Friday, February 10, 2017


I was called by the dispatcher to pick up a young man downtown one day recently. When I arrived, I realized that I had seen him a few times before as I drove past the corner that he occupied which he used to approach passerby's for donations. He is blind.

I circled the block a few times before I was able to find a parking spot that was close to him. I got out of the cab and said, "hi, I'm here with the taxi" as I walked up to him. He asked me for help walking to the cab and then we took off for his destination.

I told him my name was "Tex" and he told me his nickname was "Rodeo" - two monikers that seemed to work out well together. He had worked rodeos before he was blinded six years ago by diabetes.  Now, he made his living off of disability and supplemented it with donations from people who passed him on the street corner.

I battled in my mind the entire 10 minute drive how to handle the cab fare. Should I charge him? If I offered to not charge him, would it offend him (my wife the counselor has taught me a lot over the years)? I mean really, a five dollar cab ride was not going to make or break me. I decided to be honest and I asked him, "would you be offended if I didn't charge you for the ride?" He replied, "No I wouldn't. I really appreciate it."

We arrived at his house and I helped him up to the front steps. "Nice to meet you Rodeo," I said as he started up the stairs. "Thanks for the ride, Tex" he replied.

Now, this isn't a post that I've written to solicit praise for being such a nice guy from whoever reads this. You might be thinking, "man, what a sucker!" I'm not sure why I'm writing this post except that giving "Rodeo" a ride was a unique experience that made me really think about how to respond to someone who has had such a different life experience from what I have lived.

This is what I enjoy about driving a taxi. I get to spend a short, fascinating amount of time with people I would never normally interact with outside my little bubble.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Meet "J.R." He is a Puerto Rico native raised in Jersey. Gang member in the 50s. Prison time. The tattoo next to his eye is in honor of his son who shot himself. Quite a history etched into his face.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


 I drive my cab from 2:00 p.m. until around 8:00 p.m. On my way to pick up my taxi for the day I passed an older gentleman standing near a street corner with a little sign asking for money. His hands were trembling. I immediately recognized him as a man that my wife and I encountered one night just outside of the local Walgreens late one night. On that particular night, we were pulling away from the curb next to the store and getting ready to head home. He was standing in front of the door on the sidewalk with his walking cane and it appeared like he was waiting for someone. His hands were trembling. My wife Dawn turned to me and said, "do you think we should ask him if he needs a ride?" I agreed and got out of the car and walked up to him and asked. He said he was waiting for a taxi but it had been a long time since he had called them. I offered to give him a lift, he agreed and got into the back seat of our car.

He resembled the great bluegrass musician Bill Monroe - longish white hair and long bushy white sideburns -  and had the southern accent to go with it. He thanked us over and over and I asked him a few questions about where he was from and small talk of that nature. We found out he was renting a room not too far from our home. His wife had passed away a year or so ago and on top of that, he had Parkinson's disease (hence the trembling hands). He lived solely off of his social security because he was unable to work. His benefits were under $1,000 and his rent was $500. Whoever owned the house wasn't helping him out with rides or anything else for that matter.

Ignoring the warning bells that were going off in my brain, I decided to give him my phone number and told him if he ever needed a ride and I was in the position to do so, I would. Again he thanked me and I helped him out of the car and to the front porch of where he was staying.

Now, back to the beginning of this story. As I passed this gentleman on the street corner on the way to my taxi, I pulled into the parking lot directly behind him. I had some of my cab cash with me and thought I should give him $10 because I knew he needed it. "Hey! It's me, Tex!" I called towards him. He walked a little hesitantly towards my car stumbling along the way because the sun was in his eyes. "Oh, hi Tex!" he replied. I asked him, "how are you doing?" He said, "It's my birthday; I'm 68." "Well then," I replied, handing him the $10 bill. "Happy birthday!"

I have passed people asking for money on the street and the street corner many times over the years as I'm sure you have - but I've never gotten to know one. I have given "Bill" a ride a number of times in my own car when he didn't have the cash for a taxi. He hasn't abused my offer of help and he has altered my perception a little about some of the people I see that need help.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

500 Miles

I picked up a young man by the name of Rodney the other night at a spot downtown and took him back to his home - a small mobile home that he shared with his wife and kids.

We had some small talk - I remarked about the rain we were having and what a mess it was to walk around in. He mentioned that he walks to work every day. 7 miles and back, every day. I don't know why he has to walk and doesn't drive to work and he didn't mention why.

All I could think of was what a huge expression of love to his family. Walking to and back from work every day.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Living in the Dark


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

I was not prepared for Molly. She lives alone with her cat in an apartment and needs a taxi ride to and from the grocery store from time to time. She has no family in the area and not many friends. She is blind. Blind from birth, in fact.

When I was a kid growing up in San Marcos, Texas, my mother would take me to the Duke and Ayres five and dime store on the town square. I guess you could compare it to the dollar stores that we have now that are so popular. On the weekends, a blind hispanic man sat on a chair just outside of the front door of the store and played his accordion. He was a talented musician and churned out song after song for people passing by. A little tin drinking cup sat next to his feet for donations. This was the extent of my experience with a blind person.

I pulled up to Molly's apartment complex and waited for her to come out. She came walking down the stairs, cane in hand and I got out of the cab to greet her and assist her to the cab. We drove to the local grocery store and chatted along the way. She was quite honest and open and unexpectedly confided to me that her dream was to get married and have children, but most of the guys she's met are afraid of potentially being the father of a blind child. I really had no idea what to say to that. I think I said, "wow" or something equally earth shaking.

