Driving a Taxi

Driving a Taxi

By: Garland Davis

In a second life after retiring from the Navy, I was in the taxi business as both a driver and the owner of a taxi leasing company for twenty years between 1992 and 2012.  I met some characters and found myself in some strange situations during that period.

Many people think that taxi drivers are presented with opportunities for sex with a myriad of women.  The truth is diametrically opposed to that belief.  I can think of three instances where I was offered sex by a customer.

The first was a hooker.  She was going to her “stroll” near the Army facility at Schofield Barracks.  Since she made the trip often, she knew the fare was twenty dollars.  As she got in the car she proffered a twenty and asked, “Is twenty enough or I can give you a blow job.”  I took the twenty, you don’t let anyone that unattractive see your junk, much less touch it.  Well, I guess it would depend on how much you had to drink.

The second time was a guy.  I picked him up at his home and was taking him to a gym when he asked, “Did you ever do anything homosexual?”  He got pissed when I laughed at him and sulked the rest of the trip.

The third time was a Navy wife.   I picked her up at a club.  She gave me an address in Navy housing.  On the trip, she said, “When we get to my house, park your car and come in and we will party.”

I got pissed and said, “Your husband is really lucky.  He probably has the duty or is deployed and you are out drinking and fucking taxi drivers!  You make me sick.”

She then yelled at me, “He doesn’t have the duty.  He is out fucking another guy.  He should be home fucking his wife.  He is a fucking queer!”

When we reached her house, she paid me and said, “Aren’t you coming in?”

I told her, “No get out of the car.”

She was standing in the middle of the street, in Navy housing, at about eleven PM, yelling, “Fuck You,” at the top of her voice as I drove away.

Taxi drivers are fair game for scammers.  Someone is always trying to con a driver out of a free ride or a reduced fare.  I picked two ladies up at a Jack in the Box late one evening.  The older lady showed me a fifty, told me that it was all she had and asked if that was enough to pay the fare to a housing development on the other side of town.  I told her yes, they got in and I drove them to the destination.  The development was a gated area.  Instead of going to the auto entrance, they asked to be dropped at a pedestrian entrance on the other side of the area.  One lady got out and went through the gate, the other handed me a folded bill and said, “Thank you, honey, keep the change.”  The fare on the meter was forty some dollars. She also went through the gate.  I unfolded the bill.  She had given me a five!

A number of drivers were scammed by a guy who would walk up to a stand and take the taxi across town.  Upon arriving at his destination, he would tell the driver to wait and he would go into the house and get the money from his grandmother.  The door to the house not visible from the point where he had the driver park.  Some of the drivers talked with the lady who lived in the house.  She told them that the guy would arrive in the street go around the house and jump over her back wall.

The drivers got together and came up with a code word that could be passed when anyone had a fare to that address.  The dispatchers agreed to pass the code.  After a few days, the word came over the dispatch net.  To make the story shorter, when the dude jumped over the wall, he was met by five drivers he had cheated.  They kicked the shit out of him.  As far as I know, he gave up riding taxis.

In twenty years pushing a hack, I had one robbery attempt.  The fellow walked up to the stand where I was next up and asked how much it would cost to go out to the west side of the island.  I told him thirty bucks in advance.  He gave me three tens and wanted to ride in the front seat.  I caught the freeway and started west.  He then asked if we could pull off in a developing community so he could stop at a convenience store.  He told me he would give me another ten bucks.  So we stopped and he came out with a bottle of water.  To get back to the freeway, we had to pass through an undeveloped section of secondary roads.  He suddenly yelled for me to stop that he had to throw up.  As I came to a stop, He pulled a hunting style knife and told me to get out of the car.  I had a hand-held shortwave radio jammed between the seats.  I grabbed the radio by the antenna and slammed him across the bridge of his nose with the body of the radio as I bailed out the door.  I went around the car and jerked the passenger door open.  He was bent over holding his nose.  I grabbed him by the collar, dragged him half out of the car and hit him again with the radio.  I told him to get face down on the ground or I would kill him.  I dialed 911 and reported the attempt.  When the police arrived, I told them what had happened and showed them the knife in the floor of the car. The officer walked over to the guy, lifted his face up, looked, and said, “Junior, you just got paroled out of prison a couple of days ago.  Looks like you going back for the full term plus.  I kicked his ass and still had his thirty bucks.

