Car 6

Car 6

Saturday, November 14, 2015

It is Finished

It is finished. I have shared all there is to share in this chapter of my life. Thank you for reading.

More to come in other spaces.

It was a hell of a ride.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Life After God?

I am part of something exciting today. I am the communications director and an adviser and consultant for Ryan Bell's Life After God project. Before I tell you more about that, I want to tell you a story.

In the night, one of the regular fares during good weather is weddings. People come from all over for a wedding and they need rides to and from the reception, church, casino, etc. One of my little tricks was "rescue runs". Wedding receptions. 2 families, a lot of people from the past and alcohol. It is a recipe for people to want to get the hell out of there. I would read the paper for wedding announcements so I knew who was getting married, when and where. It would give me a place to cruise past slowly in the hopes of a flag in between fares or on a slow night.

One night I had my rescue run driving by the Jacob Henry Mansion. A woman in a black evening gown waving at me. You could see the tear stained mascara. Jackpot! Rescue run.

When I asked her where she wanted to go, she told me she needed to go to the hotel get a few things, and go directly to the airport and take the next plane she could get out of this "shithole".

"So," I said as we were on our way. "Wedding not go well? Are you all right?"

"Wedding went fine, I guess," she said,"But there's only so much black sheep bullshit I can tolerate."

"Why are you the black sheep?" I asked.

"I don't believe in god. I'm not religious anymore."

"Anymore?" I asked, "So you used to be?"

"Yeah, pastor's kid."

"Oh shit!" I said, she chuckled.

We talked a little more about her anger and her hurt and her family. She also decided the airport would be extreme and she will just go to the hotel and sleep off her anger and hurt and take her scheduled flight in the morning. As we got close to the hotel, she asked me a question.

"Usually when people find out I don't believe, they want to know why. You asked a lot of questions, cab driver. How come you did not ask that one?"

"Doesn't matter to me I suppose."

"What do you believe?" She asked.

"Same space you are in. But I was never a pastor's kid. I was the pastor."

"Oh shit!" she said. I chuckled.

I dropped her off at the hotel, she paid her fare and tipped well and I was on my way back to a slow night hoping to catch another flag anywhere I could.

The part that got me about her is how she mostly lives her life just fine. Her marriage, her kids, her job, her hobbies. It is not like she gets up and goes to the atheist dentist to have her atheist root canal done and pay for it with her atheist debit card. This is not her defining character trait. For her United Methodist family, it is.  She had also told me that her father is likely a pantheist at best and does not agree with his church on a great many things, but has resigned himself that it is what it is and being on the front lines of conviction and change is a younger man's game. He just is riding out to preserve a good retirement from a job and a church he can no longer stand to be party to. He was one of the few people who did not give her a hard time for her deconstruction as a younger woman. Without him, she never would have made it through the storm of disbelief. It would have been too painful and lonely to face alone. Her mother and siblings, including the younger brother who just got married today, all she is is this one thing.

They even made sure she was seated at the minister's table so she could be changed. The minister did have "the talk" with her and that was the catalyst to her leaving. She (the minister) could not seem to understand that this woman, raised in the church with a minister for a father, did have a grasp of the bible and theology. The offense was too much.

The path of deconstruction is a painful one for many. It is a lonely period. Sometimes there is anger, confusion, social alienation and even job loss or divorce.  You are re-calibrating your entire life and you are sometimes stuck in the middle . I have found many faith traditions and atheist communities to either being non sympathetic to the struggle or ill equipped to handle the very real struggle someone goes through in the in between space. Sometimes, it feels that they are so caught up in their agenda of like minded thought, that you are a pawn and a demographic as opposed to a human being in an intellectual and emotionally vulnerable space.

I went through the darkness of the night and into a new dawn in my life. In this new dawn I have been freed from the many of the ties that bind me, but I have not had much to do. A lot of what I have been doing is rebuilding my life and trying to rise rung by rung out of the hole of poverty that I am in. My self esteem is improved and my comfort level with self is improved.

As of today, Aug 31, 2015, a new project has launched that I have been working with some wonderful people in the last few months. It is called "Life After God". The web site for it is here. One common problem that I have wanted to avoid is the impulse to lead the charge. In my life I have been encountering many former ministers who are now post theists. So many of them want to start another group, start another blog, write another book. Not me. That blog is already out there. That book is written. That ego in me has died. I was looking for spaces to join and take part in. When I was a minister, avarice and wanting to lead every charge was problematic (as well as common in my former profession). I want to have a voice in the public square, but I feel I can do that more effectively as being part of a team doing good work.

Ryan Bell started his journey as a 7th Day Adventist minister who decided to live a Year Without God. I will be honest, when I first heard of him, I thought it was an egotistical stunt. I did not like a man I had not met and was very vocal about it on the internet. Then I met him online through a mutual friend and I got to know him. He is one of the most humble, kind and authentic people I have ever met.  As I watched him go through his process, I was impressed by his strength of character as interview after interview, celebrity encounter after celebrity encounter, he never changed. He never stopped being nice, he never put aside "normal people" to be a "star fucker".

Ryan and I were having a conversation one night through messenger and we had both agreed that he would very much like me to be on his team to forge this Life After God idea. I was proud to say yes. As we got deeper into the development it became clear that I was joining forces with not only him, but a man who has been a mentor and friend, Jeff Straka. Jeff was, like me, a facilitator for an Emergent Village Cohort. His still meets even though they are no longer connected to the EV. He is not only an activist for positive Atheism and Skeptical thought, but a well educated one. Then I learned the other person on this team. Gretta freaking Vosper! From the Life After God website, this is a little about Gretta.

"Gretta Vosper has been in the spotlight since founding the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity in 2004. In addition to being the minister of the West Hill Church in the United Church of Canada, she is the author of two books. Her first book, With or Without God: Why the Way We Live is More Important that What We Believe (HarperCollins), quickly became a national bestseller. Met with both acclaim and vitriol by those inside and outside the church, With or Without God challenges the clergy’s silence on contemporary scholarship, arguing that people need to know the Bible is not the authoritative word of God for all time. Her second book, Amen; What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief (HarperCollins), was published in April 2012.

Gretta serves on the Board of Directors of both the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity and The Clergy Project. She holds a position as a member of the Board of Governors of Centennial College and is also a Director on the Board of the Ecumenical Community of Chautauqua, an organization that works to provide affordable accommodations at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York."
I am just a guy with an undergrad. I am not a theologian, a scientist, a philosopher. I am a man who can drive a cab well and has questionable grammar and prone to epic rants online. I feel like I am Han Solo and I have been invited to join the Jedi Council. What the hell do I know?

So what the fuck is this project and why do I believe in it?
Part of it is an opportunity for people to connect with Ryan. People who have been touched by his story. But it is so much more. It is there to help people in that in between space with coaching, small groups and resources. It also exists to aid organizations in similar wheelhouses to ours find their path and sustainability.
If I were to describe this further, all I would be doing is repeating the information on the website.

