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(from The Eduction of a Cab Driver)

C  H  A  P  T  E  R   5 

Guardian Angel


Christmas Eve; a time for family and friends. I decided early in the week I would work Christmas Eve. Tina and I gathered at a friend’s house. Tina drove her car, and I took my cab. We finished Christmas Eve dinner. The wine tastes especially good — nothing like good wine or beer — nectar of the gods. I finished my second glass of wine while I soaked in the festivities. I’m not in the mood to drive. But, my inner voice worked on me. 

There are people out in the world that need to get somewhere for their holiday celebration.

I know. Just a little longer. I’m letting the wine’s effect subside. 

You’re fine. Get out there. There’s money to be made.

I know. I will. 

Think of all those people without cars. The ones that don’t want to get DUIs, or the ones that want to get to a party. This is an excellent opportunity for you.

I know. I will.

When? Get off your ass, man! This will be an amazing night! 

I stood up.

"It’s time for me to go," I said. 

"What?" Jim said. "Where are you going?"

"I’m going to drive my cab."

"Tonight?" Trudy asked.

"Are you okay to drive?" Tina asked.

"I’m fine. I had two glasses of wine, and that was hours ago."

"Are you sure," Trudy asked.

"Yes, yes. I’m fine."

"It’s Christmas Eve. You have to work tonight?" Jim asked.

"No, but I should."

"Wow, that sucks," Trudy said.

"I know, but it’s my new life."

"Are you sure you’re okay to drive?" Tina asked.

"I’m fine. Thanks for a super evening."

"Wow, dude, that’s a real bummer!" Jim said.

"Look, I’ll go out, and if nothing is happening, I’ll come back."

I hugged everyone. Kissed Tina goodbye and headed out. 


I fired up my cab, and the dash lit up. 

Okay, now that I’ve got the USS Enterprise fired up, let’s make some cash!

I scanned the computer screen.

What the hell?

Look at all those cabs.


What the hell?

I got it.


Most of them are Muslim.

Crap, that’s right. 

Man, tonight is going to suck.

I thought you said it was going to be amazing?

Well, I guess I am wrong. You should go back inside. You can’t make any money with this many cabs working. 

No, no. I’m going to try it. I’ll give it an hour. If nothing is stirring by them, I’ll pack it in.

Okay, one hour. Let’s do it!

I trolled instead of sitting; sometimes, that is better. I’m not sure why, but it worked to be on the move rather than sitting in one spot. Besides, I’m not in the mood to sit and wait. Either this thing will work tonight, or it’s not. A cruised down Fair Oaks, heading towards the college. 

Damn, it’s dead out here.

Nothing is moving on the computer. Everybody seems to be sitting too.

You should pack it in.

I’ll troll down J Street and then head back to the party. 

My computer screeched out that annoying series of beeps. The ride being offered is in a different zone. No other cabs are jumping on it. 

The 50 block of Howe? Where the heck is that?

I looked the block up.

Right there, where Howe becomes Power Inn.

That’s right. Cool!

I accept the ride.  

I’ll be damned. It’s the Comfort Inn. 

You see, it’s people who need to get to a holiday celebration.  

How come there are no names?


Yeah, no names are listed. It says customers will be in the lobby.

Well, let’s get to it.


Pulling up to the main entrance, I slowed the cab to a crawl. The main lobby is lit up big and bright. I scanned the lobby looking for signs of life, but it’s deserted. Not a soul is around, not even at the front desk. 

Oh man, I’m going to have to track these people down. 

I punch through my computer screens, looking for a room number, but there is nothing.

Great, this ride isn’t even going to happen.

Just void the sucker, and let’s be gone.

No, I came here, so I’m going to at least ask.

I hit my power lock button to unlock my door as I brought the cab to a stop. The button I hit unlocked all the doors. 

Come on, man, let’s go.

As I opened my door, the door behind me opened. The cab shook as a man jumped into the backseat behind me. I twisted, looking to the backseat. A white man with an unlit cigarette clenched between his teeth and a scraggly beard sat there looking at me. 

Where did this guy come from? This doesn’t look good.

Well, say something.

"You can't smoke in here," I said. 

