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Issue 10 - A Journal of Letters and Life
Confessions of a SF Cabbie
by Lee Vilensky

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Picked up a woman in my cab at Turk and Leavenworth.
She was a light complected, black woman, wearing billowy,
peasant type pants.
She smelled bad. Really bad. Like shit.
She must have weighed over 200 pounds.
She kept wiggling in the back seat, making the cab tilt left and right.
Left and right. Back and forth. Aft and stern.
Port and starboard. It was a rough crossing.
She got out at 16th and Mission,
but she didn't really leave me.
Her smell lingered, pervaded,
a remembrance past of fecal matter, lost love, gangrene, sour grapes,
dog shit in left field.
I opened all the windows and sped away.
Got flagged at 18th and Dolores.
Young man hops in and tells me, "USF".
A minute later he informs me that
there is a turd on the floor.
I pull over, and we both get out and look at it.
There it is. In the back, on the floor.
A perfectly formed log. Stinkin' Lincoln.
You couldn't draw a better turd.
I told the passenger, "You couldn't draw a better turd."
It scared me.
I was afraid of other peoples' shit.
This was something I hadn't realized
until that very moment. So I learned something
about myself.                                                       
I took the classified section of the S.F. Chronicle,                         
and rolled it into a scoop.                                             
The Chron finally realizing it's potential.                                   
I judged the shot to be a 3 iron.                                        
I placed the tip of the scoop under the middle of the turd                         
and flipped it with a counter-clockwise motion of my wrist.                         
It flew out of the cab, and onto the green                                   
bordering the sidewalk,                                             
an easy 6 inch putt for birdie.                                             
The passenger got in the front,                                        
and I delivered him to USF.                                             
He was a good kid about the whole thing.                                   
Made a pretty decent bong and beer story, I imagine.                         
I wish all my customers were such good sports.                              
That night I laid in bed and thought about the woman.                         
Was she married? Did she have a lover?                                   
Was she a good kisser?                                             
Did she take a cab every time she needed a bowel movement?                    
I started to get a hard-on.                                             
I took out my 1978 calendar of topless Hawaiian girls,                         
and things moved quickly from there.                                      

     Had to shop my cab tonight because it smelled like rotten eggs, or sulphur. The odor was coming from the battery, which was emitting smoke, and gurgling. I don't know what would cause this, but it was making me sick, and eliciting customer complaints. It's Saturday night, the town's jumping, and my cab starts smelling like rotten eggs, of all things.
     I turned my cab in and had my choice of three spares, 2951, 2961, and 2962. 2951 has dried puke on the backseat, someone was sleeping in 2961, and 2962 had some sticky shit all over the steering wheel. I can't stand driving a cab with a sticky wheel. My hands get all dirty and………sticky. Drives me nuts.
     I cashed in with $39 to the good. The dispatcher told me a story about a whore he had in Thailand that did a trick with a wicker basket. The basket hung from the ceiling, right over a bed, and had a hole in the bottom of it, where she'd sit and spin on his dick, or some such thing, I didn't really get it. He used to drive a cab, so he's a liar. We're all liars. You can't be honest with yourself, or with others, and drive a cab for a living. The truth is embarrassing. You've got to pad the numbers just to keep from being sick at heart. Ah hell, I should have stayed out there for at least another couple hours. Gut it out. Nothing at home but a can of soup and half a blue Valium. Hmm. That doesn't sound so bad.      

