course, was on the phone in the other room. As the capsule began its descent to the surface, I ran into the other room and said excitedly, "They're about to land on the moon!" Mother began speaking Yiddish, and to this day, I swear she said, "My son's crazy. He thinks we're landing on the moon."

I picked up a guy in Midtown. He came out of the building talking on his cell and got in the cab talking on his cell, not even acknowledging my presence. I could tell by his conversation he was an arrogant little prick, so I thought I'd have a little fun. On the way to his home, I repeatedly swayed the cab from left to right and watched in the rearview mirror as he rocked back and forth, left to right, right to left.

Which reminds me of the best talk-show story I ever heard, as told by comic Jay Thomas on Letterman. When Thomas was a hippie in the 1970s, he worked as a deejay at a radio station. One day, he and his engineer had to do a remote broadcast from the opening of a car dealership. The star attraction was Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger, in full costume complete with mask and six shooters. When the festivities ended, the Lone Ranger asked Thomas if he'd give him a ride to his hotel. So the three of them piled into Thomas' VW, with the Lone Ranger in the backseat.

Thomas and the engineer, who were completely stoned, were stopped at a red light when a Cadillac rear-ended them. As Thomas got out to investigate, the Caddy drove off. Thomas gave chase at high speed, weaving in and out of traffic. He could look in the rearview mirror and see the Lone Ranger rocking back and forth, left to right, right to left. When he caught up with the culprit at a stoplight, Thomas got out and banged on the guy's window.

"You ran into my car," Thomas shouted, "and I'm going to call the cops!"

"Oh yeah," the guy said. "Who's going to believe a dirty hippie?"

At this point, the Lone Ranger walked up and said, "I will, citizen."

And speaking of the Lone Ranger: Later, I picked up a woman at her house to take her to work. As she shut the cab's door, the radio started playing the William Tell Overture. I turned to her and said, "And away we go! Hi-ho, Yellow!" Thankfully, she got the joke.

I should record that music and play it every time someone gets in the cab.

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