"Hey, boss! No worries, I won't light up," he replied. 

The unlit cigarette remained between his lips. 

The passenger’s door opened, and a rather large woman climbed into the front seat. Surrounded. She weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds. She gave me a weak mousy smile. 

What’s that smell? Great, this dude is drunk.

He’s drinking out of a paper bag, most likely a Colt-45 malt liquor.

This is an ambush. 

You don’t know that.

This is sure fucked up! I know that.

Stay cool. Keep in control of the situation and don’t show any weakness. You’re in charge. 

I pivoted back into my seat. I could see the man through a little round mirror mounted on the dash; they designed the mirror to track passengers sitting behind the driver. I would lose sight of him if he cocked his head to the right but catch him again with the rearview mirror. Between the two mirrors, there’s a small blind spot. 

"And you can't have an open container in here either."

"It's in a bag, man. It won't come out." 

Why the fuck did I unlock the doors!

Work through it — focus. 

Glancing over at my new co-pilot, she sat, nervous; her hair is matted, and the clothes are dirty. 

These two are homeless. This is a setup.  

Maybe they want a free ride?


I looked for help, but it’s Christmas Eve, and not a soul is stirring except the people in my cab. Even the counter is empty. The woman gave off a strange vibe. 

She’s nervous.

Yes, she is. 

Damn. I’ll bet they have a gun.

She’s not happy with whatever this asshole in the back has talked her into. It doesn’t matter what these two have cooked up, be creative, keep control of the situation. 

"Did you call a cab?" I asked.

Man, that’s weak.

I had to start somewhere.

How about getting the fuck out of my cab!

Should I do that before or after they shoot me?

"Sure did, boss," he said. "We need to go to Richards Boulevard."

Oh great, they want to go to homeless central.

I glanced at the woman again.

Whatever they’re up to, she’s not happy about it. 

They’re up to more than getting a free ride.

It sure feels like it.

"Okay, Richards Boulevard," I said as I started the meter. 

Howe Avenue is a bustling boulevard. Three lanes in each direction with a double turn lane at the intersection. Under normal circumstances, the volume of traffic is so great. I’d have to wait for three, four minutes before I could enter the street. But it is Christmas Eve. The street is barren — not a single car in sight. The intersection is less than a hundred feet away. I pulled the cab up to the light, waiting for the arrow so I could make a U-turn.

"Oh man, I don’t have enough money." The man said. "Have you got any money, honey?"

"No, I don’t think I do," the woman replied. 

Here we go. 

"Well, how much do you have?" I asked.

The man rummaged through his pockets. The woman rifled through her purse. 

"I got a dollar. What ya got, babe?" he said.

"I got two dollars." 

I held out my hand. "I’ll take it!"

The woman collected the money, placing three dollars in my hand.

Okay, fuck it! Three bucks? Crazy time!

Make these mother fuckers sorry they jumped in this cab!

The arrow turned green. I plunged the gas pedal to the floor. The back tires broke loose, spinning so fast they howled while I burnt a trail of rubber. The car tipped at a serve angle as the centrifugal force took effect; anything loose slammed against the passenger’s side of the vehicle. I caught my passengers by surprise, leaving them grappling for anything to grab to keep from being sucked into the passenger's side of the cab.

The tires grabbed hold of the asphalt, causing the car to fishtail, first spinning to the right and then swinging left. The smell of malt liquor permeated the cab. 

One beer down! 

The malt liquor smell mixed with the smell of burnt rubber.

Man, that smell is gross and disgusting. I’m going to be sick.

You’re doing great!

I navigated out of the fishtail, heading to the on-ramp. One stoplight stood between me and the on-ramp, and the light was red! I blew through it, doing fifty-five. The posted speed limit for the circle on-ramp stated twenty-five mph. I let off the gas.

I’ll slow it down to forty.

The tires squealed. The centrifugal force shifted, throwing anything loose in the opposite direction — my passengers hung on for dear life. I concentrated on the road, keeping us out of the ditch. 

I’ll bet they wish they could get out of this mother fucking cab now!

That-a-boy! This will be the most thrilling three-dollar ride they’ve ever had! 

