I was sitting there doing what cab drivers normally do, “NOTHING” when all of a sudden the bell went off. It was a job over at the Mall, the Grand Lux Restaurant to be specific so off I went. When I pulled up there was nobody in sight so I called the number listed and as usual, nobody answered. I got a guy named Chris’s voice mail so I grumbled:
Me: “This is Bill with South Suburban Taxi. I’m out front, I’ll be here for the next five minutes and then I’m outa here.”
I sat back to wait but my cell phone rang immediately. It was Chris.
Chris: “Sorry about that I’ll send this guy out. You out front, right?”
Well I sat back and waited for “The Guy” and then the door burst open and “Holy Shit” what in the world just got into my backseat? He was wearing a mustard colored suit replete with tie and his hair was coal black and slicked back. He had cold dark brown eyes. He looked like an unkempt John Travolta.
Guy in a thick Italian/Bronx accent: “Jew know where Broadway and Colfax is?”
Me: “Sure, why?”
Guy: “Cuz yer takin me there, that’s why. What the “Beep” am I doin here? Christ, a freakin Sicilian and I’m out here in the freakin Wild West. You know where yer goin right? How freakin much will it be?”
Me: “Somewhere between $35 and $40 dollars.”
Guy: “Well yer just droppin me right there by that park, you know the park I’m talkin about?
Me: “Yeah, I know where it is, it’s called Civic Center Park.”
Guy continuing: “Don’t care if it’s freakin called Disney Land just drop me there. Freaking people are always sendin me out here. I’m tellin ya Pisano I freakin feel like a fish outa water and all. Freakin expect to see Roy Rogers or what’s that other “Beep, Beep’s” name, Gene freakin Autry pop up?”
Me: “Hey, it ain’t that bad here; I mean there are two and a half million people living here. We got electricity and color TV! You’d be surprised!”
Guy smiling: “I like you ya crazy “Beep, Beep.” My name’s Joey and I’m out here on a business trip collectin my money, you know, ya borrow from them, ya gotta pay them. I’m full blooded Sicilian, speak the “Beeping” language fluently and I’m the nephew of Little Nicky Scarfo. Ya ever hear of him, Little Nicky?”
Me: “Really! Hell yes I’ve heard of little Nicky. Real bad ass in the day. Who’s them, I mean the guys that sent you out here?”
Joey: “Yer freakin jerkin me off right? Who’s them? It sure ain’t the Mama’s and the Pappas, that’s for sure. Ahhhh, let’s just say they run some important industries in New York. Who’s them? Yer killin me paisano.
Me as I wheeled the green and white monster onto I-25: “Well I suppose I could maybe venture a guess.”
Joey: “I bet you freakin could. I mean look at me, do I look like the tooth fairy to you? Folks in New York have me out here collecting some back loans if you get my drift. Now I’m not a bad person, but if I gotta create a little violence to collect what’s owed, then I’ll freakin do it.”
Joey: “Violence paisano, you know cap a knee, kidnap the wife, shit like that. Ya mind if I smoke?”
Me as the hair on the back of my neck settled back down: “Hey, no problem. People smoke in my car all the time.”
Joey: “Hey thanks paisano, you know we got financial rules. You borrow from us to help fund your strip club ya gotta read the fine print. There’s interest, points, vig and it all gets passed up hill. You drag yer feet, you get to meet me and I help you come to terms with this little financial misunderstanding. By nature I’m not a bad person, but if I gotta press ya a bit, well, consider yourself pressed.”
With that said he chuckled and then he leaned up close to me.
Joey: Had a Cardinal in Sicily poke me in the chest one day and tell me I was evil. I don’t think I’m evil; I’m just a guy collectin what’s owed him. He said I was evil. He didn’t like this tattoo I got in Attica. I did seven hard, but cuz I didn’t snitch the folks in New York set me up when I got out. Gave me a hundred large to go into business for myself and that’s why I’m here. Just runnin the business. See this tattoo?”
With that he rolled up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of Satan wearing a crown of thorns. On the other side of the forearm was a tattoo of his prison number and a Sicilian word that made no sense to me. What did make sense was the fist and the forearm it was connected to was very large.
Joey: “That’s my Attica tattoo paisano. That Cardinal didn’t like it. He said I was evil, ya know, like bad ass. I don’t know, I don’t think I’m evil. I’m just doin what I gotta do to run the business. How much you say the fare’s gonna be?”
Well I swallowed hard and considered my possible answering options. I mean, maybe, “Hey, it’s free! I do this all the time!” might be a credible answer option but then my mouth said:
Me: “Ah, $35 to $40 should be about right.”
I looked in the rear view mirror where Joey was looking back at me. He reached in his pocket and I started hearing that song from the Godfather and he was, he was, he was holding a “GUN!” Ahhhh no, actually it was a C-Note. He tossed it in the front seat and said:
Joey: “You guys work hard and ya got bills to pay. When we get there paisano, give me twenty back the rest is yours. Just twenty back, you guys got to put food on the table too.”
Well C-Notes makes cab drivers drool just like a T-Bone makes a Labrador drool and he could tell I was pleased.
Me: “Gee Joey, that’s really nice of you. Gosh, you just made my day. Thank you.”
Joey: “Think nothin of it paisano. I like cab drivers and I always take good care of them. We getting close?”
Me: “Ya, we’ll be there in a minute. Colfax is about six blocks away and I’m gonna take a left hand turn and look for a safe place to put you.”
Joey: “Ha, that’s funny. A safe place to put me. Ah, ya oughta be thinkin about the dude I’m about to meet, he’s the one needing a little safety the “Beep, Beep rat. He’s gonna crap his pants when he sees me.”
I rounded the corner on Colfax and pulled in behind a bus. I stuck my hand in my pocket and pulled out my cabbie wad and peeled off a ten and two fives and handed them to him. With that he got out and did the best John Travolta/Saturday Night live walk I’d ever seen as he went to meet a guy that was going to crap his pants. I glanced at the C-Note sitting on my seat.
Me: “Hey, it’s just business” and with that I stuffed it in my money pouch. God I loved my job!