Bob Gersztyn's picture
06.19.2008 | Comments(9)

Can You Help Me Out

The Cab Driving Theologian

On Tuesday I drove Cab Number 275 with the hump in the seat. I hit the street at 3:53 p.m. and got a Transcendent Dodge fare out of North Town.

It was an uneventful shift until around 8 o’clock when I got a call to pick someone up at Joe’s Deli, on Sinclair, by the Wal-Mart. When I got there a fat Mexican guy who spoke perfect English got in the cab and started out with the words that always arouse all my defenses: “I’m gonna be up front with you.”

cab dashboard

"I’m not from Salem,” he said, “and I need to go downtown to Union Rescue Mission area, but I don’t have any money. I have this CD case with a hundred dollars worth of CD’s inside, that I’ll give to you, if you take me there."

I didn’t know what to think, but looked at the CD case and opened it up. It was filled with mostly burned CD’s of music titles that I either didn’t know or didn’t like.

"This is worthless to me," I told him. "Don’t you have any money?"

"No," he said. "This is all I have."

Joe’s Deli costs money, but I didn’t ask him how he paid for his food, and besides he’d probably tell me that he only went inside to stay warm.

"Okay," I told him. "Sometimes I help people out. You say you want to go to Union Rescue Mission?"

"Actually, take me to the Greyhound station.”

As I started to drive I was thinking to myself that I was being taken for a ride. Then he pulled out a cigarette and lit it up.

"This is a non-smoking cab," I told him.

"I’ll roll down the window," he said.

"I said that it’s non smoking. I don’t smoke and hate the smell of cigarette smoke, so if you want me to drive you, put it out."

He reluctantly complied, as I began to talk about how I sometimes helped people in need:

"One time there was this black couple with a baby, that came in off the Greyhound, around midnight on Christmas Eve, and had to get home but only had five dollars. Then there are times that I get scammed by people that have money, but don’t want to pay. The thing is, sometimes I can’t tell the difference, but in the end God knows, and besides, I have a Jesus Fund."

"What’s a Jesus Fund?"

"That’s the money that I set aside, from what I make. When I quit going to church and tithing, I decided that I still needed to give God His cut. So now I have an envelope that my wife and I put money into. We call it the Jesus Fund. When people need help, we take it out of there. It doesn’t matter if they’re con artists who rip us off, or if they’re sincere, because God knows our hearts, and will judge us in the end.”

When we got to the Greyhound station the meter read $10.10. The passenger thanked me and got out and went inside. I still had his worthless CD’s.

dispatcher lisa

The rest of the night was steady, and around 2:30 a.m., Lisa the graveyard dispatcher asked me if I wanted an East call, or to go home. I told her that I’d take the call. As I drove to FoodCo on South Sinclair, I thought to myself, "Why did I take this call? I already booked enough for the night. I could get home early, and be rested for tomorrow."

When I got there, I stopped in front of the exit door and put on my flashers. As I went into the store, I could see someone’s leg protruding from the customer service bench, through the door. It was the same guy that I drove to the Greyhound station earlier, from Joe’s Deli.

"You’re the guy with the CD case," I said as I approached him.

"I have money now," he said.

"Good," I told him, "then you can buy back your CD’s for $10.10, if you want me to drive you anywhere."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of twenties and handed me one. I asked him where he wanted to go as he got in the cab, and he answered, "I need to go to the Greyhound station."

I kept the $20 bill and opened the trunk to get his CD case out. After I handed it to him we drove off, and I told him, “If it’s any more you can pay me when we get there.”

He got into the car, but immediately told me he’d changed his mind. He wanted to go to the Transcendence Inn instead. Before I could drive, though, he changed his mind again. I asked him if he was sure, but he seemed confused and didn’t answer right away. I turned the meter on, waiting for his answer. It was over $4 before he realized it and concluded that we needed to get going. He complained about the meter already being over $4.00, so I explained that I don’t get an hourly wage, but get paid from my fares, so if you tie me up, it costs you.

taxi stand

Then I felt bad about his confusion. "I’ll tell you what,” I told him, “since I’m such a nice guy, I’ll take $1 off your final fare."

He looked at me with a questioning stare, and asked, "Is the bus station open now?"

"No," I told him. "If you need a ticket, you buy it from the bus driver."

We drove on, with him still undecided about whether to go to Greyhound or the Transcendent Inn, until we finally reached the point of no return. Then he told me the Transcendence Inn, but first he had to go to 3200 Atonview to get his ID. He had tattoos all over his hands. I began to think that he was going to rob me, but then I decided that I was being paranoid, and started to enjoy the adrenaline rush that, for no apparent reason, I was feeling.

When we arrived at an apartment complex, I told him that I wouldn’t run the meter if he only took a minute, and he ran in and out in less than 60 seconds. Afterward we ended up at the Transcendent Inn, and the fare came to $12.50, so I told him that he owed me $1.50. He handed me a $20 bill and I gave him $18.50 back, and he didn’t give me a tip. After I called it in, Lisa told me good night, so I gassed up, and headed back to the office. On the way back I thought to myself, "This could possibly find some basis for a sermon. If so what would the Bible text be?"

I went off the clock at 3 a.m. I booked $214, with $30 in tips, and ended up taking home $90. It rained most of the night, and was in the forties, but there were some long dry breaks in between, and there was confusion in the world.

Comments(9)

UNCLE KENNY | 10:26 am on 6/23/2008

You are a theological Hunter Thompson! Keep letting the weird and wacky make your point for you, this stuff is great.

Sermon Text: "Good Sam Cab Company--what crossing the street to help strangers looks like in the modern age."

Nobody Important | 07:23 am on 6/25/2008

As a Carlin fan, the video on "Religion is BS" was both amusing and saddening. It's really a shame that he never got beyond all the BS man has brought into religion and found the truth of Christ.

Nobody Important | 07:23 am on 6/25/2008

Scratch this - I ended up on the wrong page. Sorry

Anonymous | 10:27 am on 6/30/2008

Oh, I don't know...sounds like an interesting Carlin sketch...if a tattoed Jesus got into the back seat of your cab at 2 am...what would you do? Or perhaps an updated "In His Steps" piece. Hmmm?

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