©1996 by Bill Appledorf
In 1976, I returned to Vancouver from Victoria and went back to work for the Georgia Straight. The choice Kitsilano delivery route Luella and I had been driving before we left for Quadra Island in 1973 had long ago been taken over by another guy. This time I got a route that covered a large geographical area and didn't do a heck of a lot of business in Burnaby, Coquitlam, and New Westminster. I was lucky to get a route at all, but Sharky needed someone to build up circulation on the worst possible route in town, and I happened along just as the guy who had it before me quit.
The 1965 Volkswagen van Luella and I had fixed up and used to do the Buy & Sell Press and Georgia Straight routes we drove was history as well. A model citizen on Quadra Island by the name of Dan bought it from me for $400 when the universal joint on it rusted out. He could have helped me fix it, but I was nothing to him - still a tourist in his eyes, only having lived on the island for a couple of years, and a drugged up hippie to boot - so he took advantage of my ignorance about drive trains to acquire a beautiful van he could give to his son for cheap. I thought it would cost a good thousand dollars to repair it, but Dan knew it was a $15 job, and he kept his mouth shut. I tried to be fair and figured what it would take to fix it - which was way more than I had - into the selling price. When Sharky said I could work for him again, I bought a 1965 Chevy II for $250 and drove my paper route with that.
I couldn't make enough money driving that route to pay my rent, so I quit and went to work driving flower delivery in a step-van for a small cartage company in Vancouver called Delco Carriers. I did that job until a couple of friends of mine who had gotten student loans to go to music school at Vancouver Community College (VCC) talked me into going with them. Joe and Denis were professional musicians. They'd been playing in clubs for years. I was just a guy who wished he knew how to play guitar, but they insisted I belonged there, too, and by some miracle, when I applied, I got a student loan.
First semester I learned the fundamentals of music theory, and I studied hard. My grades, though, were "A" in theory and "F" in performance, because I couldn't play worth a damn and my technique sucked. I can't say I left Vancouver because I wasn't doing well in school, but there certainly was no feeling of success or belonging to hold me there. I wasn't talented enough to succeed as a musician, and when I got the second installment of my student loan, I threw my things in my car and drove to San Francisco.
Before I actually drove out of Vancouver, I flew down to San Francisco to see if I really felt like moving there. My sister, who has been in the credit card promotion business since 1956, happened to be handling a new credit card for United Airlines while I was going to VCC. One day one of those UAL credit cards materialized in my mailbox with my name imprinted on it. I never asked my sister how I got that card. I used it to fly to San Francisco during Christmas break.
For the almost seven years I had been living in Canada, I had never once set foot in the United States. I stayed away because I didn't want to get arrested - because I was afraid of being fucked in the ass in jail - but also because I saw myself as a patriot and conceived of myself as having sacrificed my advantages and gone into exile to resist the immorality and insanity of war. I felt obligated philosophically to live out the consequences of my choice, to make my war resistance statement clearly and without equivocation, so I stayed away.
But in 1975, in Victoria, I read that Senator Kennedy had made public the list of war resisters for whom stood outstanding arrest warrants, and I learned when I inquired that my name wasn't in that book. I actually inquired to confirm that I had been properly credited with having dodged the draft, and I was disappointed to learn that I hadn't made the "Galactic Honor Roll". I wrote the U.S. Attorney in Boston, where my draft dodging case would have been filed, to verify whether my name was overlooked, and I learned that the case had been dropped against me in 1973 because I was nowhere to be found. I was actually free to travel into the United States anytime after 1973, but it was not until 1977, when I got the second installment of that student loan that I had enough money to go.
I could see the United States from Victoria. You can look across the Juan de Fuca Straight from Beacon Hill Park at night and see the lights of Port Angeles, Washington. The first time I looked across and saw the United States I got all choked up and misty eyed about the extent of the personal sacrifice I had made to play the role of Resister in the madness of the War. I cried for the price Luella had paid, as well.
I understood myself when I moved to Canada entirely as battling political abstractions a million steps removed from the realities of ordinary life. I experienced myself with reference to the images of politicians and their world, not the feelings of people I could hear and see and touch. I was alone and didn't know it, and I lived inside my head, until Luella's suicide, then the world came crashing in.
