Mission of Mercy… Four Cabs and a Fire

The really great story I re-blogged a few days ago reminded me of an event that happened a few months back. I was on the dispatch desk when the call came in… The names of people and most locations have been changed since this event is still in relatively recent times…

It was mid-march the nights were cold but the days were warming up in typical Chicago fashion, I however, was on the over-night shift and so I was treated to the early morning sunshine and promise of nice days on my ride to spend them asleep until late in a day when I could enjoy yet again a brief time in the warmth of setting sun while commuting back to work solo in cold dark night. The Dispatchers and Call Takers work in two separate locations so although I talk to them frequently I’ve never actually met any of them face to face. It was on one of these cold nights that I received a call from a woman whom we’ll call Mary. Mary worked for a property management company in Kane County Illinois, about 40 miles from the cab company. The call taker who received the call heard part of Mary’s story and transferred the call to me so I could determine whether or not we’d be able to service her need.

“Hello dispatch, this is Marty how can I help you?” I asked in my pleasant and well-practiced tone. My 17 years in retail have served me well over the years when it comes to customer service, or in the case of the police department, in dealing with victims, complainants, and the public in general. “Hello Marty, my name is Mary Smith and I represent XYZ Property Management and I have a request but first I need to know do you service Kane County and more specifically Hometown?” Mary asked, I could tell from the tone of her voice that she had serious business to conduct, though 12:30 a.m. on a Friday night seemed an odd time to be making this kind of call. “We cover the western suburbs, though our arrival times can be a bit long because we’re based out of Forest Park. If you tell me what need a cab for and when I might be able to give you a better time frame to work with, what is it I can help you with? The answer I got gave me pause, but I figured we could do this, but I admit I privately had some concerns regarding her request.

Cab Dash Board1

“I need four cabs in Hometown to the Prairie Winds Apartments, there has been a fire and we need to transport the displaced families to local hotels until the fire is out and we’re able to assess the damage. Can you get us 4 cabs? How long until they’ll be there?” There was palpable concern and distinct stress in her voice, tones that weren’t so apparent in her initial inquiry. “I’ll do every I can to get you 4 cabs, though I’ll have to call back with their e.t.a.s though I should be able to get you 4 cars in about an hour.”  As much as I wanted to help her, I knew the long time for their arrival time was probably going to be a deal breaker, but I wasn’t going to lie to her, this was too important to be anything but completely honest. “That would be wonderful if you could get them there in an hour, they’ll need to meet with Anne who also works with XYZ but isn’t going to be there for 30 to 40 minutes so that would be perfect! Let me give you her number please get it to the drivers so they can coordinate meeting up with her once they get there…” We talked further about payment, they agreed to call in the morning with a credit card and cover all the trips. Normally, we would never do this and it raised my apprehension level about getting this job done, drivers are all independents these days and like their money right away, I sent a message out to the fleet and considered my options towards enticing four of them to commit to this noble cause…

We need 4 cabs for Hometown in Kane County, There has been a fire at an apartment building and they need 4 cabs to transport displaced people to area hotels. They need them A.S.A.P. Call dispatch if your willing to help.

That was the first message I put out. I switched my phone from taking all calls to only accepting package/driver calls and those transferred from the call takers. I had originally been answering cab requests as well prior to Mary’s call I was deep in thought about the second message when the drivers line began to ring. “Dispatch this is Marty” was all I said, speed was the way to go, “Marty, it’s Steve, cab 179 saw your message, how terrible, where do you need me to go?” Out of all the drivers out that night I knew Steve would volunteer, He always goes on difficult runs and helps out whenever we need him to. “Start heading towards Hometown now, I’ll send info to your computer while your en route. You’ll be meeting with Anne a rep from the management company to coordinate the trips.” I replied.  Steve also offered to do it for no charge, because, that’s the kind of guy he is. I explained the management company would be paying for the rides so don’t volunteer to do them for free, there will probably be a lot of unpaid waiting time and you need to cover your expenses.

The next call on the drivers line came as soon as I hung up with Steve. “This is cab 407, I will go send me the details to my computer.” I was shocked, no it’s not the same car I drove all those years ago. This 407 is a Chrysler mini-van, not the Caprice Classic I drove back in the 90’s, but the number was the same. This driver of 407 is a bit of a rake and I wouldn’t have figured him to jump into something like this, he a good driver but an opportunist who knew this wasn’t going to be profitable, but is was an honorable venture worthy of his time. Personally, once the shock of him volunteering wore off, I knew he’d stick with the commitment until the job was done and that was my main concern. Two down, two to go. Again the phone was ringing this time it was Cab 21, Cab 21 was a driver I had never really talked to until that night, like a lot of drivers he’d sign on run his trips and generally not contact dispatch until it was absolutely necessary to complete an order or get a trip voided. OK, I had three and quick, I hung up the phone, it rang. “This is cab 8 I will go can you send the information to my computer?” he asked and I replied “Of course 8, welcome aboard you’re the fourth, and 8, thank you.” It was a great sigh of relief, that left me as I hung up with 8. I had the four cabs I needed and didn’t need a second message…

I have the four cabs I need thanks to all of you still on the driver’s line if more are needed I’ll send out another message…

I called Mary back; “Hello Mary, this is Marty with the cab company I have four cabs en route two Crown Victorias, two Mini-vans they’ll be there in 40 to 60 minutes.” “Thanks Marty, I’ll let Anne know.” I finished with Mary and sent the cabs a message with the address where they were picking up, that they had to make their way to the back of the complex the main road and entrance was blocked by emergency vehicles, as well as all the details Mary asked me to pass on to them.

