The captain

If rich pro football players who give money to charity and die tragically — and stupidly — because of a car accident can be heroes, a taxi cab driver can be talented, funny, and sometimes a little wise.

I have a friend who has been in the people-mover business for close to a decade. He knows it’s dangerous work. Some people bust heads for the few bucks a taxi driver might have, or just because they’re having a bad day. It doesn’t take much. And no one lowers the Stars and Stripes to honor a dead cabby.

My friend, being on the upside when it comes to smarts, took a page from Business Weekly and cultivated a niche. Instead of chasing wind at the airport or listening to the engine idle outside the downtown Marriott, he hung out at the Plaza. It was kinda dry at first — little trips here and there, the kind other cabbies only took to break the monotony.

But my friend didn’t mind. There was little chance his elderly fares would shove a 9mm behind his ear and demand the cash. And they did tip, even if it was only a 50 cents; it still displayed thanks for a job well done. My friend thanked them regardless, held open doors as they got in and out of his cab, and used “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am” a lot. It was an old-school exchange that the elderly don’t experience much anymore.

Well, word got around among the many little-old-lady residents of the Plaza, and my friend’s driving grind eased. He became “on call,” so to speak, free of the whims of a stressed-out dispatcher and shielded somewhat from being a mark for a rattled crackhead. He became appreciated and 50-cent tips became a thing of the past. My friend became a friend to his customers, and they rewarded him generously. The dire money problems that brought him to taxiing in the first place turned into a fairly comfortable living.

He was able to rent a small house, get a better car, unpack his books and records, buy a stereo system, and add a few personal touches — new stylish eyeglass frames, couple of pieces of jewelry and a new hat. My friend also discovered Web TV and went online.

But where his appreciative fares saw a polite and thoughtful man, with an e-mail address and the means to communicate his thoughts out into the cyberworld, my friend became a citizen with opinions and a passion to vent his feelings onto his Web TV screen. He became “captain hoohah,” and he had plenty to say. No topic escaped his scrutiny, no adventure too small to relate.

In “The curse of personal magnetism,” the captain tells of going to a movie one afternoon and finding himself alone in the theater. Many of us have been there, relishing the aloneness, wanting desperately to hold on to the possibility of experiencing our own personal screening of movie we dare hope is great.

Had the whole place to myself, the captain writes, “I just picked a seat at random somewhere roughly in the middle of the place. I propped my knees up on the seat in front of me and kicked back.

Well, about five minutes later an elderly couple came in and sat right next to me. There were three-hundred fucking seats available and they sit right next to me! And the old lady says, “Has the movie started yet?”

I answered, “No. The previews are still on.”

She said, “Oh, we’ve just been wanting to see this movie for some time, now.”

I didn’t respond.

She said, “I just love Bruce Willis.”

I said, “Yeah? ‘Scuse me … while I kiss the sky.”

Whereupon, I moved out of range a few rows back. Three-hundred Empty Seats! Why me?

Recipients on the captain’s e-mail list have followed closely his “La Cucaracha” installments detailing his battle against the insect hordes that have attempted to drive him away from his small rented house on the outskirts of the Plaza. In his opening narrative, the captain thought he had captured the leader.

I decided to make an example of this hooligan so that others of his ilk might think twice before engaging in similar behavior. (Editor’s note: The captain had caught this violator crawling on his body.) This was one breach of contract that had to be settled out of court.

I hogtied that fucker and left him trussed up right in front of the local “web site.” And for the piece de resistance, I temporarily set aside my antipathy to the cliche and left a card attached to his back. On the front, there was a Happy Face with a caption: “Have a nice day,” and when opened, it said simply, “Enjoy.”

I can only speculate, gleefully, what thoughts were going through his head as he lay there, awaiting the return of Mr. and Mrs. Spider, who, no doubt, had worked up a nice appetite after a vigorous evening at the bowling alley.

But the captain had a moment of remorse. He wrote:

It’s a sad commentary on the state of affairs when one must resort to tactics of fear and intimidation in order to gain respect for the integrity of one’s body.

No such contrition exists within the captain when it comes to Gen-X’ers and their affection for their cigarette packs.

I was sitting quietly quaffing my brew when the clyde on my right started packing his squares; then the gurl on my left started packing hers, and then some loon behind me — yeah, same thing.

WACK, WACK, WACK, WHAM, WHAM, WHACK, WHAM. On and on. Sheeit! It was like Dolby Surround Cigarette Pack Wackin’ Sound. All around me. Man, gimme a fuckin’ break. What d’ya say?

I’m afraid one of these evenings I’m going to lose it. I can see the headline now: “Man goes amok. Whacks head off cigarette pack wacker.”

Few social commentators can rip away the pretense and false idol worship that tears at America’s soul like the captain. While the airwaves idiots indulge the masses with stupefying analysis of the stock market and e-commerce, the captain knows what moves men to insanity and thoughtful preoccupation with SUVs.

Find the importance in life; contact the captain at

Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at 816-218-6776 or

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