For the first time in my life, after Luella killed herself, I realized life is really happening, that it is not a sweeping abstract philosophical debate, that I am not the only one who feels things deeply and is scared and can be hurt. But no matter how clearly I understood the lesson of Luella's suicide - that I am one small ordinary person in a world of people small and ordinary just like me - it drove me crazy constantly that nothing I could ever do would bring her back. I never realized what really counts in life until Luella took her own, and I cried every step of the way as I began to see through my misconceptions and my walls, because I couldn't accept that it was necessary for her to kill herself before I was able to open up my eyes.
I flew from Vancouver to San Francisco to see if I'd like to move there the exact same day that amnesty was given to draft dodgers by the government in the United States. I found the idea of those bastards giving me amnesty despicable, because to accept their forgiveness would amount to my agreeing with them that having evaded the draft was a crime, not the plainly moral and correct thing it had been to do. But that day, the day I boarded a plane to fly into the United States for the first time in seven years, the headline on every newspaper stated, "Amnesty for Draft Dodgers". I was very annoyed, and embarrassed, too, because I wanted it to be known that it wasn't amnesty that drew me back. It was just a strange coincidence. But that coincidence also felt to me as though huge historical forces had converged somehow in the events of my life. This, I think, is what that counselor at UCLA in 1967 was talking about when she wrote that I experienced ideas of reference.
I took the Airporter bus from San Francisco International Airport to the Greyhound terminal at 6th and Mission, and I walked over Nob Hill to the Cafe Trieste in North Beach. I walked there because the Cafe Trieste was the only place in San Francisco I had ever heard of. Years previously in Venice Beach my friend Harold Norse spoke highly of the Cafe Trieste as a place where artists and writers gathered. It felt like a destination. I imagined I would find friends there. When I arrived, of course, all I found were a few people reading the paper and drinking coffee. I was not exactly welcomed. I was hardly even noticed.
I got drunk out of my mind at the bars in North Beach that night and met a few of the regulars at the Grant Street Saloon and the Coffee Gallery. These drunks were Americans my age or a few years older, and after having lived for 7 years in Canada, I felt like I'd come home. It was all in my imagination, of course. Six months later, I quit drinking altogether and was sick of the over-inflated outcast mentality that so enamored me at first when I discovered the bars in North Beach. But for the moment, while I felt like a stranger living among the Canadians because we thought so differently, these people that I met in San Francisco impressed me as kindred spirits. They talked about and cared about the same things that were always on my mind. The duplicity of the American government and feeling alienated from the mass society were as real to them as they were real to me. I flew back to Vancouver, threw my things in the car, and drove to San Francisco.
San Francisco, in my mind, before I actually lived there long enough to experience the reality of the place, was simply what I invented and imagined it to be. I projected my dream, in other words, of living in a place where everyone considers the effects on everybody else of everything they do . But San Francisco is like every other place. Every type of person lives there, and a lot of people are not particularly concerned with anyone but themselves.
San Francisco to me, as a city, once I got beyond my initial fantasy of the place, came across as emotionally cold, in some cases downright rude, unrelentingly urban, and ridiculously overpriced. Mind you, everybody looks for different things, and the mystique of the City, with all its possibilities for anonymity or notoriety, is enough to reinforce some people's fantasy of having class and being on top of the world. But I came to San Francisco seeking warmth and understanding. I was tired of being bad-mouthed by women who didn't know a thing about me, and I had almost arrived in my understanding at a place of genuine humility. I can't say I met too many people who were motivated much like me. Just about all anyone I encountered wanted was to get off.
When I first got to town, I didn't even live in San Francisco. I stayed in the East Bay for a while working at a job I got through EDD filing motions and pleadings for a crotchety old land baron in San Pablo by the name of E.A. "Tex" Taliaferro. He made a career out of dragging his enemies through the courts for years and years. There are actually two laws in the California Code that the legislature passed in part to keep him in particular out of the courts. One is called "Vexatious Litigant". The other is called "Frivolous Appeal". His name is in the points and authorities for both of those laws. I know, because my job included pouring though his law books looking for points and authorities for the pleadings for the cases I was working on for him. He used people off the street like me to file his pleadings because he was too cheap to use a lawyer. I quit that job when we went to court and I realized that his adversary was absolutely innocent of anything at all, that Taliaferro was actually harassing her. He thought he had a case, but all he had was a wild imagination and a ton of greed. Taliaferro when I knew him could hardly see, could hardly stand, could hardly write his name. He was an old coot about 83 years old held together by braces and stabilized by canes. But he was every bit as ornery on his way into his grave as he apparently had been throughout his cantankerous life, and I had the pleasure of working for him for about 3 months.