Peer support matters. Saying me too and being understood in dark and lonely spaces is comfort. In this space, there are some amazing people, and me. I hope we get to meet you and help you through the struggle.
There are many people out there who we have encountered that say they wish there was a group like ours when they went through their transition period. Part of my role as communication director will be to find those people. This is both easy and challenging. The easy part is this. Ryan and I were talking recently and we realized that there are NASA Scientists at fancy dinner parties and temp agency workers living in motels at the donuts shop in the same space philosophically and emotionally. They come in every demographic. I am up to the challenge because I feel this matters.
I need to state what this is not. We are not proselytizing for post theism. We are welcoming people to a space to speak aloud about the "forbidden" thoughts they are having without recrimination or recruitment. They no longer have to go through this process alone. Whatever conclusions they come to are theirs. We don't control or manipulate the dialogue, we help as needed and offer an oasis from the bullshit tug of war game that so many are caught in the middle of.
I know people. I know struggle. I know passion. I know loneliness. I know a good story and the importance of that story being validated.
And I cannot sell myself short. I was, in my life, the vice president of sales and marketing for two tech companies and I even ran my own successful consulting firm. I was also, on and off, in some form of vocational ministry for 15 years of my life. It is an honor to be part of this company.
Please, feel free to look at the web site. If you relate to the struggle, you do not have to be alone anymore, contact us.
One thing that I have tried to get across in my writings is that we are more alike than we are different and we need each other. We do not need institutions or governments or churches with a certain vibe, we need each other.

You will notice in short time a change in my demeanor online. When I first left my faith tradition, I was scared and I was angry. Scared to tell people who I was and angry (as well as hurt) for the lack of unconditional love and acceptance from so many in my world. This direction is something that needs as much positive energy as I can muster. I am not an anti-theist. That said, I will still challenge the institutions that threaten the rights of my glbt child and human rights in general. We may have to share the public square together, but that does not mean I have to accept harmful behavior. But for now, it is time to focus more on what I can do and be part of that is helpful and useful to others. I once heard Dr Maya Angelou speak on anger. She said, "You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure. So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it."

This is my dance and my march and I am doing it with good company.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Awkward Moments in the Darkness of the Past

One night I was sitting at the train station hoping for a flag. The night had been slow. A train came and I was attentive, out of my cab and making eye contact with every exiting passenger. No luck.

It was chilly so I got back in my taxi and put up my hoodie and was about to turn on the ignition and try my luck elsewhere when there was a tap a my passenger window. I cracked the window and I heard the man's voice ask, "Can you take me to Cottonwood Farms?"

"Hop in,"I said as I glanced over and recognized him.

He was one who years ago used to attend the youth outreach I ran as a pastor. It was not a youth group. It was more like what happens when a pizza party met group therapy. We had abuse victims, rape victims, addicts trying to recover and much more. Of all the things I did in my time as a minister, it was the thing I was most proud of. Every so often someone would violate that safe space. This young man was one of those. He had participated in a multiple party rape against a young girl in our group.

We had helped the young lady as best we could in getting her counseling and aid. The aid group we had a bridge with does pursue legal justice to a point. Because of the complexities of rape, they leave it in the hands of the victim as they have to go through a very broken justice system and relive the events with added victim shaming if they report and it goes to trial. The young lady backed out.

It was, however, within my rights, to make sure he never came back to a youth event again. I did just that.

He did not recognize me at first. He was making small talk and I was giving short answers as quietly as possible. Then came the moment of discovery.

"You sound familiar,  do I know you?" he asked.

"You do," and then I called him by name.

"Pastor Pat? Holy shit. What are you doing here?" he was confused.

"Working. I'm not a pastor anymore." I said.

"Wow. Well, this is pretty awkward, huh?" He asked with what sounded like a grin

"Yes it is," I admitted. "I think we should just finish this ride and go on with our lives."

"Are you kidding me?" He asked,"I'm going to enjoy this. You were so mighty and powerful. You had the power to keep me away from everyone and made sure no one came near me."

"No. Because there was no legal action taken, I had a private conversation with you and you alone. No one else other than one board member and a victims advocate as to how to handle this situation."

"You know, it's bullshit that a girl can dress however she wants and act however she wants and then change her mind." He said.

"We don't need to discuss this. You need to stop talking now." I said.

"Or what? You have no power. What are you gonna do? Ban me from the cab? Call a cop? The power has changed. One phone call and I can get you fired. Oh, this is great. I can't wait to tell everyone." He started laughing.

"A job is a job. I'm not afraid of anything you think you can do to me. I can get another job. Do whatever you feel you have to do."

"How is she? What is she doing in her life. She change her mind again and get 'raped'?"

"Don't do this."

The rest of the ride he kept at it and I decided to stop talking until we got to his destination.

"That will be ten, fifty,"I said.

"Here is fifteen. I will need exact change back."

"Here you are sir." I was near my edge. "Do you ever feel guilt for what you did to her?"


"Did she ever ask you or your friends to stop."

"Yeah. Bye." He was casual. He walked out of the cab.

"Car 22 to dispatch." I said into the radio.

"22 go" came back dispatch.

"I'll be 10-7 for a few minutes"

"10-4, let us know when you're back in your cab."

Friday, May 29, 2015

Heart and Soul With Only a Heartbeat

Sunday nights at the end of the month can be very slow in a taxi. You and every other taxi are out there fighting for the same scraps. Many drivers do not work on Sunday nights. I always did, though there was less to go around, there were also less drivers out there so it was a wash.

This Sunday was a particularly bitter cold Chicago February night. No one was out. It was after midnight. I drove by the train station since there was a train coming in. There were a total of 8 taxis from three different companies out there. I took one look at the line of taxis and kept moving on to the casino less than a mile away. 

There were two taxis from different companies in the valet area. I pulled up behind them and got prepped to wait. I was behind a cab driven by a guy named Orlando. He and I often battled for flags and I am ashamed to admit the little thief was damn good at it. He recognized me and turned his head around to smile, wave and flip me the bird. 

I got out of my taxi and opened the hood pretending to check my fluids quickly. I owed him one, so I bent down as if to tie my shoes and placed a bumper sticker on his taxi that said "Don't like my driving? Call 1-800-EAT-SHIT" on his bumper (It was a vinyl easy remove one, I am a bastard, but not a vandal). I kept it in my bag for the next time I saw him. I shut my hood and got back inside my warm taxi. 

About 20 minutes later we were still sitting there and behind me two of the taxis from the train station pulled in. Just past the lobby of the casino is a 24 hour Starbucks. I went inside to buy a quick cup of coffee. While in line a woman about my age with red hair smiled at me and said hi. I politely said hi back, paid for my coffee and went back to my taxi.

On my way back Orlando smiled and flipped me off again. I nodded, toasted him with my coffee and went back in my cab. 

I was about to turn on my radio and listen to the Sunday night jazz transfusion on my favorite station and I heard the music from the casino. In the valet area, the music playing in the casino is on loudspeakers outside as well. It was "Heart and Soul" by T'pau. It is one of my favorite songs to this day. I am a huge fan. Every cd released and even some demo cuts that came from a release that came with a documentary DVD are in my iPod classic.

Anyway, when I heard it coming through their sound system I rolled down my driver side window despite the cold and just lost myself in the song. Like any fool going back to their youth in a song I found myself singing along and emoting lacking only a hairbraush as a mic. I opted to keep a beat with my hands on the steering wheel instead. I was fully lost in the song when I heard a tapping at my window. I looked and it was the woman from the coffee line laughing. I rolled down the window and she said, "Can you take me home to Shorewood."

