"Dispatch to car 6." came the voice of the dispatcher of duty.
"Car 6. Go ahead, dispatch." I replied.
"6. I need to send you a quick run before you get T. Go ahead and take care of this page first."
I looked at the page. It was WalMart to one of the lower income high rises. My casino employee was always pleasant if on time and mean as all get out if you were so much as a minute late to get her.
"Dispatch, I don't want to be late to get T. Are you sure?"
"Car 6, 10-4."
Less than five minutes later I was at the Wal Mart and I asked dispatch for a call out.
"Car 6, she will see you. She's deaf." I took a deep breath. I was going to be late to get T if this did not pick up a bit soon. She never tipped anyway, to not get tipped AND get yelled at at just sucks.
2 minutes. No one. 3 minutes. No one. 4 minutes. No one. Five minutes. No one. I am about to radio in to dispatch when I hear guttural sounds and a knock at my passenger window. I turned to see a short heavyset woman with matted hair and a yellow toothed grin. I rolled down my window and mouthed her name in the hopes that she reads lips well. The made the yes sound in sign language and nodded. I smiled politely and opened the trunk. She had a lot of groceries and it took her awhile to load them in the back. She seemed very happy and I heard joyous grunts from her.
The whole way to her apartment she seemed happy. I did the math and realized that this was the first of the month. Food stamps. Social security. Of course. She got to shop and pay a bill or two. Maybe there was something else that had her overjoyed. There was something about her noises that allowed me to relax a little bit. She was happy. More happy than any other passenger I had in my cab.
We got to the large apartment building. She gestured with a one moment signal and showed me she was leaving her purse in the cab. This was to show me she would be back in a moment and was not skipping on the fare. I saw her go into the lobby of the building where there was a red radio flyer wagon. She came pulling it out making her noises. She started to load her groceries into the wagon. I realized that they would not all fit in the wagon. I suddenly remembered T and her ride to the casino. I looked at my watch. FUCK! I was going to be late. I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. Whenever a dispatcher asks you to get something really quick before a time call, something seems to go awry. I looked at her loading of the red wagon. She was doing a horrible job stacking things.
I ran to the front seat of my taxi, grabbed a scrap of paper and my pen and jotted a note. I ran back and handed it to her. It simply read,"May I help?" She smiled wide as she read it and grabbed one of my hands with both of hers, looked at me with watery eyes behind the smile and nodded. I stopped the meter. She paid the fare and I swiftly unpacked the wagon and repacked it efficiently. I then threw several of the bags over an arm and tucked a case of water under the other arm. She handled the wagon.
As we went through the lobby toward the elevator I saw two men playing dominos at a table. As soon as they saw her they mocked her by imitating the sounds she makes. As we got into the elevator a man was leaving and he looked at her and said, "Hey retard," just as the doors closed. As I said. She read lips well. I saw the smile drop. I flipped the bird at the closed elevator door and made the universal jerk off symbol and she guffawed. The smile was back. As hers lit up mine faded. I just realized I left my cab unlocked. Cash bag, my laptop, my camera, my checkbook, my wallet. Everything.
We got to the 9th floor and I followed her down the hall to her door. She opened it and gestured for me to put all I had just inside the door. I also unloaded the wagon and offered to take it downstairs for her. She nodded. She smiled at me one more time and signed thank you. I mouthed you are welcome and hurried to the elevator.
The slow elevator down from the 9th floor to ground was agonizing. I was glad to have helped, but all I could think about was my unlocked cab in this building of all places. Even the ass chewing I was going to get from T no longer mattered. The elevator doors opened and I started to walk briskly through the lobby to the door. One of the two men playing dominos looked at me and said, "Did the 'tard tip or did you give her some of your tip?" Both men started laughing as did others in the lobby. That stopped me. My tension was high and I snapped.
I walked over to the table. Looked him in the eye and said,"She's deaf."
"I don't care." he said.
I swiped my arm across the table causing all the domino pieces to scatter across the lobby.
"I do!" I shouted.
"All right man," he said.
"Jesus!" screamed his friend,"What the fucks your problem?"
"Ignorance" I said as I walked out of the lobby and towards my cab. By the door was a small black teen.
"Hey man!" he said," I saw you help that woman with your groceries. I saw your cab was unlocked. I kept it all safe. "
"Wow thanks!" I said. "Hang on." I was about to give him a tip for helping me out.
"Naw man. Don't sweat it. I helped myself to your special k bars. Figured you would be grateful."
"You did what?"
"Capitalism man! Kindness comes with a cost! My service fee is 3 breakfast bars." He took a bite out of one of his new Special K bars, got on his bike and peddled off into the night.
I got in my cab and started to radio in my fare.
"Car 6 to dispatch."
"Car 6," came a firm voice over the radio. "I been trying to call you for ever now. I don't know what you were doing out of your cab in THAT building but it seems suspicious. I just got yelled at my T because of you. Now go and get her. I'm writing you up. If I didn't need you, I'd gas you up. You don't treat me that way."
I drove to get T who berated me the whole way from her home to the casino. I said nothing. As she paid her flat rate discounted fare, she looked at me and said, "You deaf and dumb or just a retard." I said nothing.
I hate that word.