Druggies will do anything and spend any amount to get their drug of choice.  I once went on a call where the lady asked how much it would cost to make a round trip to town and back.  I told her sixty dollars.  She pulled four twenties from her pocket and gave me three of them. The druggies knew that going to that neighborhood, payment in advance was required.  We made the round trip, she paid me sixty dollars to go buy twenty dollars of meth.

The scariest incident with a druggie happened early one morning.  I answered a call for a pick up in a residential area.  When I arrived at the house, I didn’t see anyone.  I tapped the horn and a guy came out of the shrubbery, ran jumped into the car and said, “Hurry go, they are following me.  Take me downtown.”

I asked where downtown did he want to go.  He said just drive and gave me a hand full of money.  He told me not to talk to the dispatcher that he didn’t want me sending coded messages to the dispatcher about his destination.  After we entered the freeway, he started yelling for me to pull over.  I stopped and he jumped out of the car for a minute and then climbed back in.  I asked him why.  He told me he was making sure there were no helicopters following us.

As we moved out he seemed to settle down.  A little later he told me to take him to the Pacific Marina Inn, a seedy hotel in the airport area.  I was happy with the change, it saved me a trip to town and got him out of the car faster.  Right after he changed the destination, the dispatcher told another driver to go to the Pac Mar for a pickup.  When he heard Pac Mar, he started yelling, “You sent a coded message! Stop, let me out.”

I slowed and pulled to the edge of the freeway as he got louder.  I was afraid he would try to attack me, but he jumped out of the car, ran across the freeway and started climbing the fence into an Army housing area.  The trip was worthwhile.  He had given me over one hundred thirty dollars when he had gotten into the car.

I met a few celebrities driving a cab.  Another driver and I were sent to carry the Platters to the airport one morning.  We each carried two of them.

I carried many pro football players who were in Honolulu for the Pro Bowl over the years.  Lousy tippers.

I carried Eddie Albert to a Japanese restaurant one evening.

I drove Michelle Wie and two sets of golf clubs to the airport one morning.  Tall girl.

Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1993, about four in the morning, I was in Waikiki hoping to get a tourist load to the airport, when a portly gentleman flagged me on the main street through Waikiki.  I stopped and waited while he got into the car.

He asked, “Is there someplace we could get breakfast?”

As soon as he spoke, I recognized the voice.  I said, “Uncle Buck!”  I had John Candy in my cab.  I told him there was a Denny’s nearby.

He said, “Let’s go.  I’ll buy you breakfast.  I hate to eat alone.”

I try to be funny and I enjoy making people laugh.  John Candy and I hit it off.  I spent a pleasurable two hours with him laughing and joking.  He finally told me he had to go to a PR thing.  I dropped him at his hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed and treasure that two hours at Denny’s.

I was saddened a few months later when I learned of his death.

A truly funny man!

I only had one accident while driving.  It was in ’97.  I was on the north side of the island.  Cell phone communication was rather sketchy on that side.  I found a place where I had enough service to call the dispatcher and pulled off the road to make the call.  As I was on the phone, a drunk driver rear-ended me, totaling my car and knocking me unconscious.  I woke up in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.  If you must have an accident, get hit by a drunk driver with GEICO Insurance.  They paid and paid.

There are many more stories that I could tell.  Sometimes driving was boring and monotonous and other times it was fun.

The one thing I learned driving a taxi.  I hate driving in stop and go traffic, but I don’t mind it nearly so much when the meter is running.



How I Became a Navy Cook

How I became a Navy Cook

By: Garland Davis

After boot leave, I reported to NAS Lemoore for a one-year “special tour” of shore duty.  I was a member of the initial crew or ‘Plank Owner” of the station.  There were a number of us just out of boot.  We became mess cooks and coop cleaners.  I spent my first three months as a mess cook and the subsequent three months in the CPO quarters as a compartment cleaner.