"Of course," I said as I unlocked the door and started the motor. As she got in she was singing along to the song as well and asked that we not move till the song was over. I rolled down her window and at the last bar of the song we were on our way. 

"Oh thank you," she said. "I just love that song. Been so long since I heard it, I wish I could hear it again." It was only then that I noticed her east end accent.

"Wanna hear it again?" I asked as I held up my ipod and plugged it into my dock.

"Yes! Brilliant!" She exclaimed.

I played the song for her and this time neither of us sang along, but there may have been some lip synch going on. After the song was over she told me something.

"I chose your taxi because you were having fun, so you must be my taxi."

"I am, in fact, your taxi for the next 6 miles!"

"So you like T'pau?" She asked. 

"I love them, but I also love music of all genres, but I have a soft spot for them."

"Me too," she said. "I was 14 when Bridge of Spies came out."

"You're a kid, my dear. I was 17."

"Now don't be cheeky." she grinned.

"Moi?" I said innocently.

"I permed my hair and dyed my hair red because of her." she said. 

"Well, looks like you are still rocking the ginger."

"Yeah, but now it is all about the straightener. I miss copious amounts of hairspray sometimes."

"Me too. So how long have you been in the states?"

"Since I was 20. I'm sort of a runaway rector's daughter."

"Ohhh. Here we call you a PK."

"Pastor's Kid, I know it." she said. "We still don't speak. He's conservative even for an Anglican. He would be right at home in some of the mega churches here, except for the music."

"I was in a conservative church in my teens." I said. "As a matter of fact, T'Pau was one of my secret cassettes. Secular music was the devil's music, so I had my private stash for my walkman." 

She laughed. "And now?"

"Well, I was a minister for a spell and then quit. This pays about the same and is more honest."

She laughed again. "So what does the off pitch lover of good music hack believe now."

"I don't." I said simply.

"You went atheist?" There was a long pause. "Good for you, mate! Me too!"

From that moment on the conversation deepened. She spoke about the abuse by her father. It was physical and emotional. She had to uphold an image in the public face and he was always pushing to make Bishop. She told me about the education in religious schools and though the science was better taught than parochial schools here, there was other indoctrination and she always lived under that shadow of being Father Michael's daughter. She told me how she once showed a teacher at the school the bruises on her torso and told her she could not take it anymore. The instructor told her simply to cover up and never speak of this again and think of her father's vocation. Then she closed with confessing that she never speaks about her atheism in the US. Everyone either looks at her like she eats babies, evangelize her or tell her that because her dad was cruel is not a reason to hate god.

"My father's abuse has nothing to do with my atheism. There not being a god is what that is about. My dad's abuse to me and my mum is why I hate the church. I hate the church, but I don't hate god. There would have to be something to hate. There isn't." She paused. "Patrick. have you noticed how amazing the stars are and sunrises are when you know why they really exist?"

"Yeah. I do."

We pulled up to her small townhouse and she paid me. 

"Patrick." She said."Do you have Only a Heartbeat on that iPod?"

"I do." 

"May I sit up front and listen to it?"

"Sure." She sat upfront and I played the song. I really like the song. You could tell, that for her, it took her someplace else. Perhaps it was a young lady leaving her country to start a new life. Maybe it was something else. I did not ask. I just sat in silence as the tears welled up in her eyes. 

When the song ended she grabbed my hand, kissed me on the cheek, looked at me for a moment, started to say something, stopped and left the cab to go inside. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Knowing Better

One thing I do not speak about often is that I am an adult survivor of child abuse. When I was a pastor I would encounter victims of domestic violence. It did not take long for me to realize that I was ill trained for this reality. It is scary how many ministers truly are.

I started working with and learning from Guardian Angel home, Susan Murphy Milano and other experts in the field. I wish I could tell you about all the heroic deeds done with this information, but the fact is you lose more battles than you win. The upside? You do not create more harm and you also have a higher chance at helping a victim become a survivor who gets out.

One night in the taxi a fellow driver was frustrated and needed to vent. He told me about how he picked up a woman from one of the women's shelters and took her back home (this is common, they often return several times before getting out for good-if they ever do). He took her to a neighboring town and the abusive husband was the former mayor of that town. He was belligerent to the  driver while talking to his wife like dirt and flaunting his power. When the driver did not do his bidding (he demanded the driver stop the meter while her belongings were being unloaded and also demanded the driver aid in the effort) he claimed to know our owner and he would ensure his "fat redneck ass" would be fired and he better not even think about driving in this town again. Of course came the obligatory,"Do you know who I am?" comments and other bs of showing his power and the driver's powerlessness.

I tried to tell him that there was nothing he could do and living in the tension of helplessness is hard. He thought she was stupid for going back and I tried to explain to him the conditioning, emotional control and gas lighting that goes on in domestic abuse. He asked me about the cops and the court systems. I told him about the things I learned about the failures in that from some of Milano's books such as "Time's Up", "Defending Our Lives" and "Holding My Hand Through Hell" along with information I learned from Guardian Angel Home as well as my first hand experiences where the courts failed women and children along with tales of some cops and ministers who chose to look the other way and participate in victim shaming.

He looked at me and said,"You should write a fuckin book. You are like an expert or something."

I looked at him and replied,"No, I care and try to help. The experts are who I need to listen to. It would be dangerous and irresponsible to let my compassion be confused with leadership in this field. I know better."

Due to the special kind of hell we work in some nights, the fare and the conversation was pushed out of my mind and life moved on. Then came a fare dispatch gave to me. I was picking up out of a woman's shelter and taking her to a neighboring town. When I looked at the first name and the address, I suspected it might be a small world. When the woman and her belongings were loaded into my vehicle she was being escorted out with one of the counselors, I knew. I had worked with this particular advocate before. She took one look at me and recognized me.

"Pastor Pat? What the hell are you doing here?"

"Not a pastor anymore, Becky."

She whispered into my ear,"You already know what this is, Pat. Remember your boundaries."

I took a deep breath. "Yeah, I will."

I heard Becky say things to the woman. She encouraged her to use her resources and document the abuse. She reminded the woman that she has worth.

We were on our way. It started in silence.

"Did she call you a pastor?" the woman asked.

"Yeah. Used to be."

"She knows you?"

"Yeah. Our church used to work with them. They helped me help a lot of people." I said.

"I have kids. I'm just doing what I need to do." 

From there we had a conversation. The details of that conversation the rest of the way to her house are something I am not willing to talk about.

We pulled up to the house and he was waiting outside with another man. He and the other man walked up to me and he told me who he was and told me his associate was a police officer and I will turn off my meter and help him unload the car or I will face the consequences. He then told me that he knew our owner and they are old chums. 

I just said,"Meter stays on. Considering I was not asked politely, I stay in the car. Officer, may I have your name, badge number and a card?"

The older cop said I don't need any of that and I should do as I am told. 

"I see no squad, I see no badge, you are not in uniform. This vehicle is under video surveillance."

The husband said some insulting things to me. He assured me that I would lose my job. She was told to go inside and wait while the two men unloaded the vehicle. Every time he came to the vehicle he told me off and his buddy gave me dirty looks. 

