I got a call to pick up “Kenny” at the Excelsior, the ritziest hotel on the beach. I called him on arrival, and a guy in his early or middle 30’s comes out, dressed very nicely, going to an expensive restaurant downtown to meet his wife. Nice guy, but a little “dorky”… no doubt an awkward and nerdy sort of guy back in his school days. As we are driving, I ask him what line of work he is in, and he says he is a programmer in high-end computer security in the San Francisco Bay area, and I thought to myself, “Yep… computer dork…” But all those lonely weekends in his teens playing with Linux operating systems and hacking Windows 98 back in the day paid some handsome dividends later in life. Here he is, working in Silicon Valley, staying in a hotel I couldn’t afford, and going to dine in a restaurant I’ve only seen from the parking lot. Living well is the best revenge, as they say.
So we are chatting on the way, and his phone rings. His ringtone is The Imperial March from Star Wars… you know, Darth Vader’s theme music…
DUM DUM DUM
DUM dum-DUM, DUM dum-DUMMMMM…
He answers the phone and says in a sweet, syrupy voice, “Hi, hunnee…”
I busted out laughing…. I couldn’t help it. He tells his wife that he is in the taxi and will be there shortly. He hangs up, and I said, “I’m sorry for laughing, dude, but having your wife call with Darth Vader’s theme music just killed me…”
He laughed too and said, “That’s her personal ringtone… she hates it. She’s got a temper… I call her the Dark Lord Of The Sith when she’s pissed at me.”
I said, “Oh, I get it, believe me… I married a hot-headed redhead from Texas. I call mine ‘The Queen’… as in the Queen from Aliens, ” and I made a harsh shrieking sound in the back of my throat.
He’s laughing, and I said, “So yeah, I can understand that completely…” I put on my best James Earl Jones baritone, made a pinching gesture with my fingers, and said, “whooooosh shhhhh… I find your lack of yardwork disturbing… whooooosh shhhhh……” And we laughed and bonded and commiserated on the perils of marrying fiery and formidable women for rest of the drive. I dropped him off at the restaurant, where the fetching Missus Kenny is waiting outside for him. Yep… he married well.
It is a 25 dollar fare… he throws me 40 bucks and says, “Can I call you later to come get us?”
I said, “Sure… I called you when I arrived at the hotel, remember? My cell number is in your phone history, right before the Dark Lord… call me up later… I’ll get ya back to the hotel safe and sound…”
And about 4 or 5 hours later, my phone rings and a slurred and wasted voice says, “Hey, man, can you come get us?”
I didn’t recognize the number and said, “Who is this?”
The caller says, “It’s Kenny, man… the guy from San Francisco…” I didn’t remember him at first because it was a Friday night and I was really busy, and he was too wasted to remember the name of the restaurant where I left him hours ago. He yells into his phone, “I’m standing outside of Deacon’s Tavern with the Dark Lord Of The Sith!”
“Oh, yeah, the Star Wars dork that’s a great tipper” I thought… I had just cleared some passengers and I’m just 2 minutes away. If Kenny is wasted and with his wife, he’s almost certainly going back to the hotel, which is another 25 dollar fare, and wasted people that love me usually tip even better than when they were sober. So I tell Kenny to wait right there, and I’ll pick him up in 2 minutes. I pulled up in front of Deacon’s 20 seconds ahead of schedule, and there is Kenny and his wife. I wave them over to the car and they pile in the rear driver’s-side door.
But as they are getting in, I detect movement in my peripheral vision, and I see a vodka zombie lurching and staggering across the street toward the passenger side of the car. The front of his shirt is covered with reddish-brown vomit that actually looks like dried blood, and I’m thinkin’ that it would probably take multiple headshots to take this zombie out… he was overserved several hours ago, and he’s now on alcohol autopilot. I tell Kenny and his wife to hurry up and get in, and the zombie yells, “Hey man… Hey… I’m right here… take us to my apartment…”
“I can’t… I got these people here…”
The zombie is now getting close to the car, so I hit the locks even though the back door was still open. The passenger window is open, but I just gotta get Kenny loaded and the back door shut, and we are outta here…
The zombie bellows, “Hey man, don’t let those fuckers steal our cab… I gotta get my boys back to the crib… they are reeeeally fuuuucked up… these people can’t have my taxi, man… I called you guys…”
I said, “I’m not here for you, man… I’m here to pick up these folks. Someone else is coming for you.” Kenny finally gets it together and slams the back door, but this vomit-covered drunken idiot in my passenger window is getting really loud and aggressive. Kenny and his wife are pretty fucked up too, and they don’t seem to understand why this guy is screaming in the window. I put the car in gear and inched it forward a little, and told the zombie that I have to go, but I’m behind another car and the zombie is keeping me from veering right and taking off. I mean, I could have backed up 10 feet, slammed it in drive and run right over him, but you would NOT believe the paperwork involved in mowing down a vodka zombie in Florida… it’s like 6 or 8 hours of your life that you will never get back.
Now the zombie is really getting belligerent, yelling and yanking at the door handle… “No way, man… this is our taxi… give us a ride! These people gotta get out!”
I said, “Move it, buddy… I’m leaving.”
“BUT I CALLED YOU, MANNNNN…!!!”
I don’t like to yell, but sometimes you just have to bellow at zombies to make them pay attention. They are, after all, mindless, and not predisposed to effective communication. Time is money, as they say, and this mindless moron is now officially wasting both. So I barked at him… it startled Missus Kenny. She actually jumped.
“DUDE! LOOK AT ME!”
The zombie was startled too, and he shut up and looked at me blankly. I made a wide, sweeping gesture in front of his face with my right hand and said, “THIS IS NOT THE TAXI YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.”
He blinked once or twice, and slurred out, “This isn’t the taxi I’m looking for?”
I waved my hand past his face again, and said, “MOVE ALONG.”
The zombie blinked again and said, “Move along?” He backed up two steps…
Another wave of my hand… “YOU WANT TO GO HOME AND RETHINK YOUR LIFE.”
He looked at me blankly and said, “I want to whuuuht…?” I took that moment to cut the wheel and accelerate past him, and left the zombie standing in the middle of the street in front of Deacon’s. I stopped at the traffic light at the end of the block, punched my destination into the dispatch system, and muttered under my breath, “Fucking idiot…”
Missus Kenny says, “Oh. My. God! What was that?”
Kenny says, “Dude! Did that really just happen? Did you really just do the Jedi Mind Trick on that wasted asshole?”
“The Force has a strong influence on weak-minded zombie drunks, Kenny… back to the Excelsior Hotel, right?”
So we are on the way, and Kenny is laughing his ass off and trying to explain to his wife just how cool that was, but she’s hammered and she doesn’t get it. She’s seen the movies, but she’s just not the Star Wars dork that Kenny and I apparently are, and doesn’t get the joke… pearls before swine…
So we get to the hotel, and the doorman opens the passenger side door and helps Kenny’s wife out. Kenny slides across the seat and pulls his wallet out. He pulls out some bills, squints at the meter, and I can see him struggling to do math while he’s wasted. He hands me a twenty, looks at the meter, then hands me another twenty, and then he looks at me as if to say, “Is that good?” I smiled at him, and waggled my fingers in his face. He busted out laughing and gave me another twenty, saying, “Man, I’m going to remember this cab ride for the rest of my life…”