I was just interrupted in my most recent installment of an autobiographical dissertation of my many years as a taxicab driver by the incessant 'hum' of a police helicopter.
"How did I know it was a 'police' helicopter?" you might well ask. (Good question, actually!) Well, I didn't, at first, but then it kept droning on and on, until -- finally, I simply lost my concentration and had to go outside to see what was happening.
And there it was, the 'eye in the sky' (as we in CB "radideoland" used to like to say), circling, circling, circling.
I didn't raise my arms to call attention to myself, nor did I wave to indicate that a possible suspect was near. I simply watched as the helicopter continued to circle.
Nonetheless, I did go into my garage -- even opened the garage door to the outside world. Also, I checked out my back yard fence gate to make sure that it was securely latched.
All seemed well for my homestead. However, something was amiss ... else the police helicopter would not have been circling, right?
Anyhoo, today's incident reminded me of three others. The first occurred so many years ago I had almost forgotten it.
I was on the patio area in my back yard when a young black fellow climbed over the back yard fence gate. I don't think he knew that I was there, because when I asked, "May I help you?", he at first looked startled and then replied something about looking for a "Mr. _ _ _ _ _ _ . (I don't remember the name he used. It's just been too long.) He told me I'd have to climb over the gate. Is he here?"
I had the presence of mind to respond, "I don't think so." And then, calling into the house to a nonexistent male person, I asked, " Frank, have you seen Mr. _ _ _ _ _ _ today?"
Without waiting for nonexistent male person's answer, the stranger clambered back over the gate and made his exit, apologizing for the intrusion.
Well, I scurried out to the gate and made a note of the license plate number on his vehicle (small, maroon, a Japanese make -- that's the best I can recall at this point) and immediately telephoned first the police and then the homeowner's association to report the event.
Less than a half hour later, there was this helicopter going overhead -- circling, circling, circling. I figured it was looking for either a man climbing over fence gates or his car.
Another time, when I was driving my cab, I had picked up this gal from a grocery store and was in the process of taking her home when she suddenly shouted, "Do you see that?" "What?" I asked. "There, up ahead, on the left! Don't you see that man jumping from roof to roof on those townhouses? And it looks like he's being chased!"
Sure enough, a foot chase was going on right in front of our eyes with a policeman in hot pursuit. We must have been stopped at a red light at the time, because we watched for a few seconds but lost sight of them as they jumped to the ground. Next thing we knew, tho, they had reappeared, coming over a tall wooden fence and then out into and across the street directly in front of us. I remember shouting something like, "Lock your door!"
The chase continued on through a Burger King parking lot and over yet another fence into a large apartment complex. Meanwhile, of course, lots and lots of police cars had arrived on the scene, and you could hear the helicopter droning as it circled overhead.
You hear about this sort of thing on the news all the time, it seems. It's one thing, however, to just hear about it on the radio or see it on television. One feels 'removed', somehow, from what has happened. It's quite another to be an actual eye-witness! It can be very unsettling.
When I was a cab driver, I was on the streets most of the time. I saw a lot, not all of which I will include in my book.
My last story has to do with a time when I was dispatched to the West Oaks Mall to pick up a customer who'd be 'waiting outside of Foley's department store'. It was dark -- not late (just after 9pm, I think), but dark.
I arrived, he was there, and -- after he got into the cab, he told me that he wanted to go to the Westin Oaks Hotel, which is in the Galleria area. Off we went. He was in town on business, primarily, and asked me how long I'd lived in Houston. When I told him, "Quite a few years," he said, "Good! Maybe you can answer a couple of questions for me?"
I said, "I'll try", and we had a very pleasant conversation. (The trip, itself, would normally take about 20 minutes.) About three fourths of the way to his hotel, he all of a sudden said, "Geez, I hope they catch that guy!"
Alarmed, I asked, "What guy??", braking and looking frantically all around for some possible 'weirdo' on the loose, brandishing a gun, who knows what all!
He said, pointing, "There's been a helicopter circling and circling up ahead for the last few minutes. I just assumed that they were looking for someone. Don't you see it?"
Well, when I figured out what he was actually pointing to, I had to chuckle. What he thought was a helicopter circling was the beacon light at the top of the Transco Tower, a sixty-six story office building located about eight miles southwest of our downtown area.