Three trips later they were done. He told me he did not have to pay me, but he was going to anyway. He also told me he was going to get every dime of it back after I got fired. He threw the money into my cab and I started to pick it all up and count it to make sure I had every penny due me. I looked at him and said, "I need another $2.25."  He reached into his wallet angrily and tossed two singles and whipped a quarter into the taxi. 

"You think you're cute?" he growled through grit teeth. "You don't know who I am."

I spoke back. My temper was gone. "Fuck you. You're a piece of shit has been who couldn't get re elected. Fuckin impotent piece of shit." 

He poked my jacket as he said,"I'm having you charged with assault for that. Your world is over." Each poke got harder and harder.

I grabbed his shirt collar to pull him face to face and said,"If you're gonna charge me with assault? Let's make it worth it. It's you who doesn't know who I am. Gonna look real good in the papers. Ex politician and ex preacher. Who's more corrupt?"

I saw something in his eyes. Fear. His demeanor changed. His eyes watered. "Please. Don't." he said softly.

I knew better. I knew what was going to happen to her now. I fucked up.

I let him go. 

"I'm sorry. I was out of line." I said.

He walked back into his house. I drove off mentally kicking myself. I wanted to win, she lost. I wasted justice, she gets his revenge. I lost my cool. So will he.

I knew better. 

To this day I see minsters who don't know better. I see self proclaimed advocates who harm instead of help. In that moment, I was no better than them. In this moment. I am honest enough to not delete the record from the web, deny my statements and place a felt need preserve a reputation over the truth. They do so at the cost to human lives. The mistakes made by advocates come at a cost to the victim.

I knew better.

*note: A lot of people claim to know the owner of the taxi company who do not. They know his name. I also can safely say that he would never knowingly befriend a wife and child abuser. I feel that needs to be said.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Cigarettes and Hospitals

It was a slow night in winter. The bars had closed and the windchills were starting to get below zero. To conserve gas when I was sitting I had an electric blanket that plugged into the cigarette lighter adapter. I had the windows up and the blanket on with my hoodie over my head about to settle in for a short nap.

I was startled when I heard a tapping at my driver side window. I lowered my hoodie and placed my hand on my large mag light in case I needed a defensive weapon. There was an older man in a tattered work jacket and a stained gray hoodie and a scraggly beard staring at me. I cracked the window and asked what he wanted.

"Can ya take me to the hospital?" He asked with a smile missing some teeth.

I am behind a gas station at 3 in the morning. My alarm bells are still up about letting this man in my car.

"It'll be about $6," I said. "I'll need cash upfront."

"Well, I ain't got cash." He replied. I started to roll the window back up. He tapped on it.

"What?" I asked.

"I have cigarettes." He said smiling.

"This ain't prison," I was about to roll up the window and find somewhere else to nap.

"Now wait a minute! Sealed packs, many brands. See?" He pulled out a tote bag with several packs of cigarettes of various brands. "I'll give you two packs. That will cover the fare and a tip."

"All right," I said. 'If my good nature and loose morals gets me killed, I will be very unhappy in hell' I thought.

I started the engine, unlocked the back door and got on the radio to report a flag to the hospital. Dispatch gave me a 10-4 and I started the meter as I collected the two packs and got a whiff of the old man. He had not showered in days.

"Thanks, young man," he said.

"No problem. You okay?"

"Yeah, just looking for a warm place for a few days to ride out the cold front coming."

"So the hospital is better than the shelter?" I asked.

"Food's better. Especially if you are suicidal."

"Are you suicidal?" I asked.

"Nah, but I am bat shit crazy. Shell shocked, PTSD, whatever you wanna call it when you're a fucked up vet."

"If your a vet and need help, what about the VA?"

He laughed himself into a choking fit.

"If the VA worked for vets there would not be homeless vets with untreated mental illnesses. Soldiers are useful to the system, vets are a burden."

"Nam?" I asked.

"Yep.  Survived fuckin la Drang, but this cold will kill me." he said.

"You served in 65?"

"Yeah. la Drang was November. How do you know your history and not current events? Mind if I smoke one before I go inside?"

"Go for it." I said. "So why the hospital?"

"It works like this. I go in with some specific symptoms that they will have to address and run tests. Once I am in and settled getting an ekg I will panic a little and say the right things to get a psych eval for suicidal ideations. I get admitted for a week and they get me meds for my ptsd and treatment. Then comes the cool part. They cannot release me until I get an intake to a shelter that deals with people with mental health issues and therapy. I get another shot."

"So want help, not a fix?" I was frustrated by this, not about him, but the system.

"Yeah. I've done this before. Kid, I'm alcoholic and quitting ain't that easy on the streets. Look. I know you gotta go, here is the short version. When I get public help, they get me in and eventually they get me into the VA system so someone else can foot the bill. I get in there and it all falls apart and I end up on the streets. I drink, get lost, do other things and then bottom out and do this. I'm a dead man."

"Shit," was all I could say.

"It was not always this way. I was always fucked up, but I had a job and a family. The bottle ended the family and rich people killed the pension fund."

"So what happens now?" I asked.

"I survive until I die. Living is over."

With that, he left the taxi and went into the er entrance.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sleep With Me and a Shameless Plug of Gratitude

When you drive, the average shift is 12 hours. These make for long days and sleep becomes your most precious commodity. If you do not get enough sleep between shifts, it becomes dangerous. You can make mistakes or drink more coffee than is sane to keep going.

In the overnight hours end and daylight comes, parental responsibilities and other things will cause you to do things during the day. So when the head hits the pillow, it is night night time.

Except for me it was hard. Racing thoughts in my mind of events that are stressing me out. Bill collectors. Projects. Barking dogs. Ringing phones. Stress about not sleeping making sleep ever elusive. I hit a rut and I was always tired. I was always tired and there seemed to be no end in sight.

I have to be a parent. That is never an issue or a complaint for me. But the other demands. Family, friends and others. I did my best to push back and they just did not get it.

I went online to learn to practice better sleep hygiene.  I changed the way my room was arranged to minimize distractions. I tried aromatherapy. I tried white noise. I tried meditation. I tried music.

Then came the fateful night. I was on my way to pick up a fare and I heard tires squeal and horns honk. I found myself in the middle of an intersection starting to make a left turn without right of way. The surge of adrenaline kicked in and I stopped it fast and let oncoming traffic have right of way. It was closer than I care to admit and I cannot tell you wehre my head was or even if I was awake or daydreaming. No clue. I nodded at the well deserved middle finger I just received.

I am a very safe and very defensive driver when I am in the taxi. I took the defensive driving course the company had me take seriously. I was proud to have never wrecked or had a customer complain. Dispatch had never gone on the radio to tell me to slow down because the GPS busted me screwing around.

I got on the radio.

"22 to dispatch."

"22, go," said the voice on the radio.

"I'm tired and making mistakes. I either need to go home or park and nap for a bit after this fare."

I know this was the first time I ever asked for this on the radio. A moment later I heard the reply.

"22. We don't have a lot on the board for the rest of the night. You can gas up after this fare."

"10-4. Thank you."