I had requested to become a cook while mess cooking.  My request was approved with the condition that a vacancy exists in the Commissaryman staffing.  Being a newly commissioned base, all billets had been filled and no such opening existed.

I was advised by one of the cooks to be persistent.  He advised me to take out the CS 3&2 course and do it.  He told me that this would show that I was serious and had a legitimate desire to become a Commissaryman.  I completed the course with an almost perfect score.  I submitted another request to go to the galley and was told that I could go back as a mess cook.  The galley CPO, learning that I had civilian experience as a baker and because I had completed the course, assigned me to a bakeshop watch, although I wasn’t officially a striker.

I had completed all the courses for SN and Military Requirements for PO 3&2.  I had also completed the Practical Factors for advancement as high as CS2.  I went to  I&E (Information and Education) Office and requested the CS1 &C course.  I was an undesignated SN. The PO3 told me that I could not take the course because I was just a Seaman.  I knew the I&E CPO from my days as CPO coop cleaner.  I asked to see the Chief.  The Chief listened to my request and told the PO3 to order the test.  He said that if a member had completed all the other requirements, they should not be restricted from studying a rate.

As my current tour as a mess cook was ending, I requested to strike for cook again. The request came back approved by the station XO with a notation to transfer me to the Subsistence Division.  It also included the statement: “I admire SN Davis’ initiative; completing requirements for the CS rate and advancement as well as his persistence.”

The same day I officially became a cook striker, I completed a dream sheet for my next duty.  I requested duty in San Diego, Hawaii and San Francisco (I hadn’t yet learned the joys of WestPac).  A few weeks later, I learned that BUPERS dropped me to ServPac for assignment to a ship. My fellow cooks told me that this meant that I would get orders for a supply ship. I admit disappointment.  I had envisioned a stately cruiser or a dashing destroyer.  My orders eventually arrived for USS Vesuvius AE-15, home ported in Port Chicago, California.  My friends in the galley were either telling me that ammo ships were good duty or how fucked up they were.

My checkout sheet came and I started the rounds getting initials ending at the Personnel Office where I received an envelope with my records and a set of orders telling me to report to USS Vesuvius at Pier 62 in San Francisco.  The ship was in a yard overhaul.  I had forty-eight hours to report.

Before leaving the galley, the Chief CS told me that he had made sure that a recommendation for CS3 was in my record.  He said that it might help me get into the galley aboard ship. He also told me that since I was non-designated, I might end up in deck force regardless, especially on an UNREP ship.

I took the Greyhound bus from Hanford, CA to San Francisco.  The Shore Patrol booth at the SF bus station directed me to a bus stop where I could take the Hunter’s Point Bus which would drop me a half block from Pier 62.  I caught the bus and was very nervous as we neared the stop.  There was a sailor on the bus with a Vesuvius patch.  I followed him to the shipyard gate, where they checked my orders and called the Quarterdeck for an escort.  I remember walking down the pier alongside the ship.  The noise was deafening.  Needle guns and chipping hammers were resounding everywhere, it seemed.

Trying to remember the proper way to board a ship, I nervously saluted the stern of the ship and requested permission to board.  A Petty Officer took the envelope with my records and escorted me to the Personnel Office.  A BM1, wearing a Master at Arms Badge came to fetch me.  I learned later that he was the First Division LPO and stood Duty MAA.  He escorted me and my seabag to a berthing compartment, pointed out a locker and a top bunk, gave me a fartsack, a blanket and a sheet.  He told me to stow my gear, make up my bunk and he would return in a bit and take my peacoat and seabag to their respective lockers.  He also told me that I would be in deck force, to change to dungarees and get ready to go to work.

I think my head was spinning.  This was all coming at me so fast.  The BM1 returned and took me up to a deck force gear locker on the main deck, gave me a chipping hammer, showed me what to do with it and left me in there to chip all the paint off the rear bulkhead.  It is amazing that I am not stone deaf today from the cacophony of hitting a metal bulkhead in a space as small as a coat closet.

