Sunday, December 14, 2008

What do people do to cab drivers anyway?

I never thought of myself as innocent when I started driving cab. You see and experience it all eventually. The human capacity for being petty, self centered, dishonest, and generally disgusting never ceases to amaze me.

Example one:

I get a ride to pick up at a church out on Dempsey rd. It's a Sunday morning, about 6:00, and I'm supposed to go into the church. I get inside and there is this 40ish guy with a parson, it's sounding like this guys mother is dead. The parson gives me 5 bucks and tells me to take the guy to Methodist Hospital, he thanks the parson, and we go out and get in the cab.

The guy isn't very impressive. He's bigger than I am, but he's got a big gut on him. He's shabbily dressed. As soon as I pull out of the lot, he says, "Take me to the Tip Top, that's a $2.00 fare, he gave you a nickle, I want the change."

I told him I'd take him to the Tip Top but I wasn't giving him any money. He looks at me with a very serious look on his face and says he was in Vietnam, as if that's supposed, to make him some kind of scary guy. I immediately came back with, "82nd Airborne, Grenada. You planning on taking that change from me?" I was lying of course, my dad was 82nd, I never served. If he really was in Vietnam he probably knew better than to mess with paratroops. I really didn't want to go a round with this guy but there was no doubt in my mind who'd lose.

We got to the Tip Top and it wasn't open. If I was experienced, I would have kicked him out of the cab right there. Since I was green, I took him to the Shoe instead.

Example 2:

I'm working calls off the radio, it's around bar time on a Saturday night, and the dispatcher stuffs me a call at the Concourse Hotel going to Simpson st. I don't ever want to go to Simpson st. unless the ride is a charge to an account, and I REALLY don't want to go there at night.

Sure enough, it's a scruffy looking black woman. She gets in and tells me the address she's going to, then she says the magic words, "My sister is paying for me when we get there."

I'm not supposed to ask for payment up front, and I'm not supposed to ask to see money, because it's demeaning to the passenger. I didn't ask, she volunteered that information. If she doesn't have cash on her, I don't have to take her. So I tell her that I'm sorry but I can't take her if she doesn't have money on her. This turns ugly immediately, she's not going to get out of the cab, I have to take her, her ass is sitting on my seat and she's not going to get out of the cab until I take her to Simpson st. A number of people try this ploy, they are in the cab and they won't get out. I NEVER allow people get away with this ploy, no matter what it costs. It's much easier to remedy this problem before the ride than at the destination.

I ask for the cops, over the radio. Dispatch doesn't want to do it, but they call the cops for me. We all wait, 15 or 20 minutes, then the cops get there. I get out of the cab and explain to the officer what the deal is, so she asks the woman to get out and asks her what the deal is. I'd turned my back to her and the cop and was about to sit back down in the cab. She roared with great rage, "That honkey mother fucker won't take me because I'm black!!!!" Then she honked up a louie and spit on the middle of the back of my down vest.

The cop asked me what I wanted to do. Well, she got a freebie. I told the cop that I didn't care what she did with the woman, she was out of my cab and I wanted to go on my way. If it ever comes up again, I will pursue the max penalty, and because of the racial stuff, I'd insist it be pursued as a hate crime. We have that in this state. If I can't use the N word, she can't call me a honkey. I've found over the years that no matter what it costs at the moment, after the fact, pursuing it is always the right thing to do.

Example 3:

I'm picking a metro (city charge ride) at Oakwood that goes to the VA hospital. It's close to 9:30 am., and I have to have the cab in by 10:00. The woman I'm supposed to take is there, ready to go, but she has a friend with her who wants to go to a different destination. The radio is crazy, it's as busy as a morning rush hour ever gets. The retired Air Force major gets in the front seat and she's telling me she's certain that I must have her friend too, they're going to very close destinations. I can't get through to see if we have an add on code for the second woman. The major keeps slamming the door and opening the door. When she feels she has won she slams the door, when I say no she opens the door and says if her friend doesn't go she doesn't go. She's threatening to not take the ride, that's supposed to impress me.

I was too green to know how to handle this. I was about to generate my first insurance claim. This was to be one of the defining incidents in my early career. A retired Air Force major and a retired school teacher, who both have generous pensions, are bent on stealing from me, taking advantage of my innocence and inexperience.

Finally I say ok, I don't have time to argue anymore. If the friend ends up getting a free ride, I can't help it, I've got to go. I say ok, I'll take her.

The experienced cab driver in me knows what the major's next move would have been in this little chess game. If I'd said ok, don't take the ride, she would have refused to get out. What would happen today is, I'd get the police IMMEDIATELY. Get this woman out of the cab. I'd pay the penalty for returning the cab late, and I'd get both of them kicked off metro. No more cheapo rides for the rest of the year ladies. You NEVER give a second chance, you NEVER allow a passenger to win.

I look down at the slip I'm writing the teachers name on, so that I can get the code back at the office, destination, time, and source of ride too. The major opens and slams the door a couple more times, the last of which I took to be the door in the back seat slamming. I put the cab in gear and started to move the cab, the teacher howled, she wasn't properly seated and she was now on the pavement claiming that it was my fault, I'd made her fall. I helped her get up and got her into the cab and shut the door myself this time. Yes, she did indeed sue, and took the greenmail. Oh, yeah, she got the ride she was stealing too.

I was told later that she'd been scheduled on a bus an hour earlier and she'd missed it. The guy at metro chuckled when he said, "Seniors from hell."

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