So I had the group of drivers making their way to the fire scene, I was tracking them on the GPS tracking system each car was represented by an arrow not entirely unlike the ship in the Asteroids video game produced by Atari years earlier. Except, this wasn’t game, I could track their movements over a line graphic map showing their speed and direction of travel. I scrolled back until I could see each of the 4 cabs making their way towards the area expressways 2 where heading for the Ike, then to I88 and west until they arrived in Kane County and switched to local roads to their final destination. The other two made their way to I55 for straight shot out. The pairings where interesting 407 and 179 the Idealist and the Rake were on the Ike and Old Man and the Quiet One were on I55. I switched my phone back to taking all calls and returned to my normal dispatch duties while keeping an eye on the four cars heading to assist with a tragic event that was still unfolding as they made their way to the pick-up.

The tempo of night picked up as people moved from bar to bar or started heading home. We were busy enough that I hadn’t realized how much time had passed and soon Steve was back on the phone, all the cars found the place they found Anne and where awaiting directions on where to take them. I thanked Steve for the update told him to notify me as soon as they were moving.

The first task the cabs performed while waiting was each car was loaded with the first group of people going to the arranged temporary housing, they waited inside the warm cars reflecting on the sad events of the evening. The drivers chatted outside the cars while watching the activity as firemen moved in and out of the buildings, police directed traffic and managed the crowd of other tenants who came out of their own units to watch. Anne approached each of the drivers and gave them the addresses to take their people to. Steve called me to let me know they were off with the first load of people still reeling in the shock and enormity of what just happened to them while trying to figure out what the next step should be, most took their ride in stoic silence. For these people the night was a total loss…

Each cab made their drop, the drop offs were easy in so far as the people had only the few possessions they grabbed while running out the door, the emotional baggage they were carrying, they carried alone and that was the heaviest of all. After the first run, each car returned for a second run. They met up with Anne again, and waited, fortunately the number of people displaced was lower than they feared and there were only three more loads to go. Steve let the rest of the drivers handle the last loads, people whose unit suffered only water damage and were expecting to be moving back in soon.

Each of the cabs arrived shortly after 1am, they were done and heading home after 4am. The guys missed a busy night in town, but sometimes necessity of the run makes up for the lack of monetary gain. Trips were short each driver made less than $25 for the 3 hours they spent on their mission of mercy. None of them complained, pride in ones accomplishment can be payment enough. For Steve, cab 21, and cab 8 they got to help people in need, For 407 He got to tell everyone how he selflessly drove all those miles to help people as only he could do it! (OK, maybe I’m having a bit of artistic license here, but the guy has a very high opinion of himself and in that he is unanimous! ;)). For cab 8 he proved to himself he could still keep up with the younger guys.

I sent a message of thanks to each cab that participated. I thanked them in person over the following days. When they got back to town they just in time for the morning rush to the airports each of them had stories to share with their passengers and a bit of bragging to do to their fellow drivers when time allowed. Beyond that it was back to the business of getting people where they needed to go. The management company called the next day and made good on the cost of trips.

They didn’t tip…

About MartyW47

Attending Triton College. Studying Emergency Services Management & Criminal Justice. Currently employed @ MPPD & Aflac. After 30 years out of school I'm back in College and having a Blast!
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7 Responses to Mission of Mercy… Four Cabs and a Fire

  1. carmenw503 says:

    Hi Marty. I must say thanks for sharing your experience. I could see you watching the screen with anticipation and I was driving on those roads en route to the scene of the fire; I was also there watching the buzz of activity and saw the looks on the faces of those thinking about picking up the pieces of their lives after this tragedy. Most of all, I like the way you ended your narrative… expressing gratitude to those who took the time out to help those in need. God’s mercy and presence be with those families and even those who are able to move back in shortly as they too have suffered emotionally and physically.
    I’d like to direct your attention to an article when you get some time…


    Blessings to you.

  2. Marty, that was interesting! I was in a kind of spellbound while reading the story – anxious that an unfortunate incident or something unpleasant would turn up. It was a relief the job was well done by you and the drivers of the four cabs. No tip, Ouch! But I hope your valiant and public-spirited co-workers didn’t mind much.
    This post also gives your readers a better idea about your job and the nature of cab companies in your country. Its business operation there seems much more systematic, advanced, and organized compared to what we have here in the Philippines.
    Great story-telling. It has always been one of your writing strengths.

  3. MartyW47 says:

    Thanks Marj! I’m sure they each got out of the experience what they were looking for. It’s the kind of thing you don’t do unless your willing to give your personal time. You never know, cabs might become more organized in th Philippines, my company uses call takers in Cebu to assist with in-coming calls so their also learning and using the same software we use here in the states…

    • Oh, I’m surprised to learn about your company’s (somewhat) ties with Cebu. I hope our cab system will have the same operating procedure that you’ve got there. Sorry about the other blog. I keep on pressing keys and things in my site and something always goes wrong. I’m still in the dark as to how to delete that hidden blog. Please tell me if the real one doesn’t turn up again. Thanks, pal.

      • MartyW47 says:

        I think it’s not a problem with the blog but your gravatar is pointing to a different page. I go to your blog from an email your site is there, however, clicking your gravatar takes me to a title page with no content.

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