He eventually came to tell me that the workday was over.  He told me to get into clean dungarees.  He said after the yard period the Uniform of the Day would be whites or blues after working hours but dungarees were fine in the yards.  A galley barge was moored aft of the ship.  He told me the galley hours and left me on my own for the day.  I went to the barge for supper.  I tell you, I sure wanted to be behind that chow line with the cooks.  That was a big ship; I hoped that I wasn’t expected to chip at paint for the rest of my days.

When I got back to the berthing compartment, I met some of the men in the division.  A cook at Lemoore had cautioned me about some of the people who would approach me.  He told me that often the fuck-ups were looking for company because the others would not have anything to do with them. I remembered this warning.  As an LPO and Leading Chief, I always tried to help new men meet the good people.

No one had said anything about liberty or a liberty card.  It didn’t matter. I had no idea where to go anyway.  About 20:00 the BM1 brought my seabag and told me to pack.  I was moving to the supply berthing.  I was going mess cooking.  He led me with my gear to the aft berthing and introduced me to a CS3, told me he would see me on deck in three months.

Talking with the CS3, I told him that I worked in the bakery at Lemoore, was recommended for CS3, and wanted to come to the galley permanently.  He explained the ship’s policy that all non-designated personnel went to either Deck or the Fireroom for at least six months before they could strike for a rate.

I went to work on the Galley Barge the following morning.  The CS1 came rushing in asking me if I was the SN that had completed the CS 1&C course.  I told his yes.  He asked if I wanted to strike for cook.  I told him yes.  He told me that we would be moving the galley back to the ship in a week and coming out of the yards the following week.  He said wait until we were back at Port Chicago and put in a chit to strike.  He said that in the meantime, I was assigned to work with the cooks in the galley.

I was working washing pots and pans and doing cleaning duties in the galley with the cooks after we moved back aboard.  The bakeshop, located just forward of the galley was not in use.  The ship was ordering pastries and desserts from a civilian bakery while in port.  One of the cooks said it didn’t matter, the baker had transferred and they didn’t have anyone else who could bake.

The CS1 told me to submit my chit to strike for cook.  He told me not to get my hopes up.  The XO was adamant that every non-designated SN serve for at least six months on deck force before permitting them to strike for a rate other than BM.

The following Saturday morning, after the bakery delivery, the CS3 watch captain was upset because the scheduled Apple Pies for Sunday evening dessert hadn’t been delivered.  Actually, the Chief had forgotten to order it. I told him that I could bake pies.  He sent me into the bakeshop and I baked the pies.

Monday morning, the CSC comes storming into the galley asking for me.  He was carrying one of the pies that I had baked.  He asked me if I had baked it.  I told him yes and asked if something was wrong with it.  He told me no and asked where I had learned to bake.  I told him that I had gone to a bakery vocational school and had worked in the Bakeshop at Lemoore.  He told me that I was now the ship’s baker.  I told him I am a mess cook.  He told me that he was on his way to talk to the Supply Officer about my status and left with the pie in his hand.

I had been the baker for about a month, when the Supply Officer came into the Bakeshop and told me to go shift into the Uniform of the Day and come to the Supply Office.  We were going to see the XO about my request to strike for cook.

I rushed down to berthing, grabbed my razor, washed my face, shaved and changed into my best undress blues.

The CSC, the SO and I went up to the XO’s stateroom.  He called us in, told us that he was considering my request.  He had my record open on his desk. He asked the Chief and the SO about my performance and behavior.  He looked through my record, appeared to think for a minute, and started to tell me that although I had been doing an excellent job in the galley he was not going to approve my request because of the ship’s policy that all non-rated SN spend at least six months in Deck Force.

At this point, there was a knock on his door and the ship’s CO stuck his head in the door and asked, “What’s up XO?”  The XO explained to the CO that he was counseling SN Davis on the ship’s policy about strikers.  The CO turned to me and asked, “What are you doing now?”  I told him that for the last month I have been the ship’s baker.  Surprised, he asked, “Did you bake those breakfast rolls this morning?”  I told him that I had.  He turned to the XO and said, “We have had some excellent bakery products recently.  I think we can make an exception in this case.”  He turned back to me and said, “SN Davis, you are now a cook striker and the ship’s baker.”

And that’s how I became a cook.