After being canned by Desoto, I was hired by City Cab. The manager, Jim Miller, told me right off that it was FIVE in and FIVE out with TWO for the gas man. Needless to say I didn't like this. That made my real gate 15% to 20% higher that the official one but what could I do about it? On the other hand, I appreciated Miller's directness. At least I knew exactly where I stood.
Extortion aside, I liked Miller's style. I could tell without ever discussing it that he'd been an anti-war college drop-out, hippie-traveling, marijuana-smoking, anti-corporate freak like myself. He was also a driver's manager, by which I mean that for him the drivers came first. This made him unique in a business where half the mangers won't even say "hello" to their lease drivers.
Miller set a reduced flat rate for any driver who took a cab to or from work; and made sure that a driver, late on his shift, paid the late fee to the driver who had been kept waiting instead of the company. He was also the only manager I ever met who actually cared (or even knew) how how competent his drivers were.
Most managers judge a driver solely by negation. For them, a good driver is one that doesn't: have accidents, get tickets, have customer complaints, get robbed or make waves. When I worked for Yellow Cab, they used to say that you had a job there as long as Steele (the manager) didn't know your name.
Miller is only person in this business ever to recognize how very, very good I am at this job and to promote me because of it. For that I'll be eternally grateful. After only a couple of weeks, he gave me a Wednesday through Saturday night shift - marking the only time that I would ever be scheduled on a Friday night until I became an owner.
Unfortunately, Miller himself didn't dispatch the cabs on Friday nights. He left that to Vinnie who didn't believe in FIVE in. He thought TEN in was better - or you could wait until 8 pm to get your cab on a shift that started at 5 pm. It must be said that this ideology worked for him. He bought a two-story house in the Excelsior with his ill-gotten gains and send his kid to private schools.
After what I'd been though at Desoto cab, I wasn't about to buckle under - not when I was making more money from my Thursday and Saturday shifts alone than I'd made in a week at Desoto. I thus joined a group of fellow malcontents who sat around for three or four hours every Friday night trashing Vinnie and complaining about life in general. Then, after a month or so, I had an epiphany. I'd been sitting, waiting for my cab and listening to my pals bitch when I suddenly realized that I no longer wanted to be morally correct. The next Friday I slipped Vinnie his TEN and got my taxi right on time. As I was driving out of the yard, I looked back to see the ethically superior losers glaring after me. I felt guilty but I learned to live with it - especially since my "alleged tip" was making me at least a $100 a week.
After a couple of months, Vinnie let me know that TEN really wasn't enough. TWELVE would be much better. A couple of months after that, he became fond of the number FOURTEEN.
The following Wednesday became totally dead after 10 pm - nothing but empty cabs racing each other down deserted streets. Suddenly Miller started to call an order then interrupted himself and told me to pick up a load at a downtown office building. I was at least a mile away and when I showed up, another City Cab was waiting in front of the address.
In fact, the driver had been playing the building and had already been waiting for a long time. He got out and tried to talk to me but he was Russian with very little English so I couldn't understand what he was saying - only that he looked confused and pitiful. I told him to call Miller. As he stepped back into his taxi, a business woman came out of the building, climbed into my cab and asked me if I minded driving her to Santa Rosa. I didn't mind at all.
Nice woman with a great personality. We traded life stories en route and she gave me a voucher for $160 when we arrived. The moon was full and Napa looked like a lunar landscape as I drove back, reflecting upon how I finally had it made. I was finally in. From then on, I'd be getting a couple airports off the radio every week and an occasional ride like the one I'd just finished. All I had to do was give Miller TWENY. Yes, it was a beautiful night - except that I couldn't stop thinking about that pathetic fucking Russian.
When I got back, I tipped Miller FIVE. Thus ended my short, happy carer as a high roller. I can't remember if I ever actually tipped Vinnie FOURTEEN or not because City Cab went belly up at about that time.
Dan Heines was then the manager of Desoto and didn't know or care about my so-called complaint. He hired me back, giving me a Sunday through Wednesday night shift - good by Desoto standards because so many of their drivers are medallion holders.
When I showed up, I was surprised to see Vinnie stepping out of a Desoto cab after just finishing a Sunday day shift. He greated me like a long lost friend. This struck me as rather odd since he'd been treating me with arrogant distain only a few weeks earlier. He was baffled by the fact that nobody would hire him as dispatcher with all his experience. The truth of course was that he'd screwed so many drivers that even people who'd never met him hated his guts. When he came to Desoto they told him that he would never be a dispatcher and would never get a decent shift. He was so desperate that he took the job anyway.
Afterwards, he'd stop me from time to time to complain bitterly about his fate; about how he'd been mistreated, misunderstood and abused. Then he'd become nostalgic and talk about how great life used to be back at City; about what a wonderful guy he'd been when he was a dispatcher. He mistook my silence for empathy.
On that first Sunday of my return, as I approached the teller's window, the dispatcher glanced up and saw me coming toward him. I could read his mind. It said, "Oh shit! Not him again." He looked at me tensely and nervously as he handed me my waybill. I gave him THREE. He sighed with relief and said, "It's good to have you back."