Richard Bostwick Reminiscences
Cab Driving Stories
My Silent Big Spender
There was a customer of our firm who used to call for me personally whenever he needed the services of a taxicab. I never knew what his name was, nor did I know how he knew mine. Nevertheless, he would have me drive him at least twice a week, sometimes more. The first time I had driven him he had not called for me personally, but after that he had. From that time on I was his personal cab driver.
The address I would pick him up at was a cheap hotel on the lower side of town. His destination was always the same-a wholesale bootlegger across the river where he would always buy a tin (one gallon) of alcohol. He would then have me drive him back to his hotel. He was quite a good-sized fellow who appeared to be in his early fifties. He also was of a very gruff and surely personality and never talked except to tell you where he wished to go. He was of some foreign nationality, whenever he did talk it was quite difficult to understand him due to his strong accent.
Now, whenever a passenger does not wish to carry on a conversation, you just keep quiet and drive. The best part about driving this fellow was the fact that at the end of each trip he would always give me a $1.00 tip, besides the .85 cent cab fare. This relationship between us went on for 6 or 8 months. I called hum my silent Big Spender.
There was never any conversation between us. After the frequency of our meeting as often as we did, you would think that he would at least pass the time of day. But no, he would only give me the address where he wished me to drive him-period. His silence did not bother me any. In fact, I sort of preferred it that way. Then one week he did not call me, nor did he call the next.
One evening some time later as I was at my cabstand, here came my Big Spender. I greeted him with a hello and asked him where he had been for so long. As was his custom, he answered me with a single word, “Jail.” I said that was too bad and that I was sorry to hear of it. He then just stood there for awhile without saying a word. I then asked him, “Do you want a cab? What can I do for you?” His one word answer to my query was, “Money.”
I then said, “What do you mean, money?” He replied, “Gi'me.” I reached in my pocket and offered him a quarter. I realized that it was far less than he had given me at any one time, but it was all I could spare. Besides, a quarter could buy a pretty good meal in those days. He looked at the quarter for a moment, then slapped it out of my hand, turned, and walked away. I picked up my quarter and looked after his as he disappeared down the street.
During the months I had driven this fellow he had given me in the neighborhood of $50 or $60 dollars in tips. This had been a very welcome addition to my salary. Believe me it had taken both tips and salary to support my family, and I had no extra cash to repay this man for his past generosity, even if I had wanted to. I felt sorry for him, just having gotten out of jail and all. But I had not solicited any of the tips he had given me, and it seemed quite unusual that he would want any of it back.
He continued to come around about once a week. He would always in a gruff voice demand “Money!” to which I would reply, “No got.” He would never say, “Give me back the money I gave you,” for that is what I surmised he wanted, but only the one word-money. I did feel obligated to him in a way for all the tips he had given me in the past. But he had done so out of generosity, for at no time was he ever drunk or not in control of his senses whenever I had driven him.
Whenever a passenger gives you an excessively large tip (like $1.00) it is usually for one of two reasons; they were very pleased with the way you drove them, or they wanted to win favor with you so you wouldn't tell anyone you had driven them or where you had driven them. With me, I always appreciated tips, large or small. But as to keeping the confidentiality of any trip I made, there was no need to bribe me with an oversized tip. I considered myself a good cab driver, and any good cab driver would never divulge any information regarding a passenger unless he was subpoenaed to do so.
These frequent appearances of this fellow started to get on my nerves, and I became a little apprehensive of him for he was beginning to get more belligerent and threatening each time I saw him. Then one morning I picked up the newspaper and on the front page was a story of a wholesale bootlegger across the river who had shot and killed an armed man last night who he claimed had attempted to rob him. The article also stated the victim was an ex-convict who had just recently been released from prison. The news item went on to give the victim's name-it was one of those names with several k's, y's, and z's in it that are so hard to pronounce. The end of the story is that I never saw my silent big spender again. I wonder.
Institute for Regional Studies Home Page
Published by the Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU