Shuttling people around Concord is a fare game
Clint the cabbie’s mind is racing, faster than his cab on Interstate 93.
Let’s see, one of the cabs he’s responsible for, as the night dispatcher, is needed at Holly Street, near downtown, and that driver is still about 8 miles from the Hooksett toll.
Someone at the Concord Hospital emergency room needs a ride to North Main Street. Someone else wants to go from Margaritas Mexican Restaurant to the Heights. The guy from the Fort Eddy Road trailer park is being dropped off at Pit Road, and he has no cash.
Another fare is waiting for a ride to Presidential Oaks, and the couple outside the Barley House deserve quick attention because they’re regulars of this local taxi business.
Meanwhile, Cab 13, the insurance policy, the driver Clint thought he could count on in case things got too busy for his fleet of three on this pleasant Friday night, radios in and says he’s had a few beers and can’t help relieve the pressure.
Through it all, Clint, a civil engineer with a wife and three small children, keeps his focus, remaining cool like the air that has finally replaced that darn humidity.
“Good evening,” Clint says, over and over and over into his car radio. “Main Street Taxi.”
He’s affable yet quiet, preferring that his last name not be used for this column. He drives a cab on Friday nights only, helping his old Concord High buddy, Mike Williams, who owns Main Street Taxi, and earning some extra cash in the process.
The two washed dishes together 25 years ago at a local Chinese restaurant, and Clint, now 44, drove a cab for Williams from 1999 through 2006, back when Williams owned Concord Cab and Clint was doubling as a college student.
As Williams’s dispatcher, Clint does more than pick up fares. “It can be stressful,” Clint says, near the start of his 12-hour shift. “I wouldn’t want to do it during the day, with all the calls and the traffic.”
The tools of his trade include a Bluetooth headset in his right ear; an old-fashioned, flip-up cell phone that lights up a second before a loud ring fills the inside of the cab, transferring the call to his headset; and a CB radio and its microphone, which Clint holds in his right hand, clicks the side button and instantly looks like a cop radioing in to the station.
In fact, even the cabbie lingo is cop-like.
That means taking a break, perhaps to get a coffee or stretch your legs.
That means I heard you, I got it, roger and out, that sort of thing.
As for fares, Clint, of course, drives the drinking crowd home, although on this night no one stands out as being particularly colorful. Not like the guy who, while riding with a group of his buddies after a night of partying, threw up on the passenger side door.
“All over it,” Clint said. “I had to clean it up.”
There are regulars, like Rose Prescott and Melinda Conrad, two middle-aged Concord women with the spirit and energy of girls gone wild. They travel together, to Ireland, England, the Bahamas, and they eat together, Friday nights at The Red Blazer Restaurant.
Prescott is blind, so Clint gently helps her into his minivan and the laughter begins to fly.
“Yikes, 30 plus years,” Prescott says, when asked how long the two have been friends.
“Thelma and Louise,” Conrad says, comparing the duo to the famous gun-packing women from the movie.
When Clint arrives at Prescott’s home, she continues talking, at which time Conrad says, “Get the hell out already, Rose.”
Everyone in the cab laughs, then Clint escorts Prescott to her front door.
There are also family fares, like Cathy McLaughlin and her 11-year-old son, Donny, who traveled here from New Jersey for this weekend’s NASCAR races, and who needed a ride to a nearby Walmart because Donny had an allergic reaction to bug spray.
Through friendly conversation, mother and son learn that the Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Jackson, N.J., near their home, is named after the Concord High teacher who lost her life 27 years ago, in the shuttle disaster that made Concord a national story.
And we learn that the driver knew McAuliffe.
“Had her for social studies,” Clint says.
The sun is still up, and Clint has time to chat with passengers, but that all changes an hour after sundown, at about 10 p.m.
That’s when the calls spill in, forcing Clint to multitask. He takes calls, jots messages down on the pad attached to his dash and radios the assignments to his colleagues. Someone is waiting at the Makris Lobster and Steakhouse, someone at the Tea Garden Restaurant, someone at Tedeschi’s, someone at the Holiday Inn, someone at a home in Northfield.
“Some drivers get a little tense if I have to call them back like three times,” Clint notes.
If he’s tense, you don’t know it. He’s on until 5 a.m., and the calls slow down after midnight, when Clint parks behind the TD Bank lot off North Main Street, switches on the Red Sox game (they’re on the West Coast) and chats with the other drivers in his fleet.
It’s a welcome break.
But the early-morning rush, the post last-call crowd, is ready and waiting, near 2 a.m.
“Good evening. Main Street Taxi.”