Friday, June 15, 2007

Occasional Scary Customers

I've been driving a cab for maybe a year and a half, altogether, now. In that year I've met a lot of people and seen quite a few interesting things; I've only gotten nervous three times that I remember. Tonight was the fourth.

In St. Louis there is a suburb called Kirkwood. Most of Kirkwood is very nice, high property values, and there is no crime to really speak of. But, strangely enough, there is a small area in the middle of this suburb, Meecham Park, that is sometimes said to be as dangerous as the worst parts of the inner city. I'm not sure that's true, it seems unlikely, but tonight makes the second time I've been sent to pick up passengers from that area and ended up more than a little scared.

I guess it was a little after 2AM when I arrived at his location. The neighborhood was dark and I couldn't see him very well. He was a clean looking young black guy with long dreads, he had a baby face and nothing about his appearance (that I noticed in the dark) was scary, so I didn't think anything of letting him in my cab.

He told me he was going to Berkeley, a pretty nasty suburban ghetto area, but I figured it was ok. It's a long trip from Kirkwood to Berkeley so I asked him to show me that he had the money... and that was bad sign number one.

This young guy, he looked like a teenager, pulled out a roll of cash bigger than my fist; most of it was large bills. Hmm... that's never a good sign. But at that point I feel like I have no easy out; he's already in my cab and I can hardly refuse him with an "I'm sorry but you have too much money for me to drive you sir" (Actually I could refuse him for that or any reason, but I felt it might piss him off).

So we're driving and he asks me if I'm scared to be picking someone up in Meecham Park so late at night. I ask him why and he says, "well, you know... that cop got shot here last year, and somebody stabbed that pizza woman to death... they never found the guy, either.." so, asking that question and listing reasons to be scared is potentially a bad sign, but being a female cabbie I get that question every day... it only seems bad when combined with his next question.

"Have you been busy tonight?" he asks me. THAT is a really bad sign... especially after reminding me that the pizza girl stabber was never caught. I tell him I just started for the morning and start trying to hold a more friendly and relaxed conversation with him (he was fairly silent and stiff; also a bad sign since it might indicate nervousness and bad intentions).

I've found, and been told, that often the best defense is to be friendly. The fact of the matter is that if you seem confident and treat a person with respect and friendliness, they are not going to want to hurt you. Sure, if they're desperate, they might still rob you, but probably they will leave you unharmed. So I ask him if he's still in school, if he had to work late, blah blah blah. He tells me he's only had a few hours sleep in the last few days and I tell him I couldn't do it, I'm pregnant and I have to sleep at least 9 or 10 hours a day. He says his baby's Mamma was like that too.

So I ask him about his child, how old, her age and stuff like that and tell him I'm having a girl, too, and that I'm really excited etc... and he's starting to be more friendly with me... something which makes me much more relaxed.

Anyway, we finally get close to his destination when two guys come running across the street in front of us, one jumps in a car and the other one pulls out a gun and is yelling at the other and banging on the door. This is like 15 feet in front of us (and apparently Berkeley is even worse than I've been told... I never went there at night before). He tells me to go on past, not to worry, and then he pays me and gets out of my cab a block up the street.

As he's getting out I see him in the light for the first time. He's wearing gang (Bloods) colors, a rag hanging from his pocket, and has a gun under his shirt (outlined through the T as he's getting out).

I have a policy; if I get nervous I go home. Yeah, I was nervous after that. If it would have been light where I picked him up, and I would have seen his gang clothing, I would have driven right past him. Maybe he was harmless, maybe he's just a guy who wanted a ride home, but the fact is that driving gang members, who are likely drug dealers (considering that huge wad of cash), is the most dangerous thing you can do at any time of the day. If they live a criminal lifestyle already, they are much more likely to commit a crime against you... it's as simple as that.

So I was thinking, as I drove home and considered what might have happened and how I might avoid such a thing in the future, that I'm glad I won't be driving a cab for too much longer. I just have to do this for the rest of the summer, just until school starts back up, and then I'll probably never be in such a scary situation again.