We got to the grocery store and I helped her out of the cab. She asked me to take her to the customer service counter where I could leave her and she would do her shopping. It never occurred to me to ask her how on earth she could be blind and still shop. Did she stop shoppers and ask for help? As we walked to the counter she lightly held on to the back of my arm as we walked. I told her it was quite okay if she wanted to hold on tighter, but she replied that she was taught not to hold on tight and just use a light touch. I left her there at the counter and went on to my next ride.

The dispatcher called me about an hour later and asked me to pick up Molly and her groceries. I pulled up to the front of the store, got out of my cab and walked into the store to find her. She was having coffee in the bakery department. I helped her up from her chair and walked out to the waiting cab. I drove her back to her apartment and she asked me to help her take her groceries inside. She nimbly walked up the stairs ahead of me as I carried her grocery bags and stumbled up the stairs behind her. She opened the door to her apartment and asked me to put the groceries on the counter. The apartment was pitch dark and she told me I could turn on the lights if I needed to. No lights? Of course not. Why would a blind person need room lights? Another thing that had never occurred to me. She paid for her cab ride and thanked me for my help.

I still can't quite get over how odd it is that I have never been spent any time over these many years that I have been on this earth with a person who is blind. I think of her often and try to fathom what it must be like to be blind and alone. It's impossible for me to do.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Worlds Apart

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I picked him up downtown. He was wearing a dirty jacket, dirty jeans and a Vietnam Vet baseball cap - and he smelled. The cab dispatcher gave me a call on the radio and asked me to pick up the gentleman at a building downtown. When I arrived, he was nowhere to be seen. I called the dispatcher back and asked him to give the rider a call to find out where he was. I was getting annoyed and my patience was wearing thin as I waited outside the building with the engine running for what seemed like forever. The dispatcher called me back and said the man was on his way.

He finally appeared, shuffling very slowly down the sidewalk towards my cab. He had trouble walking and even more trouble getting into the cab. I immediately felt guilty for my impatience. He asked me to take him to a downtown liquor store.

On the way to the store I struck up a conversation with him. I thought he was much older than me, but I found out that we were just about the same age. The years had obviously been much harder on him. He suffered from gout and neuropathy in his legs and feet which was extremely painful and made it hard for him to get around.

We arrived at the liquor store and I parked out front. He asked me if I could help him out of the cab. I got out, walked over to the passenger side and helped him out and on to the sidewalk. He thanked me profusely for my, "kindness and understanding." A few minutes later, he came out of the liquor store and I helped him get back in the cab.

We arrived back at the building that I had originally picked him up from and I helped him out of the cab once again. He asked me if I would mind helping him get to the door. I said it would be no problem at all and started guiding him by the arm to the main entrance of the building. He stopped me and pointed to a long narrow alley that ran beside the building. "My door is down there."

It was at that point I started getting just a little nervous and began to wonder if maybe this wasn't just a ruse and he was going to rob me once we got into the alley. It's funny where your mind can go in this kind of situation. We squeezed down the alley and arrived at a door with a security lock. He typed in the combination and opened the door.

He turned to me and said, "Can you follow up the stairs behind me just in case I fall?" I said, "Sure, I know I look soft and all but if you fall on me it's going to hurt and I'm going to be really upset!" (I can't seem to stop myself from making jokes even in the oddest of situations.) He laughed and slowly made his way up two flights of stairs to his apartment. "Thank you sir," he said, as he reached out and shook my hand. "My pleasure. I'll see you again, I'm sure" I replied.

I would have never had an interaction with this person in a million years had I not been driving a cab that day and had he not needed a ride. We were worlds apart, but during the 30 minutes or so that we were together, a connection was made. I held the arm of a stranger and helped him from one destination to another.

It still feels good.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Courier of Death

I got a call this afternoon to pick up a gentleman at his apartment near the downtown area. When I arrived, the parking lot was exceptionally cramped and I was barely able to wedge my cab into one of the parking spots.

I've grown to dread picking up folks at apartments. I get quite a few of those calls and invariably the address is hard to find and the person who called for the cab is never outside waiting. I usually end up wandering around the complex looking for them. This call was no different.

I waited for awhile and then got out of the cab and walked over to the door of the apartment where the customer lived and I knocked. The door opened and a pleasant older man answered it and greeted me. He came out and we walked over to the cab, got in and took off for his destination in downtown Salem.

"What's your story?" I asked him after we had exchanged a little small talk. "What's my story? What do you mean?" he replied. I smiled and said, "I mean everyone has a story to tell about their life, what's yours?"

That was the first time I had ever used that line with a customer and I wasn't sure how he was going to react. He warmed up immediately and told me that he was a Vietnam vet and that he was also an actor. "I was the lead actor in a feature film - a 'B' movie." he told me quite proudly. "Get back, Jack!" I laughed. "Are you serious?" "It's true," he said. "I was the lead actor in a movie called 'Courier of Death.'"

I told him that I would look up the movie on the internet when I got home and we went on with the ride. I took him to a business downtown and then back to his apartment and dropped him off.

I looked up the movie later on Google and sure enough, there he was. He was in his 30's when he filmed it back in the 1980's and yes, it's definitely a "B" movie. So, ladies and gentleman, I present my new friend Joey Johnson and his 1984 film debut in "Courier of Death."