I finished the fare. It was a regular. I gassed it up and went to base. I looked at the dispatcher and earnestly said. "Thank you Mari."

"No problem, Pat. Go get some sleep."

I drove home with the windows down to stay awake. I got home and trudged up the stairs, brushed my teeth, flossed and went to bed. I thought I would fall out right away. Nope. Now the brain was working. It decided to yell at me.

'You could have hurt someone!'

'Do you know how much money leaving early cost you?'

'Did you pay that bill? You should check.'

'Bet there is something interesting on facebook.'

I have been home almost an hour and I am staring at the ceiling telling my brain to shut up and it wont!

I grabbed my tablet and went to the search engine. I typed in the first thing that came to mind, I was desperate.

'Podcast to sleep to'

The first thing that came up was "Sleep With Me Podcast. The Podcast That Puts You to Sleep"

I did not read anything else. I clicked the link. Hit latest episode. It was called trending twitter tuesdays. There was a picture of a cat on my screen as I closed the cover and turned up the speakers. The cat looked relaxing. Next thing I know there is mellow intro music and some guy named Scooter introducing himself and asking if you are having trouble sleeping and he hopes this is a solution for you. He is telling me that it is like a bed time story and at first I will be interested and it will get progressively boring and random and the brain will hopefully shut up and go to sleep....or something like that. I was expecting some weird ass guided meditation thing. No. He just started thanking fans and talking about the Lord and the Lady of the podcast and some other regular characters. It was not long after that that I was already out from the delightful random of it all.

I woke up later on that day feeling relaxed for the first time since I could remember.

I showered. Picked up the kiddo from school. Spent a little time being a dad and then went to work. I was energized and in a zone I had not been in a long time. I was grabbing fares and clearing them like a man on a mission. I also got two juicy flags out of one of the casinos. I was back.

I went home at the end of a 12 hour shift. Birds were starting to sing and pre dawn was upon us. I has a small snack. Watched the news. Brushed my teeth, flossed, and then took my tablet out of my bag and put it by my bedside. I pulled up an older episode and it was a weekly review of a Game of Thrones podcast. I have never seen the show. Will I be lost? Will I be awake not knowing who the players are?

I got through the introduction and what Scooter calls housekeeping as he thanked listeners for reviews and accolades and interactions. Then he started into the episode in the most unique and boring manner possible. I was out within 20 minutes.

This would happen night after night. This mad genius would do three episodes a week and a new napcast would start shortly after that. I also had almost a hundred old episodes to work with too.

In the intros I got to enter his world and sleep community. There were so many of us grateful for his work and he seems genuinely appreciative of the sleep. I learned about his brother and his brother's collection of bus and train tickets. Some fans of the show even send Scooter little things like that in the mail.

Now, I listen to podcasts a lot. I am also a fan of Prairie Home Companion on the radio too. Some enrich me, inform me, entertain me. This one gives me rest night after night. I have even hit the point where some nights I do not need Scooter, but I like checking in anyway to to hear the intro before I pass out.

I want to know how he is, how his brothers is, how his mom is, how the Lord and the Lady are doing with the food truck.

Even on days I know that sleep will only be 4 hours because of a busy day, I get 4 quality hours.

I do not know why people do the things they do. There is no money in a Sleep Pod Cast! But he invests time writing and talking to us. I decided to give him a review on iTunes and thank him on social media and say hi once in awhile. He is gracious and appreciative and a few times, during the housecleaning, I hear my name. It adds a little smile as I sleep.

Some of his regulars have roles. I shamelessly admit that I would love to be the chauffer driving people into dreamland.

But that role is already taken by Scooter. He's damn good at it.

From Bezos adventures in hell (seeking revenge I think), to reviews of a show I do not watch. to the ongoing saga of Cinderella after the ball and even Sir Pounce and whatever is on twitter or reddit, his randomness ushers me to sleep.

For some it is a convenience matter. For others, it allows me to be rested and get home safe every morning. For me, it allows my passengers to get a safe and efficient ride. For me, a teenager that is my life gets me at my best instead of half aware.

It's a little thing from someone I never met.

So this entry is a shameless plug.

If you have trouble sleeping...go to or pull up Sleep With Me on iTunes.

Scooter, if you read this, I owe your brother a Metra train ticket form Joliet's Union station and when that blasted book gets published, I will sent a SASE with a signed book. Thank you.

Beyond the plug, I did want to tell about the challenge of sleep and 12 hours shifts 5-6 nights a week. It is the life of pretty much every damn cabbie you meet. Sleep matters.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baltimore Taxi Drivers

My kid loves anime and also loves some friends that live in and around Baltimore. There is an anime convention in downtown Baltimore. What a perfect opportunity for friends to gather. I saved up about 2 and a half weeks pay to go last year and I am doing it again this year.

The first day there, the prior day's 12 hour shift and all the travel got the best of me. While we were waiting at the convention center for our badges I dozed off on the sidewalk. My teenager nudged me and said in a soft voice,"Dad, someone wants to talk to you, promise to be nice."

A young man with pimples who loooked barely old enough to shave handed me a coupon for free Uber rides. I looked at my mini me who looked at me and said,"You promised to be nice." I looked at the young man for a moment, grabbed the flyer, said thank you and then looked at my grinning child for a moment.

"What?" I said,"I let him live."

"I'm so proud of you, dad."

We got ourselves checked in and got our badges for the next day and started to head back to the hotel. As we were leaving the area I had parked the car I saw a line of cabs at the convention center's taxi stand. There they were, sitting, hoping for flags to make a few bucks while a billion dollar company was giving out freebies.

We got back to the hotel and grabbed some food. It was not long before I was out like a light.

The next day we got to the convention where the friends were waiting. The 4 of them wandered off into anime heaven and I shadowed from a safe distance and became a human atm. It was 10 hours and rather exhausting for me. They were all good kids and having fun and staying in safe places. So the next day I decided to loose the invisible leash and wandered about Baltimore on foot.

I got bored after a spell and saw the cabbie valet area. I saw some outside of their vehicles and realized they were muslims and it was prayer time. I waited until they were done and struck up a conversation with a few of the drivers. When I told them I was a hack from the Chicago area, some could care less, but some of the guys from Baltimore Taxi and County Cab talked to me. We swapped war stories and laughs and talked about the job. Different cities, same experiences.

There was one driver who was hard to miss. His name was Abdul. He stood well over six feet and was almost as wide as he was tall. He was from the NOI (Nation of Islam) and despite his size, as gentle a man as you could meet. He and his three kids live in a one bedroom apartment. His wife died a few years ago from kidney failure. He lives in Uptown. He grew up there. He told me how he used to be a gang banger when he was young. He told me about how proud he is of his kids and showed me their pictures on his cell phone. The oldest is about to graduate high school and she wants to go to junior college and study nursing, but she also has a lovely voice and he hopes she studies music too. The middle child was an underclassman in high school and a point guard on the team. He is flunking math, but otherwise a good kid. The baby is in 5th grade and on the chess club.

He told me how hard being a single dad is when you work 72 hours a week. He said the oldest is in the unfailr position of being a mom but he also has support from his community. Not just the NOI community, but the neighborhood.

Old men play dominoes and chess. The young men bbq and some of the women take it on themselves to ride herd on the local kids and keep them out of trouble.