I rented a room for a couple of months in Oakland from a friend from the old days in LA who went by the name of Monserrat. He rented a house across the street from Muktananda's ashram and spent a lot of time chanting Om Nama Shivaya. One afternoon, his other roommate and I dropped two hits of LSD I had brought back with me from Canada and took the bus from Oakland to San Francisco. Half way into town on the Oakland Bay Bridge the acid began to work on us, and our conversation immediately started sounding very strange. I have no idea what we were talking about, but people all around us started looking at us as though they wanted to see what was going on but they didn't want us to notice they were looking. San Francisco was bright and sunny that day. It was early Spring. I remember being God that afternoon in a little park on California Street just across from the Grant Street entrance to China Town.
When my rent ran out at Monserrat's, I took a room at the Tevere Hotel, upstairs from the Cafe Trieste. The room included a bed and a 3rd floor window overlooking the Grant Street Saloon. At 2 o'clock in the morning on nights when bikers parked their motorcycles in a line that stretched from Columbus Avenue to Green Street, and they all started up at closing time, the racket was extreme. Every morning, I had a Cafe Latte and an almond croissant downstairs in the Cafe Trieste. The caffeine in that espresso wrenched my bowels as though I'd breakfasted on laxatives. I don't mean to complain about this. It's part of drinking coffee.
At least a hundred people, mostly Chinese immigrants I couldn't talk to but could only smile and nod a lot with, lived in the Tevere hotel. Each person inhabited a tiny cubicle about 10' by 10'. Actually, a number of hotels in North Beach packed a ton of people in like that, and only a few did not. A couple of guys I met drinking coffee told me a room was available at the Avenue Hotel one day, and I grabbed it. The room was spacious compared to the Tevere. Maybe 20 people lived in the Avenue Hotel, mostly elderly Italian men who stood around in front of the Portofino bar downstairs smoking Parodi stogies evaluating one another's views. I stayed in a 3rd floor room in the Avenue Hotel for a couple of years.
The first job I had in San Francisco was working as a name compiler for a company in Arizona that was marketing a book called something like, "How to Succeed in Business by Being a Total Son-of-a-Bitch". I found that job in the classified section of the newspaper. The people I worked for had me read the Daily Record, which is San Francisco's legal newspaper, every day and write down the names of people filing fictitious business name statements. They paid me 10 cents a name for people starting businesses and for people filing bankruptcy. They paid me more, maybe 25 cents a name, for people running for elected office. Well, Luella had taught me back on the Buy and Sell Press route how to fiddle the numbers to squeeze out an extra couple of bucks, so I was submitting what you might call "variations" of the names I found in the paper.
For example, if John Quincy Smith started a business, I submitted John Smith at his home address, J.Q. Smith at his business address, J. Quincy Smith at his home address, and John Q. Smith at his business address. Even at that, I was starving. I tried to supplement my income by playing music on the street, but the money wasn't good there either.
It took a couple of months for my employer to realize what was going on with the names, and when they did, I received an envelope bearing their logo addressed to William Appledorf. Inside was a letter addressed to W. Appledorf. The body of the letter was addressed to Bill Appledorf, and it indicated my services would no longer be required. Interestingly, years later, in Sacramento, the name of the woman who signed that letter caught my eye in a People Magazine I was thumbing through at the barber shop - or maybe it was the vet. She and her husband, very wealthy people, were going through a high profile divorce. Lots of money at stake. In the photo in People Magazine she wore a lot of jewelry and expensive clothes.
I hung out at the Vesuvio bar, next door to Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights bookstore. I even worked mornings at the Vesuvio for a while after Leo Rigler, the morning bartender, got to know me and offered me a job. He let me work his shift with him for half the tips so he didn't have to do anything and could play liar's dice all morning. He gave me a sheet listing the ingredients in all the fancy drinks no one ever orders, and he showed me how to stock and run and clean and tend the bar. I'm a good worker. I do a good job at anything I do. But I have a nasty habit of telling people what I think. In this case, I was encouraging the morning trade to go outside, enjoy the sunshine, and get some air instead of sitting indoors drinking beer. Needless to say, I was fired from that job fairly quickly, but during that period of time when I was hanging out at Vesuvio's, I met a number of taxi drivers, and these guys all kept telling me that taxicab driving is easy money and encouraging me to drive.