     Picked up a woman on Geary St. near Mason. She was probably in her mid-fifties, well heeled, and massively drunk. It took her three attempts to get into the cab, a maneuver that I'd always taken for granted as being fairly easy. This woman made it look like she was trying to mount a wild, bucking muledeer. I had to get out and close the door for her, which annoyed me because I'm lazy. She was sprawled out on the back seat, with her dress pulled up to her waist, and her eyes rolled back into a big, puffy face. Her hair……..well, let's not even talk about her hair. In one hand she clutched a Nordstrom's bag, in the other an umbrella. This was around late September, and it hadn't rained in 4 or 5 months. One shoe seemed to have gotten misplaced during her busy day, thus completing her Bukowski pin-up girl, ensemble.                                   
      She told me her name was Helen, and politely asked me to carry her to 6th Ave and Clement. Halfway there she started rambling some alcohol-induced nonsense, so I turned up the Giant's game and tried to ignore her as best I could. As some point, she managed to communicate to me that she'd had too much to drink, and was in some sort of trouble. As it turned out, the address at 6th and Clement was an alcohol detox, halfway house that her husband had sent her to. A place for rich ladies to dry out, without the neighbors watching.                                                  
      Apparently Helen had been a model inmate for 6 months, and was rewarded with a shopping day, downtown, unchaperoned. She hopped on the 38 Geary bus, and took it down to Market St., then walked 2 blocks to Nordy's and bought a lovely blouse. Helen then went to a bar and had about 14 Vodka Gimlets, or as Helen explained it, "I like Vodka Gimlets a lot." And a lot it just the way she enjoyed them on this night. I guess she thought she could sneak a couple, but 6 months sober made Helen very thirsty.          
     As we neared her destination, Helen began to cry, and asked me if I would drive her around until she sobered up. I told her it would take too long, and I wanted her out of my cab. Helen argued that she could pay me for my time, and pulled out a wad of twenties that barely fit in her hand, and she had big hands. I suggested a motel where we could cool out, watch a little TV, and maybe have a cocktail. She thought that was a wonderful idea, and started kissing my neck. After stocking up at a liquor store, I drove to 18th and Geary, site of the Geary Sunrest Motel. This is an older motel, in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and I'd always wondered who the hell stayed there. Now I knew.      
     I told Helen that I would handle the negotiations, and secure us a room at a reasonable rate. The room was $50, I told her it was $70, I was up $20. After we got settled in, Helen took off her shoe and stockings, and I noticed that she had beautiful feet. Small, even, toes, with freshly painted nails, lovely high arches, supporting well turned ankles. Jewish Cheerleader Feet. Well I've never been what you'd call a "foot freak", but Helen's gave me half a hard-on. At this point I thought maybe I'd ride the old grey mare, and see if she ain't what she used to be. What the hell. I pulled her off the bed, grabbed a handful of cottage cheese ass, and kissed her. She tasted sour, like Rose's Lime Juice, and smelled of Shalamar and death, so I dropped her back on the bed, and reverted back to plan A.     
     I fixed her a strong drink, turned on the tube, got her comfy on the bed, and repaired to the bathroom. I turned on the shower, waited ten minutes, and returned to the room. She was snoring like I imagined Jackie Gleason snored. I started looking for the money. After searching her bag and clothes, I concluded that it was in the bed, on her person. Helen didn't trust me. I removed the blanket and sheet and Helen was wearing salmon colored, matching bra and panties. Quite lovely. She turned her head, said, "Harold", and resumed snoring. I couldn't find the money anywhere, and by this time I didn't want to. I was losing my nerve. I was not this kind of a thief. This was a felony with serious consequences. The man at the hotel desk got a very good look at me, and my cab plate number was on the registration. I could leave now, a good Samaritan, scot-free. And suddenly I felt a wave of tremendous relief. Warm blood flowing through my recently cold heart. Catharsis. I wanted to be a good person from here on out, in the cab, out of the cab, with friends, family, acquaintances, children, small pets. From this moment on, I was going to start replacing my "bad" karma point total, with "good" karma points. Take about 2 years tops, to get back to ground zero. It was that simple. I had no intention of going to the penitentiary, and wiping my ass in front of several other men. I reached under Helen's pillow and found the wad, the only place it could be. I stared at it and smiled, laughing(to myself) at it's impotence. I was stronger than fate, unimpressed with circumstance, impervious to temptation. I peeled off 3 twenties, for my time, and replaced the wad under the pillow. I left Helen in that room, dreaming her dreams, struggling, even in sleep, to hang onto a world spinning too fast. I guess noone ever told Helen about gravity.

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