Uptown is improving he told me. We got small businesses here, he told me. We got a little strip mall with a nice store to get milk and medicine (I am assuming he meant the CVS that was torched tonight). He talked about the pride he has living there, but also the fear. As a hack (cabbie) one ticket becomes three when a cop is in a mood. The gangs are recruiting and "taggin up all the nice stuff like dogs peeing on hydrants".

"I'll tell you, Patrick. You don't know what it's like. You got the man on one side cutting you off and you have criminals recruiting kids making the streets unsafe. I just want my babies to graduate and get good jobs. But the school is getting better. We have good teachers. The neighborhood is getting better and we are doing it. People are putting up nice flower pots now and shopping and working. We still do not have much, but we have hope and its us! Real companies are paying attention to us and that means real jobs and real schools and more hope."

His radio went off, there was a run near the convention center he could not turn down.

"Hey man, I gotta go. You need a ride, here is my card. As-salam Alaikum, brother cabbie."

The next day I drove about and made a trip to Uptown to see what it was like. It reminded me of the East side back home, but it was nicer. It had all the promise he spoke of and all the trappings he fears. I fell in love. 

For the rest of my stay if I saw someone from County or Baltimore Taxi, it was easier to break the ice. I found many of them lived Uptown. They all felt similar.

I have no words and nothing to pontificate on the footage of what I am seeing. I need to reflect and digest because right now all I want to do is react. 

I have sadness. I have fear. I have concern for 3 kids I have never met. I hope they made good choices tonight and are safe. I hope I see Abdul again.  

It is no longer just my child that has friends there. I have friends there too. 

We love our friends and we are concerned. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Charity and Mysteries

On slow nights you try to park in well lit areas. On the east side that pretty much leaves you the casino and McDonalds. On the west side there are a few gas station parking lots.

One night I was on the east side and I parked at the casino valet area. At least there you have hope of a flag. I was with another driver named Terry. Terry and I got outside of our taxis to stretch and smoke. It was a Sunday night and Sunday is a great night for late night radio. One station has a live concert set, then Little Stevens Underground Garage and then they close it out with Jazz Transfusion. Another station does bluegrass followed by some classic blues. Then there is old time radio, replays of Prairie Home Companion and much more.

We both love music of all kinds. Terry wears a folk hat with a brown brim and likes to roll his own cigarettes. When the weather is cold I wear my Australian wool wide brimmed hat and a moto jacket with a sherpa lining. We look like a couple of cabbie cowboys on the casino range.

In the midst of our conversation a young man comes up to us wearing a very expensive Chicago Bulls Leather jacket and saggy jeans with his boxer showing. He is a wealthy suburban college kid gansta wannabe white kid. He is also sporting loud jewelry and what is so obviously a fake diamond earring.

He walks up to both of us and asks, "Hey man, can I get a ride?"

Terry looks at him (he was "first" in line) "Where are you going?"

"Wheaton. By the college." He says.

Terry looks at me for a moment and I look at him and say,"About seventy."

Terry looks at him and says,"About seventy. You got that kind of cash?"

The kid smiles and says,"I got $20. Can you do it for twenty?"

"Nope" Terry replies.

"How about you? You wanna make twenty?" The kid says  looking at me.

"If you mean, do I wanna lose $50. No."

He looks at Terry again and says,"C'mon, I know you fuckers make bank."

Terry laughs and says,"By the end of tonight, the guy at the drive thru is gonna do better than me. I am not a charity. If i were a charity, I'd give free rides all night long. But I have dogs to feed. Pat, are you a charity?"

"Nope." I said.

"I'll give you my ring. It's real." He shows a cheap ring the likes of which a gumball machine would be proud to display. Terry declines. I look at him and notice the movado museum classic is real.

"I'll do it for the watch." I say.

"The ring is worth more, man." He says.

"Then you are getting the bargain, man." I say.

"Hey man. Give me a ride to an atm and I will make this right!" he says.

This is a sign of danger. When someone who has no money wants in your cab, he is close to your money. His eyes are wide and the kid is high off something. Probably coke. Both of us casually position ourselves by our taxis to prevent entry. Terry tells him there is an atm two blocks down Clinton and I tell him there is one on the hotel side of the casino just past the bathrooms by the courtesy phone. He makes excuses that he does not want to go back in the casino and he also says he does not want to stabbed walking to the atm. While this is going on, valet asks us who is first in line. Terry says he is and they tell him they have a guest that needs a ride. When valet tells you this, they have usually screened the person or the casino is paying. Terry grabs a couple and off they go.

I am now alone with mister money bags. I go back into my taxi as a precaution and he comes up to the window. I crack it only a little and he still tries to bargain with me. He realizes he is not getting anywhere with me and starts to head back into the casino. That is when I see it. Casino security will not let him back in the building.

By this time another cab pulls up from one of our competitors. I know the driver. Her and I compete for fares a lot. She pulls up and rolls down her window and asks me how I am. Then she sees the young man approaching us and I look at her and say,"Don't take him. He can't pay."

"Pat,"she says,"I ain't falling for your tricks. He's mine." With that she pulls up to him and scoops him up and off they go.

I get out of my taxi to stretch and am about to light a cigarette when I hear a voice behind me say,"Excuse me?"

I turn around to see a young lady with a Coach handbag and Stuart Weitzman fur boots clutching her iphone. "There's no Uber or Lyft here. Can you take me to my condo?" She is standing close enough I can smell the Clive Christian on her. She doesn't have money. She IS money.

"Where is your condo?"

"I live in the Bristol. You know it?"

"Delaware and Rush, I know it. It is about a $98 trip. Is that okay?"

"I don't have any cash on me, do you take this?" She is holding an American Express Black card in her hand.

I walk to the passenger door and hold it open,"Your chariot awaits, ma'am."

"Thank you. My name's Jessica," she said. "I'm so glad you were here. How do you know my building?"

"I used to run a charity,"

On our way to the gold coast, she asked me about my night. She was fascinated to be in a cab with a conversational cabbie who did not mind credit cards. I told her about the guy in the bulls jacket.

"Oh my god!" She exclaimed,"That guy tried to sell me coke and when I said no he tried to grab my butt and kiss me. I told security and they kicked him out. He broke out his dad's name. His dad's some kind of pastor and professor in Wheaton. Figures, huh?"

During the ride I found out that Jessica is a working fashion model who gives 25% of her income to charity and is on the board for a well known pediatric cancer foundation. She is also a Buddhist.

I asked what drew her to be so charitable. She said Roshi says that the fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and you are out there. She went on to tell me that there is no difference between her and a homeless woman or a woman with breast cancer. When she forgets that, when she begins to see herself more successful, then she will succumb to the life delusion.

"The cancer survivor may one day become a great teacher in a school that needs him. A homeless battered wife could go on to write books that could save women or become a legislator that passes laws that ends homelessness. I'm good at what I do, but this career is as fleeting as my looks. Teaching and storytelling is eternal. You should tell stories. I know who rides in cabs. That is eternal. The story of the privileged young man who runs out of options is important for white suburbans to read. Besides, I'm glad I got to meet the founder of YASO and my favorite Outlaw Preacher."

I was stunned. "You know who I am?"