When I lived on Quadra Island, I had driven taxi briefly for Rowley's Cab in Campbell River, but that job only lasted until the boss found out I wasn't giving people their change. Loads in Campbell River basically fell into one of two categories: $1.90 rides carting seriously drunk individuals from one of the two giant watering holes (pubs, beer halls) located at either end of town to the other, or $1.90 runs to the liquor store to buy liquor for individuals too drunk to leave the house. My debonair style with these customers was to accept the $2 bill they paid with, stuff it in my shirt and jauntily declare, "Thank you!" without giving them their dime. I also drove the Quadra Island taxi one Thanksgiving and almost tore the floor boards off the owner's car trying to drive over a tree that had fallen across the road on the way to Granite Bay.
But taxi driving in San Francisco? I didn't feel too comfortable with that. No matter how many guys tossed $20 bills around in front of me like dimes or reassured me taxi driving wasn't to be feared, I couldn't see it, and I didn't dare to go. Eventually, of course, I did go to work for Yellow Cab, but before I did, I still had to experience tending bar for the hardest of the hard core alcoholics at conventions at the Galleria.
The job was serving awful drinks in plastic cups for a guy I met at Gino and Carlo's bar before I quit drinking alcohol myself. He was one of these guys who hung out at Gino and Carlo's and drank a six pack of Beck's dark for breakfast every morning thinking nothing of it. I believed I drank pretty heavily when I frequented Gino and Carlo's, but the people who drank there gave me an education in what heavy drinking is. It is a form of violence that prowls in your body, finds you, kills you, and replaces you with a howling animal. I walked off the bartending job at the Galleria when one too many suited psychopaths took it upon himself to abuse me verbally. He attacked me out of boredom and to compensate for a lifetime of being a loser who couldn't respect himself. What the hell. Money isn't everything. I tried one last job before I went to Yellow Cab.
A guy who hung out at the Vesuvio had a job doing maintenance at the Canterbury Hotel on Sutter Street. "Easy money," he told me, leaning forward over a table eagerly, paint spots in his hair and beard. So I went to work in the housekeeping department of the Canterbury Hotel. I worked for a Filipino guy named Ben who taught me a little Filipino and showed me how to clean up around the hotel. One day he gave me a hacksaw and told me to remove a padlock from a locker. I noticed I could get the blade to sound like the voices of a man and a woman going at it in a serious way. So I started fooling around with that to entertain myself while I sawed away. "Uhhh, huh-huh huh-huh huh-huh.... Ahhh, ee-hee ee-hee ee-hee..." Like that. Well, Filipino women, at least at that hotel at that particular time, were a bit embarrassed by outward intimations of sexuality like that, and Ben had to ask me if I could do the job more quietly. Naturally, I obliged, but I did manage to get fired from the Canterbury a couple days after that, when I vacuumed the tops of the dryers in the laundry in the basement. Everything went fine until I bumped a sprinkler by mistake. Interestingly, the flood didn't occur immediately. It took about a half a day for that sprinkler finally to give way, and when it did, and the rest of the sprinklers in the basement followed, I was on the street again.
I drove taxi for Yellow Cab in San Francisco from probably September, 1978, to April, 1980. That was the first time in my life I made anything like a decent wage, and it was fun as hell. Driving taxi is like playing Beat the Clock. There is cash scattered all around the city, and you get a taxicab for 10 hours to drive around and collect as much of that money as you can. When the dispatcher raised his gate to let me drive out of the lot, I would feel like I was flying a jet plane. The road was mine, the world was mine. I'd check in with the radio dispatcher on my way out of the lot, and where the order was determined where I'd drive.
Everyone should be drafted to drive taxi for 6 months. There would be far less violence in the world and far more understanding if we were. Everyone would wake up to how different people are. We would all realize that no one "knows better", that everyone is exactly who they are, that everyone puts their best foot forward, and that no one tries deliberately to be an asshole. When a passenger steps into your cab, you enter the entirety of another person's world. Thoughts, values, feelings, everything is revealed. Ten minutes later that person steps out of your cab, and someone else completely different gets in. It's amazing how unaware of one another people are. When you drive a taxi, you learn to recognize that not everyone's priorities are the same as yours.
About a year before I applied for my taxi driver's license, I had sold my Chevy II. San Francisco is a terrible place to own a car, because there is absolutely nowhere to park. That's why San Francisco is such an excellent city to drive taxi. Even people who own cars use cabs to travel in the city, and a lot of people find they're better off not even owning a car. I sold mine because it cost so much to park, and I found that taking the bus and taxicabs was easier than finding a parking spot.
