The End of the Road
Norma drove a taxi in San Francisco, and she earned every dime she brought home. It could be a good job, but mostly it was not. If she got a run of luck, she could end up ferrying convention-goers from the airport and back, all shift long. But if the going was rough, and she ended up sitting around waiting, it could drive her nuts. She’d found cruising the main bars and clubs was totally hit and miss; she missed more than she hit, and she got hit on more than she wished.
What she really liked was the long-distance fare, the one who wanted to go from SFX all the way up to Marin. Just turn her loose on the freeways, and she could get around like a greased pig on a hot day in the mud. Just don’t get in her way. She was on the fast track one Friday, desperate for a good night because she wanted to be able to earn enough money to buy her baby girl something special for her eighth grade graduation, coming up within a week.
She remembered her own graduation, and the way she had felt so grown up, heading over to the high school, all of two blocks from the middle school. She liked the fact that she could take certain classes over there as a middle schooler, like algebra, and band. It had just made her feel that if she could succeed at the high school, as an eighth grader, she would do fine the rest of her four years.
The night had started off great, whetting Norma’s desire to do well. She had just taken a guy to the Wharf, and was heading back toward the airport, when she got a call to pick up a fare at a private residence in a swank part of town. She wanted this call badly, but she needed to head back to the station for a pit stop first. She hated to take the time, but she also hated to drive around in agony.
The alternative was that she stop at a favorite taxi take-out shop, that catered to the drivers, and use their facilities. She could leave the engine running, because there were so many other drivers around, that she never had to worry that someone would try and drive off in her taxi. When the dispatcher contacted her a second time, she told him seven minutes and threw caution to the wind. She was almost on top of her pitstop, and decided to go that route, figuratively speaking.
Upon emerging from the coffee shop, she saw a vague shape slipping away from her taxi, and felt that maybe she had come out just in time. Hurrying over, she yanked open the driver’s door, and jumped inside, eager to score what might prove to be the most profitable fare of the evening. Her radio screeched and blared, momentarily startling her, and making her realize that she was on edge. Before she had time to even begin to figure out what was wrong, she caught a whiff of an unfamiliar scent, and realized that she was not alone in the taxi.
Simultaneously, she felt an icy finger of fear, flitting across the hairs of her neck, and the cold feel of steel against her skin. She jumped, and a voice, low and cold and menacing, said, “Take it easy lady, and you won’t get hurt. Just do as I ask, and...”
“Bullshit!” Norma blurted out. “Total and complete bullshit. You creeps always start out saying no one is going to get hurt, but you don’t give a fuck about me or my daughter. All you care about is money.”
“Hey, Sister, pipe down and don’t get your panties in a bunch. Listen to what I ask you and this will all be over in the time that it takes you to drive from here to The Embarcadero. That’s all I’m asking.”
“You aren’t asking anything; you have a gun and that isn’t the same thing.” Norma was doing some quick thinking. Was this guy really going to let her go at the end of this ride? Look at his hand shaking, she thought. He’s a meth-head, and he just needs bucks for his next fix. This is the shits because these guys are just simply walking time bombs, ones whose teeth are gone and whose finger gets awful itchy on the trigger of a gun.
“But I did ask. Just do it, Honey, before I get agitated, because if I get agitated, then my hand really starts to shake. You don’t want me to get nervous with a piece in my hands, do you” He grinned and revealed firsthand that his front teeth were, indeed, missing in action, and his smile was lopsided and evil.
Norma’s brain was in overdrive; so, coincidentally was her taxi. She was doing 60, five miles per hour over the speed limit, and she wondered if this idiot had ever taken the time to think about what would actually happen, if he were to shoot her while the taxi was traveling at that speed. All of the sudden, it was clear what she was going to do. It was foolhardy, it was downright dangerous, but she had already figured out that she was probably on a one-way trip to nowhere, so it was worth a shot.
Without warning, and raising quite a ruckus from the back seat, Norma took the next exit, and hurtled down the off-ramp at double the posted speed, running the stop light at the bottom, and going right through the empty intersection, at thirty miles per hour.
“Stop! What the hell are you doing? This is not the Embarcadero.”
“No, it’s not, but it is the end of the road,” and she turned sharply into a parking lot, squealing her tires, and attracting the immediate notice of a sea of blue. Slamming on her brakes, she drew up to a stop, right at the rear entrance of the main police station serving the greater San Francisco area. Jumping out of the taxi, she screamed, “Watch out! Gun!” and that was all it took.
As they led the assailant away, all Norma could think to say was, “Next time you get into a taxi, remember that you do not need a gun to get to where you’re going. A simple request will suffice.”