The Colonel

It was a hot summer day, the fires were burning all around us.The Pacheco Canyon fire
had been going for a week and a half. The Jemez fire had just started up, and we had been
getting smoke from the Wallow fire in Arizona for weeks. I pulled into the auto park on the 
south side of Santa Fe. A man stood by Cerrillos road at the entrance in olive green army
fatigues, shorts and a lightly decorated short sleeve shirt with a name on it, "Hughes". 
He spoke in a very fast drill sergeant voice. "Pull in, turn around, come out, I'm ready to go!" 
I do so and when he gets in the back seat he is talking a mile a minute. He's going to the northeast 
side of town, a nice neighborhood. "I've been at Kirkland Air Force Base all day, dealing with the 
choppers, I met the man who started this fire, it was a totally legal campfire. I have served in
Afghanistan, Iraq, and we are going into Pakistan, sixty people will die. You know those Navy Seals 
that went after Bin Laden? They report to me. All the Navy Seals report to me. Bin Laden is still alive.
He fell into the ocean, then his men came and got him. One time I fell out of a plane 400ft. into the 
ocean, I'm alive." At this point I thought OK, either he's psycho or interesting. He's interesting 
anyway, lives in a good neighborhood, probably has the cash or the $30.00 fare, hopefully. Anyway
I will humor him. " You reach maximum velocity pretty quick, don't you? Then it doesn't really
matter how far you are falling, you hit the water at the same speed." He says "one point five seconds
" Then he starts talking about how he cut his corrative artery the day before and had to stitch 
himself up, and he shows me the stitches in his arm, which looked like he probably did do himself.
He starts talking about Bush and Cheney like they are personal friends. And, he is talking about his 
men that he lost. He says he is very tired and he needs sleep, but seems totally manic. As we 
get close to his home he says that he collects Shelby’s, and I tell him that I have something 
to tell him that he might find interesting. He interrupts me with some other military trivia and then
later he comes back and says "You had something to tell me?" I said "Yes, my mother used to teach 
Art design at S.M.U." He interrupts me again and says "and Carole Shelby was one of her students?" 
I looked at him rather surprised, and said "You got it."At this point we were at his house. He asked 
me my name, I said Nial. He asked me to thank my commanding officer (my dispatcher). 
I keyed the mike on my handheld unit and said he could thank him.
He said thank you to my dispatcher and my dispatcher said "Thank you Colonel, did you accomplish your mission?" "It's Captain sir, it's Captain, keep it down!" Then he said to me, "You have accomplished your mission well sir". He hands me a platinum American Express and says "Put a $200.00 dollar tip on it for you." After I ran the credit card,( and it did clear), he said "Make it $300.00". Oh well, too late, that's ok. As he was leaving he stopped turned around and said "I would not salute George W. Bush. I would not salute Colin Powell. But I salute you Midol, or Nyquil, or whatever your name is. And, he did salute me! I took my hat off, and held it over my heart. Then I said "Hey, don't forget your credit card" He took it and flipped it into the bushes. I asked my dispatcher about him, because he seemed to know him, and he said "You should see him when he's off his medication!"

Stiffed in the Snow

I was going to pickup Geraldo at the Allsups across from Rodeo Nights, or Rodeo Fights as we called it, because there were fights there every Friday and Saturday night. It was a bar that catered mainly to the Hispanic and Mexican crowd. When I got to the Allsups three Mexicans got in the back seat. They were going to a trailer off Airport Rd. I had a rough night, I had been stiffed on a fare earlier in the night and had lousy fares all night long, I had been stuck in Zone 11 all night. Zone 11 is the poorer part of town, mainly trailers and illegal immigrants, domestic violence calls where the girlfriend calls you to get away from her boyfriend that is beating her up, a lot of alcohol deliveries, and drunks, lots of drunks. I had one bad call after another for hours and I was not in a good mood. When I got these three Mexican guys to there trailer they owed me 14 bucks. When I turned around to collect the money the guy on the left pulled out his wallet and showed me that it was empty with a big smile. Then the guy in the middle did the same thing, and then the guy on the right did too. They all smiled and said "No Dinero!" There I was, in front of their home and it was obvious that I was gonna get stiffed. But they weren't jumping, usually they jump at this point, but they hadn't even opened the door. A moment of brilliance hit me, and I punched it. I hauled ass out to Airport Rd. and started heading for the airport which is pretty far out of town. It was cold that night, about 22 degrees F. with snow on the ground. They started yelling "Where are you taking us?!!!" "I'm just taking you for a little ride, I'm sick and tired of dropping people off right at their house and getting stiffed on the fare. If you are not gonna pay me you are taking a little hike!" I pulled off into a field by the airport, slammed on the brakes and yelled "Get Out!" and they got out. Those three guys could have beat the crap out of me, but they just got out. As I was driving back into town I got on the radio which could be heard in every cab in Santa Fe by every driver and customer, and I said "Those guys were gonna stiff me on my fare, so I drove them way out Airport Rd. and dumped them in a field." Their was a long silence and I wondered if my dispatcher would be mad. Then finally the silence was broken. "Good Idea!" was the reply. This sorta sends a message to our customers. Don't mess with us. Then another cab driver comes on the radio, and he describes the trailer where I was dropping them off and asks if I picked them up at the Allsups at 130 am? I tell him "yes, that's them." He says,"You know, I've given them rides a bunch of times, they have always paid, and they usually tip pretty well, They're not bad guys." I think about it for a minute and tell my dispatcher I will go back and get them. I drive back out Airport Rd. and find them walking towards town. They run over to the cab, until they see that it is me, then they stop dead in their tracks. I roll down my window, and say "It's alright, I'm sorry, you just caught me on a really bad night, hop in, I'll take you home." We laughed our ass off all the way to their trailer, and they went inside and scrounged up the fare with a nice tip. Now whenever I pick them up, they're always waving money in my face and we laugh and laugh.