Before I sold my car, however, I had accumulated about $200 worth of parking tickets that I had never paid. When I went to the police station to apply for my taxi driver's license, the cops turned up all the warrants out for me because of those tickets. Fortunately, I had the money to pay them off, and the cops let me go to the bank and get it instead of locking me up in jail. I'd forgotten all about those tickets, naturally, and when the cops showed me the pile of warrants out for me, we were all equally surprised. The one guy in particular, who sort of fanned those warrants against his hand and asked me if I knew anything about them, had a look on his face that was a mixture of incredulity, kindness, and - I can't say anger, but - offense. I was a parking ticket offender, and I had walked right into the police station where all my parking tickets were on file. I'm glad I didn't realize what I was getting into. It might have prevented me from applying to drive cab.
Not everyone drives a taxicab the same. Some drivers like to play the airport, waiting in line for hours hoping for that $150 ride to Sacramento. Others play downtown picking hails up off the street, turning so many $3.00 rides over in an hour they can't remember anyone who's ridden in their car. A lot of drivers play the hotels, waiting in long lines hoping for an airport ride. I liked to play the radio. Yellow Cab does an enormous telephone business all over the City of San Francisco, and I would work entire shifts sometimes never going anywhere near the parts of town tourists and most cab drivers visualize when they think of San Francisco.
Hour after hour, the radio dispatcher read what seemed to be an endless list of intersections over the radio. Each intersection represented one telephone order for a taxicab. If you took a right turn at one of the intersections the radio dispatcher read, you would be on the correct block for a particular order with the address on your right. Whenever a driver thought he was close to an order and wanted it, he would give his taxicab number and the intersection in front of the nose of his taxicab to the dispatcher over the radio. The dispatcher - his name was Kurt - had the uncanny ability to select from a crowd of 100 hollering taxicab drivers the one closest to any particular order and assign it to that driver. A lot of drivers thought Kurt played favorites, which he didn't, and you'd see them cruise by making sure you had really checked in closer to an order assigned to you than they had.
The key to success playing the radio is knowing where you are. I learned street names backwards and forwards so no matter which direction I was riding in, if an intersection close to me came up on the radio, I could grab my microphone immediately, stretch my position maybe 6 or 8 blocks, and get the order. After about 6 months on the job, I started being assigned newer and nicer cars, because I was taking a lot of orders off the radio, and it's good for business for the call-in trade to be getting rides in clean, new cars.
If I dropped a load at the airport, I wouldn't get in line and wait to get a ride back into town. I would take one fast illegal cruise around the upper deck hoping to get a hail back into town, which every now and then I would. Then I'd drive out onto Highway 101, check-in coming out of the airport empty, and pick up anything I could get off the radio. I figured if the caller could dial the phone and was there when the cab arrived, chances were pretty good they wanted a ride and were not just in the mood to kill someone. Consequently, I picked up in the projects at Hunter's Point, where taxicab drivers had been murdered in the past; Potrero Hill, where taxicab drivers also had been murdered; projects in the Western Addition; and any other nasty neighborhood just about no one cared to go.
I got a lot of good loads out those projects - rides from the Outer 3rd to downtown, rides from Hunter's Point to the Western Addition. I also picked up tons of rides out of the deep Sunset, Park Merced, College Hill, Silver Avenue, the Ingleside, Portola, and so on, coming out of the airport empty. There were plenty of airport loads on the radio, too, and I even got a $100 ride to Pittsburg out of Alemany Blvd and Ocean Ave one night.
I established myself with the radio dispatchers as someone who would drive cross-town to pick up a load no one else checked in for. I would ride for a load even if it was only for a couple of bucks, because I liked to keep the taxi moving. I hated sitting still, and until I became so familiar with every geographical feature of the City that I started to feel like a rat running around in a cage, I was fascinated by the routes that connected one neighborhood with another and how to get from A to B.
Yellow Cab was managed with an iron fist by a guy with the name Jim Steele. Even before I went to work driving for Yellow Cab, I heard his name at Vesuvio's, always laden with fear on the part of the driver who mentioned it. Apparently this guy was selected by the owners to be their General Manager precisely because he was the toughest cookie they could find. I imagined this guy looked like a foreman on an oil rig, talked like a heavyweight boxer, and would physically intimate you just by looking in your direction. Jim Steele. Even his name was hard and cold. The list of drivers he had fired without a blink was long and known by every serious taxicab driver in San Francisco. Every time I heard his name, I shook. He had to be the meanest guy in town.
