The story eventually came out that the passenger was at the casino because he was hoping to get laid, but didn't get an invite back to his friend's room. He had called the cab company to take him to get his keys, and also because he wanted to check out the mansion. I don't know how they do it, but somehow the Great Spirit arranged for me to catch this fare.
Beware, ye who pass through Paradise Valley
When we were driving to the house party that night months ago, I suddenly realized that I needed to turn left at the intersection I was in. There was no oncoming traffic, and I made a snap decision to swing left. Then I noticed the red-light cameras. I wonder if they would've flashed if I'd run the left-red-arrow from the left-turn lane. Paradise Valley is notorious for their speed cameras. I've only ever been flashed once.
Paradise Valley Flashback
The time I got flashed was around 4am - I suppose I was doing 55 in a 35 that ought to be a 45. I understand that drivers who lease cars from the company get lectured by the company's Safety officer about their photo-radar tickets, but on this particular night I was driving the owner-operator's cab, and I never heard of any correspondence from the Town of Paradise Valley.
As soon as the flash went off I got rather angry, and I suddenly wasn't as tired as I had been. After a mile or so I decided to turn around and try to find the camera that had flashed me. But it was not to be found, and I eventually resumed my trek westward. A few moments later my meter buzzed with a fare offer for +/- 100 yards away. When I pulled up to the house the host was outside already, and he asked who I was there for. I gave the name that was on my screen. Then I recognized another of the young men who was standing outside... "Haven't I seen you tonight already ?"
Indeed, I had picked this group of new high school graduates up from a house party near the SR51, and dropped them off at a hotel near the Mayo Clinic. (A - picked them up the first time, B - 1st drop off. Somehow they got to C, where I found them again at 4am or 5am, and transported to about D.)
I do wonder that if I hadn't been flashed, and hadn't turned around to investigate (thus delaying my departure from Zone 263), would the highschool graduates' fare have been offered to a diffent taxi? If I'd entered zone 262, the scheduling computer might've offered the fare in zone 263 to the taxi in an adjacent zone who'd been waiting for longer.
But I digress - Sometimes I think about things like that, that's all.
returning to our present story, about the mansion that some of you help pay for, a penny at a time
On this particular night in Paradise Valley, I noted a Vegas-style party bus blocking the driveway at the given address. Another of the company's cabs was parked on the street, but it pulled away shortly after our arrival. My locked-out passenger said I could take him back home if I wanted to wait. Having nothing better to do, I stuck around.
Twenty minutes or a half hour later the passenger returned. He told me that the owner of this particular house had made his millions as the owner of a particular internet company that is wildly profitable - one I'm sure some of you use on a daily basis. My passenger said that while the mansion was nice, he thought his house was cooler, owing to the newer construction. The mansion was probably constructed sometime in the 70's or 80's, which was sort of a dismal period for architectural design. I wonder if the landscaping (which was mostly invisible due to the lack of sunlight) would have made a difference in his assessment, as the passenger's house was carved into the side of a mountain and had no landscape to speak of.
I made a wrong turn taking him home, owing to the hour and the relative darkness of Paradise Valley (they don't have streetlights), and found myself going south towards Camelback instead of north towards Lincoln. Since we'd already made the trip once, I just charged him the same as his fare for the trip over.
I don't remember if there were any other fares that night. This was months ago, and I'm going off memory here.
Some weeks later
After the 2am rush, with a few hours left on my shift, I positioned myself at the Desert Ridge Market in zone 212. This is a generally nice area - while not as ritzy as Paradise Valley, the fares to the airport are much better owing to the extra 10 miles. Promptly at 4:05am I accepted a fare that was rather close. The passenger was distraught because his previously-arranged 3:45am airport transportation had no-showed on him. He called for a cab just after 4, and my prompt arrival was a great relief. The man was taking his daughters to South Carolina on a 6:30am flight, iirc, and the drive to Sky Harbor is at least 25-30 minutes from his north Phoenix address.
After leaving this group of 3 at the airport I went to my usual parking lot in zone 271, at the Camelback Colonade shopping center. There is a Trader Joe's here, which during business hours is useful for free coffee samples, tapioca pudding, and chocolate meringue cookies. At this time on this particular morning I was first in line for the next fare in this zone.
As it was 5am I was starting to get tired, so I leaned the seat back and closed my eyes. But before I could find the blackness I became aware of ... "something", to my left. I opened my eyes and saw that another of the company's cabs had parked right next to me in the otherwise-vacant parking lot. His window was rolled down, so I reciprocated and we exchanged pleasantries.
He had been right behind me at Terminal 4, and commented on my parking job there. Then he asked if I was in the most-coveted position 1, and I confirmed that I was. Drivers never know how long they'll have to wait for a fare, and it's always better to be next-in-line than second.
Before long my meter buzzed, and I accepted the fare offer. There are thousands of streets in Phoenix, and aside from the major streets, and some of the minor streets, I am mostly dependent on Ferdinand for guiding me to my destinations. The owner/operator I drive for doesn't need a GPS, or even a map, as she's driven for 22 years. On the rare instances that she doesn't know exactly where to go, she can ask the company's fare dispatch computer for simple directions.
This fare was on a street that I was somewhat familiar with, owing to the acquaintance I have who lives/lived 3 or 4 houses down, and whose address I always remembered. I told the other driver that my fare was on Calle Redonda, which runs along one of the canals. He was surprised that I had this level of detail based on the address alone, as most drivers are rather dependent on their navigator for getting around.
I proceeded to the address. This passenger also had a suitcase, and he confirmed that he was going to Sky Harbor too. As we pulled away from his house I asked if he liked living on the Canal. He made a few comments - about how he never actually used his back yard's gate to the canal path, owing to his close proximity to the alley. I shared that I knew one of his neighbors.
He talked about how he bought the house sight-unseen in 2004. This was because he'd lost out on a few other houses in the housing bubble's bidding wars. He said he wish he'd sold when it was worth $1million, but that at least he wasn't underwater. Some of his neighbors had walked away. His was the biggest house on the block, and he was relieved that the new owners of the house down the street were updating and expanding their property, so that it would match the size of his house.
The rest of the story about how that fellow made his millions
This passenger had also put a lot of money into remodeling, so he wasn't exactly even. The neighborhood was probably built up in the 60's. The previous owners had started the remodeling process, and the present passenger said they'd done a beautiful job on the master bedroom suite.
Then he said the previous owners had a son who was a "computer geek" before computer geeks were common. The son talked his parents into starting a business with him. The business took off, and the previous owners of this house started their remodeling project when the money started trickling in. Then the money stream turned into a money flood, and the computer geek's parents realized they had no choice but to pack up and move upscale and slightly to the north, into three mansions in Paradise Valley -- one of which I had visited, as told in the opening act of this story.
The passenger's cousin was friends with these people somehow. He said the parents have since passed away...
Maybe you've heard of this family business. The company doesn't appear on your credit card statement, but takes a few pennies of most of your payments for a certain kind of internet vice. The company which got its start in a humble little house on Calle Redonda, in Phoenix, Arizona, and which now dominates credit card processing for websites of a certain persuasion is .... CCBill, which is the credit card processor for most of the internet's porn sites.
Now you know that your money is being spent well.