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“You consider yourself liberal or conservative?”
That’s the question Dredge*, my cab driver, asked as we -- my co-worker and I -- drove toward the Dallas** airport on the morning I was scheduled to fly back home.
“Liberal, I guess,” I answered.
“You wanna hear a story?” Dredge asked and then immediately reconsidered. “No, no. I shouldn’t tell you that. If I tell you that story, you’re gonna think badly of me. No, no, no. I don’t want to do that; I want you to come back.”
“You have to tell me the story now,” I said. And with that, Mike launched into the most amazingly unbelievable story of the many amazingly unbelievable stories he’d told me during my three-day Dallas work trip.
* As you've probably guessed by now, Dredge isn't the drivers real name. I changed it because, well, if you read this whole thing, you'll find out why I changed it.
** Dallas isn't the city where this actually took place, either.
Dredge became my regular means of transportation after he’d driven me to an open mic in the downtown area and back to my hotel – a good 15 miles away – for about a third of the cost I’d been quoted by other drivers. Dredge even watched my set at open mic, positioning himself in the back other room and smoking one of his many tiny cigars while I told a bunch of strangers my thoughts on middle-age, my recent marriage and nurses touching old mens' tips.
It wasn’t until we headed back to the hotel that I really got to experience Dredge’s penchant for storytelling. I was only half paying attention when Dredge said something along the lines of, “And she said, ‘No, I don’t want you to park the car and give us some privacy. You’re my driver, and I want you to drive around while I have sex with this man in the back of your car.’” From there, I was all ears, and Dredge regaled with tales ranging from his first date at age 17 (his friend set him up and didn’t tell him the girl had no nose until the last moment, which forced Dredge to spend an awkward day at Bush Gardens) to his many trips to Thailand (I used to go three times a year ...).
Dredge started the trip by talking about some of his regular customers: "I have this medical professional comes down a few times every year, and I always get him cocaine because I know some people. This guy goes off in the woods ... in these cabins somewhere and teaches these ... these holistic wellness retreats. The whole thing he's coked out of his f$cking mind. You believe that shit?" I'm wasn't sure if I did or not, but the stories were more entertaining than anything that had happened in Dallas up to that point, so I urged him to continue.
"I pick up these swingers one week; a married couple and one of their friends. The thing about these swingers is, they don't mind sharing, but they have rules, too. You can't do anything without any of them there," Dredge said as a lead-in to another story. "So one night I get a call to pick up these swingers, only it's just the girls -- not the husband. The wife says, 'Dredge, we're going to f$ck some men tonight,and I want you to tell my husband we're out shopping.' Well, they stay out shopping until one ... two in the morning and the husband's calling me every ten minutes wondering where they are."
"You should write a book about all this," I tell Dredge.
"I did. I'm just trying to pick out the right cover for it."
He's right. If the majority of people didn't judge a book by its cover, then publishers would be perfectly comfortable with nothing but the carefully thought-out title printed on the cover, beckoning prospective readers to trust their instincts. But we're visual creatures, even those of us who prefer the printed page to the television. I suggest a cover that shows Dredge standing proudly outside of the driver's side of his cab, arms crossed, while a pair of legs leading to high-heeled feet dangle out of the back-seat window. He says the cover needs to focus on panties somehow.
After a few stories about his passengers, Dredge started opening up about himself.
"I used to go to Thailand five time a year. I love Asian woman, but you gotta be careful where you go out there."
"Yeah, people always wind up picking up prostitutes that they think are women only to find out they're actually guys when it's too late, right?" I asked Dredge.
"That kinda shit only happens to at the tourist spots. I don't go to those places. No, where I go, you don't have to worry about all that. But the women where I go will only blow you. It's a cultural thing. They say American men are too big, and it stretches them out too much ... decreases the value of the product or something like that, you know?" Dredge says.
I didn't, but I urged Dredge to go on anyway.
Talk of Dredge's Thai conquests continues for a while but, at some point, I got a text, and I'm wasn't listening as close as I should've been to Dredge. But then something he says made me forget all about my phone.
"So now me and my buddy are surrounded by these guys that look like Chinese bikers ..."
"Chinese bikers?" I asked.
"Yeah, like the Sons of Anarchy, guys covered in tattoos and shit, but they're Chinese, you know?"
"Yeah, I'm listening," and I was.
"Well, these Chinese have me and my buddy surrounded. He's this short fat, little son of a bitch." Dredge himself is tall and lean, but he's got a bit of paunch, like most men his age who aren't marathon runners or cocaine aficionados.
"They were getting ready to attack us, and I thought we were goners."
Dredge went on to tell me about this little old Chinese man in a nice suit who was brandishing a cane. According to Dredge, this old man appeared out of no where and Dredge off all of the Chinese bikers before they could get to Dredge and his fat, little son of a bitch fried.
As Dredge put it: "Right before these thugs make their move, this guy jumps in the middle and starts doing all this Kung-Fu shit ... like, umm, like what's his name?"
"Like Jackie Chan?" I asked.
"Like Jackie Chan, exactly. He starts fighting these guys off just like it's a Jackie Chan movie. Then when he chased them all away, he comes up and starts screaming at us, 'You not supposed be here! You not supposed be here!' We spent the rest of our time buying this old guy drinks and thanking him for what he'd done ... and every single day we saw him, he was wearing the same suit."
I never got a chance to find out why the Chinese bikers were after Dredge in the first place, because he got so involved in telling the story that he overshot my exit by around five miles. We were en route to Houston by the time Dredge realized his mistake.
"Oh shit, man. I can't believe I did that. I got so into that exit, I completely missed you're exit. You're getting a flat rate, so you don't have to worry about this costing you any extra," Dredge said. I wasn't worried because this was a work trip, and they were the ones that had to pay for Dredge's mistakes.
"Shit man, if I hadn't of told you that story, I would've never missed your exit. Now, you're probably never going to use me again."
But it was specifically because of Dredge's story that I decided to use him to give me a ride back to the airport the next day. I figured the 45-minute cab ride would be the perfect opportunity for Dredge to showcase more of the stories that were slated to appear in his upcoming book -- the one that needs to have a picture of panties on the cover.
TO BE CONTINUED ...