Luckily, I am not a nervous person. Tomorrow I will be back to my normal self but I think there will be one difference. I think, from now on, I'll avoid the Ghetto of Kirkwood at 2AM and especially if the passenger is going to another ghetto. If nothing else, I need to keep Lily out of that sort of danger.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

First Pregnant Cabbie in St. Louis?

We had our company cookout last Thursday for the taxi company I lease from. It was a nice day for a picnic and the company provided decent food (grilled Brats and burgers among other things) and the live entertainment of watching the president of the company (along with several supervisors) sit in a dunking booth and get dunked at the hands of some pretty competitive cabbies.

I took the opportunity to not wear my uniform (yeah, cabbies in STL are supposed to wear uniforms) and attended in maternity clothes that make it obvious that I'm not just getting fat. As I walked in the president of the company came up to me to chat for a few minutes.

He's a really nice guy who seems to have a knack for remembering the names of all of his 200 or so drivers (though I guess, being one of 5 females, mine is easy). He inquired about how I was feeling and then proceeded to tell me that I am the first pregnant driver he's ever had, and perhaps the first in St. Louis. He then wondered how long I planned on driving and if I thought there would be any safety issues to consider.

I assured him that I would not work if my belly made it hard to drive :) and that safety is one of my major concerns; that I have already accepted that I'm not going to be able to accept out of town trips after a month or so (though I've never yet had one really) and blah, blah, blah. Also that I didn't plan to work past late August at any rate.

He seemed relieved that I didn't plan to work up until going into labor (something cab driving would make pretty easy to do) and walked away happy with my plans.

It's kind of strange to be a pregnant cabbie. Well, I do tend to make better tips now :) and it's interesting to get parenting advice and stories from my fares. Just tonight a passenger was telling me about how he cried when he first held his 1 year-old daughter, but many people seem to be a bit disapproving of my occupation. Many people believe that cab driving is a really dangerous thing to do (and in some cities it is really dangerous), but I've been cabbing for over a year and have only gotten nervous a couple of times.

I'm actually much more worried about car accidents than passengers... I'm much more likely to get injured that way... and I think that driving a cab is a lot safer than working at a gas station (where you routinely see pregnant women) or delivering pizzas. In fact, I often wonder why more women don't take up cabbing for a living. It's a pretty high-paying job that doesn't require a college degree. It requires long hours and doesn't give benefits, but it won't break down your body, give you carpal tunnel, or make your feet hurt. Plus you don't have to take anyones BS (though they will try to give it to you) and kissing booty isn't part of the job description.

You're self-employed, free to make your own schedule, and left pretty much alone by the company you lease from, as long as you pay for your cab. In all, it's a pretty nice job (and many people in STL make 50,000$+ cabbing) and, if nothing else, you accumulate a lot of interesting stories to laugh about with your friends.

I was thinking, again, today that it seems strange to me to be the first pregnant driver in STL (if, indeed, I am). Actually, it's a bit strange whenever you find yourself the "first" at anything. It reminded me that I have led a pretty unconventional life and done a lot of things that many people never do... maybe I'll have to get around to writing my memoirs one day after all.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Nightmares in Pregnancy

I've been having nightmares, often several each week, for a month or two now. It seems this is a pretty common thing during pregnancy... that more vivid dreams are more prevalent in pregnancy as well (though I remember my dreams other than nightmares less now than pre-pregnancy).

Just another of the silly inconveniences I guess. What really bothers me about them is that while they are not recurrent... they are always different in scene and content... they all seem to involve abandonment by E. or losing him in some other way.

Perhaps it seems strange to read too much into these dreams, and I hope I'm not. It's just that it seems like having these nightmares might be some indication of something I have not heretofore been bothered by. I've always been a little surprised by my apparent lack of abandonment and trust issues... maybe I just never cared enough about anyone for them to surface.

It is something I think I should carefully consider. I really dislike it when I come up against things which linger from my childhood... I thought I had exorcised most of those demons, hopefully I have, but I guess a few might remain for me to contend with.