A day in the life of a retired cab driver
by Dell Franklin
I was cruising along the frontage road in north Morro Bay, bordering Highway 1, around 10 in the morning, having just hit the tennis ball for over an hour with a friend, and headed toward Spencer’s Supermarket, on my way home to Cayucos, when a very big Army green military-type van was suddenly coming up fast on me, and hugged my tail with an over-sized, rather menacing looking bumper. Driving a 13-year-old Toyota, I glimpsed in my rearview mirror at the driver, who owned a large, bulbous face and wild grey hair sprouting in various directions, like a nest of snakes. He was so close I feared he was going to ram me, and I was driving close to the speed limit—40mph.
He seemed pissed off, and I figured it was my KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD and GREENPEACE bumper stickers that had him riled. I’m pretty sure he saw me eyeing him in my rearview mirror, and he was kind of snarling, his mouth crooked, teeth flashing like some sort of carnivorous feral animal on the prowl. I guessed him to be around 55 or 60.
I kept my eye on him all the way down the road, slowing to 35 the last quarter mile, because I was not about to be intimidated by a bully, and he stayed right on my ass as I turned right into Spencer’s massive parking lot beside Taco Temple Restaurant and tooled slowly toward some parking spots while the van veered past me and then cut in front of me and wove between gaps of parked cars and halted in a spot. I took my time and parked a row over and sat and watched him get out of his car and head in long strides toward the market, eyeing me the whole time as I sat in my car with an extremely malignant, nodding, knowing glower. He wore black Army boots like those we wore in the 1960s, cut-off cargo pants with multi pockets, and a tank-top. He looked work strong, probably three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier and 10 years younger than me, and he was still twisting his big head of shoulder-length snakes in my direction as he ducked into the market.
There were big canisters on his vehicle, meaning he was probably some kind of survivalist living in the hills, growing crops and weed and sitting on a porch with a vicious guard dog and a rifle, and shooting anything that moved when he wasn’t hunting wild pigs to barbecue and share with his beast. This area, slow and tranquil as it is, can be deceiving. There are pockets of hermits, social outcasts, borderline outlaws, and anarchists living in sheds, motor homes and old dilapidated ranch cabins a few miles inland from the beach, who come in every week or so for provisions.
I walked toward the market, holding a biscuit for a dog named Cinnamon who sat mornings with a bunch of ancient military veterans wearing ball caps signifying their outfits when they were in wars and gave the biscuit to the dog before entering. Inside, I headed straight to the bakery to secure a muffin to have with my coffee and LA Times when I got home to my dog, Wilbur. After securing my muffin, I wandered toward the deli section, looking for something special in case I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and ran into Cloyd, an old pal who used to frequent Happy Jack’s Saloon, where I tended bar for eight years back in the 1990s.
Pudgy and grey, Cloyd has clerked in a Morro Bay liquor store for 25 years at least, lives frugally in a mobile home, takes a walk on the beach every other day, and otherwise lives a life of quiet, cautious contentedness. We exchanged greetings and questions as to our health, and he was telling me how it’s cheaper to get his blood pressure medicine through the VA than Medicare when the driver of the Army-mobile was suddenly directly in my face, inches away, as Cloyd, not a swift-reacting person, quickly moved away to a safe position.
The snake-head held a small basket for his purchases, while I held my cloth grocery bag. Up close, as he gazed into my eyes, I recognized crazed hostility. He tilted his head this way and that, as if to further appraise me. Cloyd peered at me in a manner questioning what was going on between us. Shoppers skirted us, aroused, concerned.
The guy’s eyes seemed to glitter and scoured every pore in my face, and then, shaking his head sadly, as if dealing with a hopeless idiot, he said, loud enough for Cloyd and everybody in the vicinity to hear, “You cut me off.” Before I could retort, he said, “You’re an asshole.” He flashed me one last look of disgust and contempt and walked off in those long strides.
Cloyd stepped over. “What was THAT all about?
“Hell if I know.”
I headed for the meat section. He was down there, too, looking over the burger meat. When he finished, I got my burger meat and some American cheese and frozen French fries. I spotted him heading to the check-out line. I was done, but I waited until he was out the door, then checked my stuff and walked toward my car, saw him standing arms-folded against his dusty, dirt-encrusted Army-mobile, waiting, watching me.
I got in my car. I took my time. He stared at me—ugly person out of an Appalachian horror movie. I started up. I drove slowly, in a crawl, turned down the lane where he stood against his Army-mobile, watched him straighten up as I approached. I slowed almost to a stop, rolled down my window, and issued him the finger, making sure to thrust it at him with conviction and hold it a few seconds to make my point, and rolled slowly away at a snail’s pace.
He came unglued, shook his fists and cursed me violently, spittle flying from his trap. He challenged me to get out and fight, ran after me in an awkward, unathletic gait as I cruised away staying just ahead of him while he foamed at the mouth and threatened my life. I pulled away very slowly, my finger still out the window, gazing at him in my side mirror as he finally halted, obviously winded.
He was waving his arms at me and delivering the finger like a madman as I turned onto the frontage road, my finger still out the window. Soon as I was out of view, I hit the gas. §
Dell Franklin also puts his fingers to good use as a writer, blogger and commentator from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog Wilbur. For more of Dell’s original writing, visit his website, dellfranklin.com, where this article first appeared.