There is a young man many of us pick up in both day and night shifts. For the purpose of this blog we will call him Ricardo.
Ricardo is in his twenties and trying to clean up his life. He used to run with a gang in Chicago and he does not anymore. Leaving that gang cost him his eye. He is going to school at a local junior college and volunteer teaches ESL in our city.
He is trying to quit drinking, but we often pick him up from bars. When you pick him up, he is drunk but lucid enough to tell you he is sad he fell off the wagon again and will try harder the next day. The kid has come a long way, but he still has a way to go on the road to a better life.
One late afternoon I got a call to pick him up out of a condo complex that I have never picked him out of before. I was to take him to a reception hall. It is a hall that hosts wedding receptions and other similar parties.
I radioed into dispatch that I was at the address and asked for her to call them to let them know I was outside. After a few moments she got on the radio and told me that they were coming out and then after a pause, gave me a warning. "Car 22, it sounds like they are partying like its 1999 in there."
"10-4 dispatch, thanks for the heads up," I replied. Dispatch will warn you when you have rowdy customers or customers that may be problematic in other ways if they get a bad feeling or the customer has a history.
Two hispanic men in suits stumbled out of the condo building and into the back. They were pretty wasted. They told me Ricardo would be out in a moment, he was in the bathroom puking they told me in fits of laughter. I removed my bag from the front seat and pulled two small "puke bags" to be at the ready if I needed them. Ricardo stumbled out barely able to walk. He saw me and his face turned to shame. He sat up front. He was not very coherent. It was obvious he was not drunk, he was high. I handed him a bag and told him I was rolling down his window so he could get some air. He looked at me like a helpless lost child and said,"I fucked up Pat, I'm sorry."
I put the car in gear, turned on the meter and we were on our way to the east side for the reception hall. Within moments Ricardo was out like a light and snoring. I asked the guys in back what was going on tonight. They told me that they were all cousins and their uncle was having his 60th birthday party. There were relatives coming from all over the country for this. Then he told me about the dealership he worked at and tried to tell me all about the deals he could give me on a used car.
A few moments later, one of them tried to wake up Ricardo and he was not responding. He was still snoring loudly, so we knew he was breathing. They started having a conversation in the back seat.
"Man, he's really fucked up. Uncle can't see him like this. What do we do? How many did we give him?"
It was the last line that set my alarms going. "How many WHAT did you give him?"
There was a pause. They looked at each other and then the used car salesman told me,"Nothing man, he just had a few beers, got it?"
"I got nothing, you're a liar." I said bluntly.
"Hey man," he started. I was expecting a challenge. "We don't want the family to see him like this (I don't think they realized what they looked like, they were wasted too). Can you take him home after you drop us off?"
"I know where he lives. It'll be about $7 to get him home from the reception hall. I'll need cash upfront. You got the money?"
"Then you will have to live with the family shame. You made this mess. Keep him hydrated, keep him moving and if you have to, call 911 and make your uncle proud on his 60th."
There was no more discussion. We pulled up to the hall and it took about 30 seconds to wake up Ricardo. Ricardo was completely disoriented and asked what bus number we were on. I told him he was in a cab and told them all the fare was $13. I have NEVER had a problem with payment from Ricardo. Between the three of them they handed me $10 in wadded up singles and 8 quarters. I looked at used car guy and said,"Are you kidding me? REALLY?!?!?! Get out of my face and don't call a cab if you don't have money!" They stumbled off and out of my cab.
The rest of the night I had Ricardo running around in the back of my mind. I replayed the whole situation in my mind over and over again. These were not the type of cousins, or friends, who will help you out if you are wasted. Not one bit. Every time I saw another driver in the night, I would tell them about Ricardo and the ride and none of them had ever seen him wasted. Like me, no matter how drunk he was, he was always lucid.
At the end of my shift, which was around 2:30 in the morning, I fueled up the cab and went to base to do my paperwork and make my cash drop. The dispatcher could tell I was grumpy and asked if everything was all right. I told her it was just a low night in bookings and I also told her about Ricardo. Her countenance changed a little as she told me Ricardo had called a few times and said he needed a ride but he sounded really screwed up and could never tell her where he was clearly and the call would disconnect. I asked her is he gave her any clues. She said he told her he was by a PNC bank but he would not tell her which one. He was not able to. He sounded confused.
I thought about the geography for a few moments. There was one between the hall he was at and his house and it was also next door to the facility he volunteer taught ESL. I finished my paperwork and told her I was going in my personal car and look for him and get him home or to an er if he needed it. I asked her to call me if he ever called again (his last call was five minutes ago) and try to get a bead on his location.
I went to the bank location I thought he might be at. It was in the east side in an area where everything is closed. Even the bars. I drove around the block and through the alleys twice. There were three people in punk rock gear outside of a club where a concert let out hours ago, there was a man getting oral sex in an alley from what was likely a prostitute and there were some guys shooting craps in an empty parking garage.
I knew there were still nooks and crannies he could be lurking about if this was the area he was in. I pulled over, got out in this questionable at night neighborhood, and walked around with my flashlight in hand. I walked through alleys, dark lots and parking garages looking for him. Anytime I encountered someone I described him and asked if they saw him. They said no. After about 40 minutes of trying to find him, I decided to give up. It was raining now, I was guessing on his location and I was in a bad neighborhood at a bad time.
I drove home.
I've not seen him since, but I've also not seen anything in the papers or police beat about him.