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With a sharp right flick of the steering wheel, I pull into the parking lot of the cab company office. "Citizen Cabs" Reads the slogan upon the main front door, "Where People Matter." Not the easiest job in the world, but as many fellow drivers have told me before, "Itís not just a job, itís a lifestyle." Flexible hours, set your own schedule, when the work dayís slow, itís a test of oneís patience. When itís busy, a test of oneís savvy behind the wheel.
Hefting my knapsack over one shoulder, I exit my car and make my way forward. With any luck Terry or Jack will be dispatching today. I always seem to make the most cash those days. Granted Iím here earlier than my usual shift, but as a Latin quote was once rendered, ĎCarpe Diemí. Seize the day, lest the day seize you.
Mentally I jot down the numbers of the cabs in the lot. A smile crosses my face
briefly as I note number sixty-four is in the lot, a Crown Victoria model with a rebuiltengine and capable of two-hundred eighty-five horsepower. Being its a Monday, I should stand a chance of getting the keys to that baby. Hopefully. Out of all the vehicles in the fleet, it packs the most drive. Being that Iím a semi-newbie, three months into the job, I have yet to earn the privilege of taking a cab home overnight. Someday though, someday.
The year is 2014. Amerika stands on the brink of civil unrest over wars with
other nations and the economyís reached a near recession. Iím an overworked, underpaid utopian nihilist trying to scratch out a living. Drawing a full, deep breath of air into my lungs, I grind my teeth, square my jaw, and go to work.
Iím in luck, Jackís dispatching today. Stepping up to the enclosed dispatcher
office area, I give my best smile and wait Ďtill heís through running orders, being familar enough with the rotation to know its a hectic job, calling cab orders to various places in the city. I flash my best smile and walk on in.
"Number 23, Super Krogerís goes to 2116 Adrienne, Senior Card and sheís got a walker, weíll post ya West Side." He glances up at me, suprise evident in his browneyes. "Hey there, a little earlier than your usual shift. Need a cab?"
I nod, presenting my CitizenCab passkey. "Yeah, you could say that. Weird
stuff was up at the place I live earlier. Bomb threats, not good. Is Cab 64 on the market?" I try not to go into it much. Of all the people at my work, Jack is the closest people there I consider a friend, other than Terry. Jack sings lead in an industrial-blues band Iím supposed to go see toward the end of the month at one of Templar Cityís local clubs, Cobalt Sixty. Finances willing, Iíll be there.
Eyebrows crinkling, Jack types a few keys on his computer and reads the
loaded webpage. "Looks like it, Jen. Driver thatís scheduled in it hasnít shown up for a few days. Guess its yours if you want it."
"Woo-hoo!" I grin and present my passkey. "Log me in, Iím here for as long
as it takes."
"Hurtiní for money, huh?" His tone of voice lighthearted yet earnest.
I shrug in response. "Student loans, college admissions, rent and bills, who isnít hurting for cash these days? "
He chuckles. "I can relate. Hey Jen, I donít suppose you do deliveries, by
"Maybe. " I reply as I submit my passkey. He grins and slides it over. I return the grin. "So thatís where the moneyís at these days, so I hear?"
Jack shrugs and casts a glance at the computerized dispatching screen. "It dep-ends on the delivery, I might have something coming up in the next hour here, if ya donít mind going out of town. Of the four other drivers out on the road right now, no one else does deliveries. But first youíll need to get logged in. Any preferences as to whatís out there?"
"Sixty-four?" I immediately respond, feeling like a school kid asking permission for a hall pass, not bothering to disguise the eagerness in my voice.
He checks the screen, types in a few numbers on the keyboard and hands me a key from behind the desk. "Sixty four. The guy that usually drives it hasnít shown up for about a week. Good luck."
"Thanks." Grinning, my hands close over the key and Iím off to the races, with a pit stop in the lobby to snatch up trip sheets and paperwork for the day. Granted, itís summertime and fairly slow, but I was never one to shirk from a challenge. If my luck holds out Terry will be covering the evening shift. Iím in for a long haul, but his humorous anecdotes make me laugh nine out of ten times on any work shift. Enough procrastinating, my brain nags. Key in hand, I exit the building.
Minutes later, Iím firing up the ignition in Cab 64. A thunderous mechanical bellow drills into the morning air, and Iím unable to repress a chuckle. Two-hundred eighty-five horsepower, splendidly digitized systems erupt to life as the next best thing to a GPS displays a readout in the dashboard circuitry of its exact location, down to adjacent cross-streets. It occurs to me I may have seen the movie "BatMan." one too many times, but hey. We all have our little idiosyncrasies.
Besides, when it comes to repairs, cars are relatively finite. Canít say the same for human relationships. Thoughts drift, despite my best efforts, to my ex-fiancee, Cameron, back in New Orleans. Though student loan costs were a major reason I left, there was more to my gleeful escape of Southern lifestyles than college costsÖwith a shake of my head I try to bite back the memory of a whirlwind romance three months strong with a culinary arts student Iíd once thought of as a best friend, and lover. Cameron Lao, part-German, part Asian, three years my junior with a penchant for roleplaying games and an all-too-fragile psyche that tried to drag down mine as well into a depth of madness I was barely able to make an escape fromÖ
Shuddering at the memory, I tell myself its been nearly a year, get over it. Iím at work, job to do, not my fault he was nuts. At Jackís voice over the radio calling out orders, I steel my nerves and focus on the task at hand.
Lifting the CB radio, Iím open for business. "Cab 64, in the lot, Good Morning and offering." I state, chiding myself for mental distractions.
A pause, then, "Good Morning 64. Delivery from the Hospital, ER, goes to Detroit on the Nugenica Biotechnology charge. Weíll post you if possible, top of the hour."
"Headed to ER, hospital 64." I reply, shifting gears in the span of a blink and Iím out of the lot, making a sharp right turn and racing at acceptable speed toward the University of Templar City Hospitals. Curiosity flares within my mind as to what the delivery consists of, but I force a mental shrug and calculate the most efficient route possible from here to there. After all, Iím being paid to drive, not debateÖ