One night I picked up a girl on College Hill about 11:30 pm and gave her a ride to the offices of Yellow Cab at the corner of 8th and Townsend. She answered the phone for the night dispatcher and was on her way to work. She paid me cash for the ride and told me, when I asked, that the company didn't reimburse her for the fare. It came to $10 including tip.
I got mad at the company. I made as much in a night as she made in a week, and she was paying me $10 out of her pocket for a ride to work. Other companies, like Pacific Bell and a lot of banks and other businesses in the Financial District, bought vouchers from cab companies and gave them to their employees to use for transpo back and forth to work. This girl was travelling at night from a part of town that, even if the buses ran that late, I wouldn't want to stand out in, especially if I was a girl, and the company wasn't paying for her ride. So I got on the radio.
Yes, this was a big mistake, but what did I know. In my mind I was Knight of the Streets. I had tried once before to use the radio not for company business and had been sternly warned not to try it again. I had come upon an accident with people lying all over the road and asked the dispatcher to call an ambulance. I saw myself, as a taxi driver, as a protector of the thoroughfares. The road was mine to drive and to mind, sort of like a cop, but not exactly. I took pride in my work is all. Anyway, I started yelling at the dispatcher about what a son-of-a-bitch the boss was for not paying for this girl's ride. After the smoke had cleared and I was unemployed, a friend of mine at Vesuvio's said the girl was probably looking to make ten bucks off me by telling me the company didn't pay. In other words, I would let her ride for free, and the company would pay her the ten bucks.
So I'm in trouble. Banned from the radio. Well, without the radio I can't make a dime, so I brought the taxi in. Next day I tried to go out again, and the dispatcher wouldn't let me have a car. I told him the radio dispatcher counts on me to handle the business where nobody wants to drive. He made a call upstairs, and I got a car. "Hey," I thought, "they really need me after all."
The following day when I tried to go out again, I couldn't get a car. Apparently the radio dispatcher didn't recognize my name when, upon his arrival the previous evening, he was asked how critical my contribution to the operation was. "Mr. Steele wants to talk to you," the dispatcher told me, and I went upstairs.
The stairwell was cold. Pale blue cinder blocks, bare aluminum rails. At the top of the stairs was a fire door you could only open from inside. It swung open. Nate, the office manager, didn't say anything to me. He just looked at me like he didn't know me and led me into a small conference room where I was to wait for Mr. Steele.
Jim Steele is a good man. Running a taxi company in any town under any circumstances isn't easy. You've got to be able to fire people and not think much about it. There are too many liabilities to go easy on drivers who jeopardize the business. Drivers tend to do what makes sense to themselves. You see a lot of stupid things when you run a cab company.
He walked in and was nothing like what his name had conjured in my mind. Jim Steele was about 5' tall. He was crippled, apparently by polio, and wore braces on both legs. He wore coke-bottle glasses and twisted himself forward on those canes that go up around your wrists and have handles that you lean on. He was not a picture of vitality and strength.
"Who do you think you are?" Jim Steele asked me in an angry voice.
I said, "Bill Appledorf." Now this is the guy I was yelling about on the radio a couple of nights before calling a son-of-a-bitch.
"Who do you think you are?" he asked in a considerably louder voice.
"Who do you think you are?" he yelled at the top of his lungs.
"Bill Appledorf," I said as if to say, "Who do you think I am?"
"You think you're so big and tough," he said, and immediately I understood what was going on.
I've been punished on more than one occasion in my life for accepting someone else's insecurities. At Motorola in Scottsdale I reassured a guy who didn't know beans about managing a Tandem computer system that I would be there to back him up, and the way I said it, encouraging him not to panic, humiliated him when what I meant to do was put his mind at ease. It isn't easy for a lot of people to admit to themselves what their feelings are. The fangs we show in many instances are not even a manifestation of fear. Sometimes they express our dissatisfaction with ourselves. Jim Steele had been handpicked by the owners to safeguard their interests with an attitude like ice, and I saw into the man and smiled. My heart softened, and I said, "Hey. It's all right. I understand."
Jim Steele looked at me with such hatred and moved towards me in a way I thought he'd kill me. "You son of a bitch," he screamed at me. I don't know if he said he would like to kill me. It doesn't matter. I knew where he was coming from, and I forgave him for it, but he hated me - hated me - for what I'd seen. I was fired, of course, and went to work for Veteran's cab for about a month, but the money wasn't the same, and it wasn't long before I left town altogether with a pile of $20 bills I'd accumulated driving Yellow Cab.
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