Friday, October 24, 2008

You'd always be money ahead to just drive away.

My friend The King of NY Hacks made a comment that causes me to recall the first passenger who ever beat me out of a fare. I guess I'll try to balance things by also telling about the first person I ever had the cops come for too. It turns out that getting beat out of a fare happens sometimes. I'd like to think that I'm the most difficult of all cab drivers to beat out of a fare. After all, somebody has to keep it honest.

The first person who ever beat me out of a fare was a woman who went to a crappy apartment building on McCormick. She said she had to get the money, it was in the house, and she'd be right back. I said ok. I recall watching her run from the cab to the door. I guess she was inexperienced too. If she had experience, she would have known that the moment the stupid cab driver let her get out, without taking any collateral, she was home free. She could have walked slowly with her head high, she'd stolen money from me and I didn't even know it yet. It was a summer day, and she was blonde. That was around 20 years ago.

The first person I ever called the cops on was a guy named Larry Ford. He told me his name was Larry Foie, and it wasn't the ethnic accent that made it come out Foie. The woman he lived with later told me it was Ford. I remember her too. She was white, skinny, had the worst teeth you'd ever want to have pulled out, and looked like she was ancient beyond her years.

I picked this jerk up on the corner of Dickenson and Williamson. He'd used the pay phone in front of the hardware store to call the cab. It was around 3:45 am, and he was going to the Darbo neighborhood. Darbo is a crappy enough neighborhood that many cab drivers simply don't go there. Being a rookie, I had to learn all these things. It was winter, and it was really cold, at least -10. He was probably my first fare of the day, back in those days I started at 3:00 am. There was a lot of snow on the ground, at least 15".

When he got in the cab, he was a pretty obnoxious passenger. He kept spitting on the floor in the back seat of the cab. Being a rookie, I was reluctant to tell him to knock it off, I was still pretty inhibited about offending people.

When we got to Darbo, I asked him for the fare, which was $2.50 back then, $1.50 plus two zones at 50 cents a zone. Really cheap for a 2 mile ride, even 19 years ago. He told me he didn't pay cab drivers, and spit on the floor one last time. I said, ok, I'd call the cops on him. He got out and started to walk off into the park that is next to the welfare housing that is where he was really going to. Walk off? Yeah, he was experienced at ripping off cab drivers. He knew he didn't have to run. Well, he thought he knew.

I keyed the mike and said I needed the cops, and I was getting out of the cab and going after the guy. Little did I know, the dispatcher WOULD NOT call the cops for me. He looked over his shoulder at me, as I closed on him. He told me he'd kick my ass. "No you won't I said."
He kind of hopped around through the park for a while. I kept about 20 feet between me and him. A couple of times he stopped and turned and threatened me. I'd just tell him that eventually he'd have to go into an apartment, and when he did, I'd know where he was, and I'd call the cops. I told him that the cops were already on the way, which I thought was the case. Foolish cab driver. He didn't have much of a coat on, and he was drunk, so it didn't take long for him to decide to go into the apartment. A number of times while we were wading through the snow, he'd say in a combination of disgust and amazement, "You're doing this for $2.50? You're crazy!" I would come back with, "I'm from Detroit. It's the principle, not the amount."

After he went into an apartment, I went back to the car and pulled up to his front door. I asked dispatch when the cops were coming and they told me they hadn't called them. What???? I needed the cops, told you I needed the cops, and you didn't call them? Well, you have to stay there until the cops come, and that might be a while, so we figured you really wouldn't want to waste your time there. The truth is, when you get out of the cab and go after some guy, you're on your own. If you get killed, it's ok with dispatch. Who ever finds your body will call the cops in the morning.

Well, I really want the cops. The address is, and I gave it to them, and I'll wait here until spring for the cops. Now send them. So they said ok, and I picked up the newspaper and started waiting. After about 10 minutes, the woman with the rotten teeth came out and told me she had something like 80 cents she could give me. I told her that the cops were coming to arrest the guy, and if she didn't have what he owed me, I wasn't interested in talking to her. She shrugged and went back in.

Then the guy came out. He ordered me to take off. I told him he was going to jail. Little did I know, I was right about that. He went back inside and came out with a 16 gauge shotgun shell which he held up to the window between his thumb and forefinger. I acted like I just didn't care. If he'd had the gun, or even a zip gun, I would have cared a lot, but a little purple shot shell with no weapon to chamber it in, isn't very impressive.

The cops finally came and went to the door. The woman with the rotten teeth let them in, and a few minutes later they came out with the guy in handcuffs. No, I did not get paid. Yes, it did cost me almost 90 minutes.

I found out later that the guy spent the next 5 months in jail. He was never charged with beating me out of a fare, but he had a lot of paper out on him. Dispatch was right, I did waste 90 minutes of my time for no revenue. It cost me at least 20 bucks.


Lugosi said...

Yeah, you lost money and time. But you should take some satisfaction in knowing that you f*cked up the guy's day.... As well as his next five months.

Gnightgirl said...

Great story, I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. You're braver [or crazier :-)] than I am.

Like the touch about letting the guy spit on the floor because you were young and inhibited; so many things we won't up with as we get a little more experience under our belts.

Real cab driver said...