by Leonard Gill
Ever consider saying to hell with it, I'll drive a cab? Consider, first, the following statements:
1) "Whew! Those people are crazy."
2) "What is this place?"
3) "Where did Jesus live?"
4) "Knmlknas, nonss wjosl and mpoi, cvosie." And ...
5) "My son is crazy."
Now consider the source: It's cab driver Eddie Tucker quoting from the tales that Tucker tells at taxistory333.blogspot.com. (Tales, some of them, that were also featured in a Memphis Flyer cover story in February 2011.) Those tales have now been collected in a book Tucker calls Taxi Tales from the Streets of Memphis (CreateSpace, in paperback for $19.95).
Tucker was kind of cut out to drive a cab. His father once drove one in Philadelphia, and Tucker, a graphic designer by training and trade, has too since his client list fell into the single digits. Make that one digit: one client. But he still works as a designer and painter. He was once the creative director for the Archer Malmo advertising firm. His posters for the Blues Foundation music awards are instantly recognizable. He designed the logo for the National Civil Rights Museum. And he operated his own design business for nearly 20 years until … well, let Tucker explain:
"You can thank George Bush and the stinking Republicans for creating the greatest economic crisis since 1929."
And you can thank Eddie Tucker for reminding readers what an international ridership there is here in Memphis. In the space of a day, Tucker recalls a tourist from Ireland, a doctor from India, a student from Russia, and another doctor, this one from Nigeria.
Other passengers aren't so international. They're strictly homegrown, and they're often drunk or itching to get drunk. Or they're shopping for groceries. Or they're going to work. Or to the airport.
There are Memphians here whose names you'll maybe recognize. There are also Memphians here whom Tucker wisely doesn't name. Still you may know them. Why, you too could be in these pages. Or in Eddie Tucker's future blog posts (and future books).
Here, then, are some rules of the road to remember if you find yourself inside a Yellow Cab driven by a no-nonsense portly gentleman:
Don't get caught in Tucker's backseat without the voucher you claim is covering the cost of your ride and then give Tucker a hard time about your not having it. (Your next stop could be the nearest police precinct.)
Don't call a Yellow Cab simply yellow. (It's Swamp Holly Yellow, for maximum visibility.)
Weaponry inside the cab? Sort of. (Tucker carries a taser.)
Yes, as Tucker explains in one of his musings, the word "gentleman" does indeed often follow the word "portly." (Which is how Tucker describes himself. I real gentleman when the occasion warrants is what I'd call him.)
And now, here's a key to Eddie Tucker's cast of characters quoted at the beginning of this column, in this our "fare" city:
1) Woman, after leaving a party at a by-the-hour motel on South Bellevue.
2) Tucker's question posed outside a building on Madison. Passenger's reply: "Methadone clinic."
3) No, not a tourist seeking the whereabouts in Memphis of the Son of God. Correct answer: "He lived near the sea and in the olive groves. That's where he got his nourishment." So said the woman who recommended Tucker take cod liver oil for his cough.
4) No, not some Slavic language. These are the words (in English!) out of the mouth of a Memphis woman when she climbed into Tucker's cab. The one word he understood: "and."
5) Eddie Tucker's mother.