"We have a mutual friend, Pat Green."


"I've read your articles in the Legend. You stir pots. Glad to see you are no longer a preacher, but keep stirring. Agitation and heat leads to a good boil."

To this day I have no idea who our mutual friend is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crushed Beauty Queen (who tipped)

On a weeknight in early spring, I was driving in my taxi on the East side of Joliet hoping for a flag. I was bouncing back and forth between the train station and the casino. I had been sitting near the valet area of the casino for a few minutes and I was just about to leave when I saw a curvy blonde in a slinky black dress come out of the casino and wave at me.

I pulled up to her and rolled down my window hoping for my luck to change. 

"Are you my cab?" She asked.

"Did you call for a cab?" No. She may be assigned to someone and I will still be empty.

"Yes. I called Yellow Checker. But they said it would take half an hour or more to get to me." Ok. I can still make money, Yellow Checker is our arch enemy and one of their drivers stole a ten mile run from me the other day. 

"Where are you going?"

"South side."

"That'll run you about $70 or so, that okay, ma'am?"

"Yes. So, are you my cab?" She said with a grin.

"I am now,"

"But sir," she said with a mock southern accent as she got in,"I do not think you are the gentleman from yellow checker."

"I'm your huckleberry," I said as I put it in drive and headed out.

"Hey!" She said,"I was going for some Maverick banter and you go right for Tombstone?"

"Those words were never said in Maverick, how was I supposed to know?" I said.

"That was a perfect Jodie Foster." She said. 

"So did you have a good time tonight?" I asked.

"No," she replied, "but my roommate is still in there flirting and losing."

"Is that better that flirting with losers?" I asked.

"She's doing that too. This was her idea, get dressed up, meet hot men, play some games. I have to go to work so I just figured I'd call a cab and go home. I don't know how to gamble and I was not meeting men."

"Are you kidding me?" I am normally more reserved, it just kinda slipped out.

"You think I look good?"


"Why thank you. Do you like westerns? Or just the recent ones?

From there we got into an animated conversation about westerns while we headed on to the expressway. Like Jazz, it is a rare genre to find someone who is an enthusiast. Like the old cowboy I met earlier, she knew her stuff. 

When you get into an animated conversation, eye contact is conducted with the rear view mirror. That was when I saw something she was not aware of. Some of her teeth had come loose. She was about ten years younger than me. I wanted her to be aware of it because it was obvious she was not. By this time we were on a first name basis.

"Uh Jenny," I said. She looked in the mirror and I motioned towards my teeth.

"Oh no...oh god." She put her hands to her mouth and adjusted. "Thats so embarrassing."

"Nothing to be embarrassed about," I said.

"The teeth are complements of my ex husband." She said with a sigh.

"I'm sorry."

"Me too, Patrick. It's why being told I'm pretty means so much. I've had reconstructive surgery on my cheekbones and a few screws in my bones here and there."

"Jesus," I said,"any kids?"

"14 year old, he never hit our son, but he abused him. Abuse isn't just physical."

"I know." I said. "Took courage to get out."

"Well," she started as she lit a cigarette, "It is not the first time I left, this was just the first time I stayed out and filed for divorce. That was so scary at the time."

"How long have you and your boy been out?" I asked.

"Three years. Almost four. When he crushed my face my options became limited. I had crossed the point of no return and there was no choice but to get out. Even that fucking church could not ignore who he was."

"Church? Did they enable?" I already knew the answer.

"Yeah. We lived in Sacto...Sacramento. Big church. Popular music. He was on the board, men's group, worship team and all that. He was loved. A pillar of the church. A saint. He could not have done these things and if he did speak cruel sometimes, well, I just had to be a better wife and win his heart to warmth instead of cold. I was the problem. Not him. You know what's messed up?"


"I believed him and I believed them. How could I not. The system was more rigged there than it is in that casino." She said.

"How so?" I was curious now.

"You know as well as I do that the house wins. If someone is getting ahead, they charm them to stay until the house gets the money back. And if someone does continue to win, they will shame the winner, accuse them of cheating and ban them. They upset the system. They need to go away."

"Yeah," I said. "I have picked up a few people and heard stories."

"Church. You have a book where women are property and we are the bride of Christ. The whole goal is about pleasing god, your groom and ultimately, avoiding the consequences of a life without him. Know what those consequences are?" She asked.

"At the least, a sad life without joy and enlightenment and at the worst, eternal torment with everyone else who rejected his love." I replied.

"Ah, you have been to church. Yeah. The jealous and all loving God in a church environment that fosters co dependency and favors the charming man with deep pockets who could not possibly have any flaws. I am the woman. I do not understand the enlightenment and purity of the love." Her animated nature turned a little dark.

"So this was a conservative evangelical church?" I asked.

"Liberal," she said. 

"You sound mad at church." I said.

"My husband was cruel and he was the one that hurt us. He's sick and has an addiction. It doesn't change that he did it. But them? They are the spiritually enlightened acting in the name of love. When I finally got the help I needed, of all people it was a charismatic surgical nurse that helped me find resources to get out." She replied.

"No shit?" I asked.

"Yep. She told me her story, she's a survivor too. Good woman. Saved my life. I had heard the speeches before, but something about her story struck me." She said.

"So," I said as we got closer to her apartment building,"still believe in God?"

"I don't know if I believe in god or even like him. The god in the Bible is a lot like my husband and nothing like my dad was. I don't believe in church. I still pray sometimes, but then I go to support group for coda and hear women talk about their god and it is so controlling and I get sick and want to scream. This bible is not for the twenty first century and it certainly ain't for women."

"Well, here we are." I said as we pulled up,"It's seventy five dollars."

"Here's a hundred, Patrick. Thanks for listening."

"Thanks for telling me your story, Jenny."

"You're welcome, cowboy." With that, she winked at me and walked to her apartment. I waited until I saw her disappear into the doorway before driving off. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Heroes That Don't Tip


Tips are the difference between drowning and scraping by. As a driver you lease the vehicle and part of that lease involves topping off the tank at the end of your shift. At the end of a 12 hour shift you have burned anywhere from a half a tank to more than three quarters of a tank. There was a time when I was driving that gas was over $4 a gallon.

My personal goal in tips was to have the tips cover the gas for the day. If I did that I was happy. If I exceeded that, I was ecstatic. On the weekends because of special events, weddings, concerts and the bar crowd I would do as much as 20% in tips. On the weeknights it was usually closer to 6-8%.

You don't expect tips, you don't demand them, but you sure hope for them because you need them to eat and take care of your kid. As I said, it is the difference between drowning and treading water.

I was having a slow night one night and the weather was cold, so when I was sitting I would have to burn fuel to keep the heat on in the vehicle. Chicago winters can be like that. After bar close and before the wary morning commute you are pretty quiet on a weeknight. It is a good time to read, nap, talk to the other drivers, get a coffee or a meal in, etc.

I was sitting in a donut shop somewhere in the three AM hour drinking a small coffee and eating a donut. It had been a slow night so that was pretty much all I ate during that 12 hour stretch. My dispatch pager went off. It was an airport run from one of the hotels. Often you just get the passenger's first name. When I saw the name it did not register as anyone special, but it was one of the nicer hotels so I assumed it was a businessman of some sort.

