It was early in the morning, around 6, and on my first call I was sent to a motel in one of the worst areas of town. "Vera, it's right at the end of 3rd Street, 6600 3rd Street, for Deb*," the dispatcher said. I was driving a van that day. The van and I pulled into the parking lot behind the motel, and there she was. She walked over to the cab with quick steps and a frown on her face. She was beautiful, thin, Asian, probably in her late 20's, long hair. But she had clearly had a rough night.
I said "Are you Deb?"
"Great. Where would you like to go?"
"Sacramento and Laguna."
"Do you have a favorite way of getting there?"
"I have no idea where I am so I don't care. This guy was supposed to come back for me and he never did."
There was a silence for a minute or so. Then I said "Yeah, it sucks when somebody says they're going to come back and they don't."
"Yeah. And he owes me some money. He almost raped me too."
"Yeah. He said 'Take off your clothes or I'll shoot you.'"
"He had a gun?"
"Yeah, and a knife too."
Deb kept sniffing her nose. I didn't think she had a cold though. She asked me if we could stop at the ATM. She also asked me if we could stop at a "Deli or something." She was "starving." We passed McDonald's and she asked me to go through the drive-through. She had me order a dollar menu McMuffin and a dollar menu McSausage. She also had me ask for a cup of water. She paid entirely with coins. When she tried to hand me the coins so I could hand them to the McDonald's cashier, she kept dropping them onto the floor of the van. When we pulled away from the McDonald's, she started eating her food.
A few blocks later I saw a US Bank. I asked her if she wanted to use the ATM. She said sure. She left her food in the van and got out to use the ATM. She was back a few seconds later. She couldn't find her ATM card. She emptied out her purse. The stuff from her purse was all over the seat and the floor. Her hair was hanging all over the stuff from her purse. She kept saying "Shit!" and "That dick!" She also said "I knew he took something else from my purse!" I said "You can't find your ATM card?" She said "No, I think he stole that from me too. Asshole." She kept searching through the stuff from her purse. She started crying. She sniffed her nose. I said "It's going to be okay."
We kept driving. She asked "Do you accept checks?" I said "Sure, I'll take a check." She smiled brightly. She had a very beautiful smile. I wanted to tell her not to get mixed up with people like that guy. She could do so much better. Instead, I said "Do you have your check book with you?" She said "Yeah, it's at my apartment. Or maybe my doorman can pay you cash, and I'll pay him back later."
She called the bank to tell them that her ATM card had been stolen. I was starting to think that I might not get any money from this girl. But I didn't care. She had been through so much; I just wanted to get her home safe. As we approached Market Street on 9th Street, she said "Take Larkin. It's faster." I took Larkin. She told me to make a left on Sacramento. When we got to her building, she got out and said "I'll be right back." I said "Okay." The meter said $24.35.
I looked behind me. Her purse was gone. The McDonald's trash and her half-full cup of water were still there. I was suddenly sure that I was never going to see her again. I started collecting the McDonald's trash into a ball and got ready to leave. Then Deb reappeared. She opened the passenger side door and handed me two $20 bills. She said "Can I just get ten back?" I gave her two fives. I said "Thanks so much. I hope your day gets a lot better." She flashed that beautiful smile at me one more time.
*Names have been changed to protect the girl whose name wasn't Deb.