Friday, July 20, 2012


Assumptions are the bane of the human race.

Case in point:

The other night I was sitting in my cab when the phone rang.

"Night and Day Taxi."

"Hi, I'm in Hendersonville, and I need a cab at Dos Margaritas."

"You say Los Margaritas?  What is that, a bar?"

"Dos Margaritas."

"Oh, okay. You got a street address for me?"

There followed an extended exchange of mumbled words between my customer and someone else on the other end of the line.

"Uh, it's near Industrial Park Blvd."

I inputted this into my GPS and got a hit. "Okay, I'll be right there."

I hustled out to Fletcher, pedal to the metal.  But when I got there I found myself out in the middle of freakin nowhere.

The phone rang again.  "How close are you?  Will you be here soon?"

"Okay, where are you again?"

"Where are you? I can probably just direct you,"

"Well, the reference point you gave me was Industrial Park Blvd, but there's nothing remotely resembling a restaurant up here.  I'm in Fletcher, right on the edge."

"What?" He sounded peeved. "Fletcher? Where's that?"

I couldn't keep the exasperation out of my voice. "It's the town just north of  Hendersonville.  Surely you've heard of it?"

There followed a very long pause. "Never mind, sir.  I'll just call somebody who knows what he's doing."

That suited me just fine.

Later on, when I had some time to kill, I did a search for Dos Margaritas.

And found it. In Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Night and Day Taxi, the company I drive for, is based out of Hendersonville, North Carolina.

So Mister I'll Just Direct You, his voice oozing self confidence, had called for a cab in a city more than an hour away from him.  And then had the gall to suggest that I didn't know what I was doing.

And I'd assumed, at first, that he was right and I was wrong.


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...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Once a cab driver, always a cab driver?

Short answer: No. Driving a cab is something you do, it's not something you are.

Long answer: I wouldn't mind if the answer was yes.

And that's enough with the philosophy for now.

In practical terms, I've been playing the role of an Asheville cabbie for about 5 or 6 weeks now.  It's been an ongoing adventure, and for the most part I've enjoyed it. I was able to pay my first month's rent at the RV Park where I reside just a couple of days ago, and today I bought an old Dell Windows XP laptop at a pawnshop for $155--and I still have enough money left in my wallet to make change for a twenty!  Life is good.

I wanted the laptop because I also write science fiction and suspense/thriller fiction (and I reserve the right to branch out into writing westerns or romances if the notion takes me), and I'm self-publishing on the internet--and I need to be able to upload my work in a timely manner.

You know what I mean... Smashwords...  Amazon... yada yada yada...

More about all of that later. This post is about cab driving!

I got my first cab driving job in 1972 when I was 18 years old, fresh out of high school, driving for City Cab in Tallahassee, Florida. Which company was shortly thereafter bought by Yellow Cabs of Tallahassee. Those were good years.

Ah, well, that's enough for now. Stay tuned for more.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

This is now also a taxi driving blog

It will continue to be my writing blog, as well. And at some point it will be an RV blog, too--but I'm too tired to go into much detail about that tonight.

Suffice it to say there have been a lot of changes in my life lately. About a month ago, I got a job driving for Night and Day Taxi in Hendersonville, NC, and today, with the help of my family, I bought a little old Dodge RV to live in.

I drove a cab in Tallahassee, Florida for just about a decade, from 1972 to 1982, and after that I drove in Tampa for about a year. I always enjoyed being a cab driver, and I'm enjoying it once again. I'm actually assigned to work at Asheville Regional Airport; I don't get into Hendersonville much. Most folks who get into a cab at the Asheville Airport want to go into Asheville. Go figure.

As much as I love the business, it sucks when business is slow. Which it has been lately. But they say summer is the busy season around here, so I'm hopeful that things will pick up.

We'll see.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Family that Writes Together, or My Nephew the writer (with a nod to my grandmother)

Recently I had the pleasure of working on a project that was a bit of a departure from the stuff I usually do.

My Nephew, Patrick Alexander Walston, had written a piece of what he calls "zombie fiction", so I took it upon myself to edit it and format it for Smashwords.

Never say never, but I don't think I'll be cranking out any zombie fiction myself anytime soon—yet I was fascinated to read Pat's story. It's a little rough around the edges, but despite some of its gruesome aspects I found Twelve Days in Hell to be charming.

Apparently zombie fiction is a recognized sub-genre with a loyal cadre of fans, so I'm glad I was able to help him put his stuff out there. If he keeps it up, I may very well be known someday as that old geezer who's related to the famous young writer, Patrick Walston.

Writing does tend to run in families, I'm convinced of that.

My maternal Grandmother, Blanche Reinick, wrote a novel many years before I was born. I gather that it was set during the American Civil War and that it was partially inspired by Gone With the Wind.

I believe she wrote at least one other piece of fiction, too—based on a half-remembered conversation with my Aunt Marti—but as far as I know there are no surviving manuscripts of hers in existence today.

I inherited her portable typing table, though.

It's a sturdy old thing, built of heavy-gauge metal and originally spray-painted a dark green, with little caster wheels, and with two surface extensions that fold out like wings to give you some extra working space.

It was built to hold some weight—typewriters in the 1940s must have been heavy damn things.

My clunky old CRT monitor and Compaq Windows XP Computer are both easily as bulky as antique typewriters, so the typing table is serving me well. I don't  need a fancy desk—Grandmom's table suits me just fine.

I just wish she could have lived to see the e-book era.

There's probably still a market for Civil War fiction...