I gave my passengers firsthand knowledge of the term white-knuckling. As I straighten the cab to merge onto the freeway, the centrifugal force dissipated — my passengers relax.

"So what are you two doing on this side of town?" I asked. 

Nothing. Silence. 

I scared the shit out of them!

It froze my passengers with fear. I accelerated to ninety.

Is there a term for whiter than white? 

A ghosting look, maybe?

Yeah, I guess that’s where the term ‘whiter than a ghost’ comes from.

The blood drained from their faces.

"Man, your one crazy driver," he said.

Ah, welcome back.

"Well, it’s Christmas Eve, and you probably have some celebrating to do? I just want you to have more time to enjoy your evening."

"Cool, that’s cool, man . . . I'm Bud, and that’s Sarah." 

"Nice to meet you," I replied. 

Sarah rubs her head, looking very uncomfortable as she squirmed in her seat. 

I’ll bet Sarah wishes she could be anywhere else in the world other than this cab. She must have hit her head.

I think you’re right. 

"We were over here seeing Sarah's kids," Bud said. Sarah nods.

 "They fuckin' took her kids away! Can you believe that shit, man!"

Yeah, I can!

"They did?" I replied. 

"They did," Sarah said.

"Man, that’s just plain shitty!" I replied.

What the hell are you doing bonding with these people?

I’m just keeping control of the situation. 

"That’s what I told her," Bud said. "They said she was an unfit mother!" 

Sarah nodded. 

"We took the bus over here," Sarah said.

"But the busses aren't running anymore tonight," Bud said. 

What a crock, they aren’t taking a bus ride for $3.00. 

Nice on the chitchat, but keep your guard up.

I had the cab hurtling down the freeway at a hundred and five. 

Where are the cops when you need one? 

I am trying to attract a cop, but no such luck. Not a cop is in sight. The spilled malt liquor is reeking.

"So, where are you staying?" I asked.

"Over at the . . . the . . . Porter Hotel," Bud replied. 

This guy is full of shit! There’s no Porter Hotel off Richards boulevard. 

My three-dollar cab ride from hell is about to end. Richards Boulevard off-ramp is up ahead. 

Damn, I got here fast!

You sure did.

"So, where do you want dropped off? I’m not sure where the Porter Hotel is." I asked, spying on Bud through the mirror. 

He scanned for a drop-off point. His eyes locked on the darkest, the most secluded spot he could see.

"Take us over by the Motel 6," Bud directed. 

Okay, this dude is going to rob you or worse.


"On the other side of the freeway?" I asked.

"Yeah, by the underpass over there."

It’s a perfect spot to rob you.

Sure is.

Think man, think quick!

Okay, the police station is to the right. 

Yeah, but the place is locked down. You’ll die before they get there to help you.

And, this guy wants me to go left.

What if I park it in front of the Motel 6 main office?

You better hope someone is working the counter. 

I made a left at the light. I followed the road as it curved to the left. There it is like an answer to a prayer. A gas station with a mini-mart — all lit up — with someone working behind the counter. I plunged the gas pedal to the floor. Our heads snapped back. I jumped the curb, and the cab took air. I planted the cab in the middle of the property, skidding to a stop.

Excellent piece of driving if I say so myself.

"This cab ride is over!" I said. 

I had the guy behind the counter full attention. Sarah couldn’t get out of the cab fast enough. 

Okay, one gone.  

Bud paused. His eyes dart from side to side. He gives another glance to the man behind the counter.  

I’m sure that Bud had envisioned this ended differently.

Is he still going to rob me? 

Bud didn’t move. He is chewing on his next move. He glanced at the man behind the counter a third time. 

"Okay, man! Okay! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas, man!" Bud said.

"Merry Christmas," I replied. 

Yeah, yeah. Now get the fuck out of my cab! 

Bud gets close to my ear and whispers. "You're one lucky 

son-of-bitch! You must have a fucking guardian angel!" A chill ran down my spine, and the hair stood up on my arms. "Merry Christmas, man!" He repeated, exiting the cab. 

The door slammed shut. I hit the power locks.

Time to go home.

I hear that!

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