I got into my cab and told dispatch my ETA to the Hampton and I was on my way. Usually people call in advance for airports and the page will show you that it is a time call. This one did not have a time  on it so I called dispatch to be sure.

"Car 6 to dispatch." I said.

"Go ahead, six."

"Dispatch, is this a time call?"

"No, he just called. He'll be in the lobby when you pull up."


The hotel is only 5 miles from the donut shop and I had green lights the entire time. I was there in less than ten minutes. I pulled up to the front and unlocked the doors. The man came out and I was elated when I recognized him. He was a minister/author/speaker that I follow. I have read his books, they helped formulate my ministry and we have met and spoken briefly at two conventions. We have a mutual friend. He speaks of social justice and emergent and helped create much of the progressive and emerging christianity that inspired me as a minister and as a human being.

I exited the vehicle and asked him his name, he acknowledged his first name. I asked him if he needed the trunk open for luggage. He said no. We got into the vehicle and I looked at him as I always do for safety purposes and rapport building.

"Hi, I'm Patrick, you are going to O'Hare airport, correct?"

"Yeah yeah."

"Okay. Will you be paying by cash or credit today?" I asked.

"What difference does that make?"

"Credit cards take longer to process and Chicago PD likes to keep things moving. If you're paying by card, it'll go more smoothly if we handle the payment here."

"How long does it take to swipe the thing?" He asked irritated.

"I'm sorry. We don't process credit cards that way, we have to radio it in to dispatch. It only takes a minute."

"You gotta be kidding me,"he sighed as he reached into his wallet and handed me his credit card.

"I'm sorry, sir." I said.

I took his card and processed it as swiftly as I could. The dispatcher asked, as is the procedure,"Would he like to add a tip?"

I looked at him and he half snorted as he said,"No!"

"That won't be necessary, dispatch."

I had him sign, gave him his receipt and we were on our way.

"I can't believe you don't have cabs parked outside the hotels. How do you expect to run a business if you don't have cabs lined up at the hotel? I had to wait 15 minutes for a taxi."

"I'm sorry, you had to wait that long," I said. I was maintaining my composure. Perhaps he had a rough day. You never know what is going on in someone's life. Besides, you hear a lot worse from a lot of people. He's in a hurry for a morning flight. Besides, someone with as high a profile as him, should he say something bad about us on social media, it would go to tens of thousands of people. I was not going to risk that.

"Don't be sorry. Answer the question." He said.

"To be honest, there just would not be that much business out of the hotels at this time of night or morning. We have 30 cabs."

"What about the other companies? They must want to make money."

"Our main competitor has 6. There is another outfit with 3 and there are two one car operations in town. There are 2 casinos, a gentleman's club, 40 hotels and the train station."

"Not much to eat here, either." He remarked.

I decided to change the topic a little.

"I'm sorry to hear that you didn't like the restaurants. So where are you flying to?"

"Look, I already know what you do. Pretending to care what I do is not going to change the tip. I had to wait for almost 20 minutes to start this ride. Just get me there on time. Do you even know where you are going? I don't see your GPS on."

"I only use it if I don't know where I am going. I know where we are going."

"Your parents must be so proud of your achievement." He remarked. He then grabbed his smart phone and disappeared into it.

Did he just say that? He could not have just said that. This is not happening. Not him. Not the one who preaches a better gospel. Not a person who inspired me to change the way I approached not only church, but the manner in which I handled my faith at the time.

I just got on to driving while he typed away on his phone.

At one point he looked up from his phone and asked,"Can you move it a little bit?" I was doing 5 over the limit. I was with the flow of the beginning morning airport traffic.

"I'll have you there in plenty of time."

A few minutes later he looked up and asked,"You don't happen to have a phone charger in this thing, do you?"

"Yes I do. It has a long cord to reach the back seat. My 13 year old thought it would be a good idea for my customers." I replied cheerily. I was not hoping for a tip anymore. That ship sailed, but a little namaste would be nice right about now.

"Well, someone in the family has business sense. I'm sure she'll do well in community college."

What the fuck! Is he real? No. No. This is not happening.

A few minutes later we arrived at his terminal. I pulled up to the drop off area as close as I could to the curb. He unplugged his phone and started to leave without a word. I decided to take one moment.

"I really appreciated your last book. It spoke to me." I said it. I wanted him to know in as gentle a manner as possible I knew him. Our eyes locked for just a moment. He still did not recognize me. I could tell. He turned, closed my door and went in to the airport.

I radioed that I was clear and left the airport. On the way back the coffee had kicked in and I had to use the restroom. I pulled in to an oasis. While there, I took a moment to check my phone. He had been on his cell phone the entire ride with a few tweets saying social justice, gospel related stuff.

I gassed up, did my paperwork and made my drop. I looked at my take for the day. Barely $40. Some nights are like that, but when it ends this way. It is just frustrating. Heartbreaking.

This was now my day off. I drove to my ex wife's house, woke up my child, made some breakfast and got the little one off to school.

I went home, brewed some tea and logged on. I went to the Emergent Village website. This was where my friends were at back then. It was a community. We shared stuff that mattered. Without naming him, without giving details. I said how hurt and frustrated I was that I had a hero in my cab and he was rude and did not tip. Everyone knew things were rough financially for me. They knew that I was driving a taxi. I spoke of my hurt feelings. I called him no names. I was sharing my heart.

Within a few moments I got responses to my post in a private room.

-Maybe he didn't know cab drivers get tipped. I don't know who to tip.
(He travels the nation often. The person who made this comment was married to someone who wrote a book about social justice though what we buy.)

That was the first salvo. After that, there was what I can best describe as victim shaming.

-How many fares did you have that day?

-Not every server deserves a tip.

-Was your cab clean?

-You smoke, does your cab smell of smoke?

Though what I experienced was in NO WAY the same league as what a rape victim goes through, I could see this same group of people asking.

-How many men did you talk to that night?

-What were you wearing?

-Maybe he did not know it was rape. I don't know who not to fuck?

In other words. What did you do to deserve being treated less than human? What did you do to not receive kindness from someone who speaks of kindness, writes of kindness and tweeted justice gospel stuff while dehumanizing another person?

Not a few weeks earlier some of these people were posting and liking memes that insulted a minister who not only did not tip a waitress at a restaurant, but left her a nasty note that said something like,"Why should I give you 15% and only give God 10%?"

It was not long after that event, I left the group. Why? It got worse. Something else happened in relation to my child's sexuality that I could no longer stand with these people and call them friend. This time, some victim shamed a minor who had a bad experience with a minister. They put the ownice on a child. My child. Nope. I was done. Later I would find other victims from the same circle of authors who went through far worse than I could ever imagine.

The night is more honest than tweets. The night is more profound than novels. The night has the priesthood of humanity. The night also has homeless people, battered wives, prostitutes and a precious fifth grader who tip.

Gratuity. In gratuity we are both grateful and we have namaste. I also get to feed my kid. I don't expect it, but I am grateful when it happens and genuinely appreciate every precious soul who helps me in that manner.

He may not have given me a tip, but he gave me the truth.

Note: I wish I could tell you it was out of respect that I do not name the author. It is out of fear because I have seen what happens to those who make them cross.