Why Did This Cabbie Have to Stop for Me?

I presume that the overwhelming majority of taxi cab drivers in DC are good people who perform a service that is integral to the vitality of this world class city.  I am particularly fond of the old men with their immaculate Lincoln Town Cars, radios pegged to NPR or WPFW, and ability to find even the most obscure of addresses without direction.  Last night, however, I encountered a member of the odious and dishonest minority.

Since DC finally joined the rest of the world and replaced the efficient for a few but confusing to most Zone System with meters for every cab, I haven’t had to argue with a single driver about my fare.  I expected the trend to continue.  After throwing back beers in a few of my favorite haunts, I hailed a cab to head uptown and retire for the evening.  As we got closer to my place, I noticed that the fare was substantially higher than it had ever been.  I attributed the difference to the slightly circuitous route the driver took and went back to thinking about the hot oncologist who kept asking for puffs of my cigar earlier in the evening.

It wasn’t until we rounded the final corner with my fare at least 50% higher than normal that I noticed the Rate indicator was set to “3” rather than “1.”  The difference being that the 3 rate is for Snow Emergencies when the fare is 125% of the standard.  The cabbie drew to a stop and announced my fare.  Quibbling about money is unseemly and I make a habit of not doing it especially when the difference would barely buy me two cups of coffee.  This however, was about principal, and I don’t like people who try to steal from me. 

“Sir, I may not know the usual fare between the White House and the Kennedy Center, but let there be no doubt that I know the fare from my bars to my bed.  You’re trying to charge me the Snow Emergency rate and I won’t pay it” was my opening salvo in what I hoped would be short exchange.

“Your fare is $16.50, pay me or I will call the police.”

“Then let’s call the police.  You can explain to them why your meter is set to the wrong fare or better yet, how bout this: I am going inside and you can wait for the police by your damn self.”

At this point, the cabbie locked the doors and let fly a string of epithets and expletives.  I could feel my heart rate increasing as the fight or flight physical reactions began.  I took a deep pull of air and summoned my most calm voice.

“Sir, what you are doing is false imprisonment – a felony, and you over-charging me is petty larceny.  If you persist on this course of action, I will insist that the police not only write you the $500 ticket for the meter infraction, but that they take you to jail as well.  You need to unlock this door right now.”

The cabbie shook his fist at me, tried to give me a menacing glare, and made a half assed grab in my direction.

“If you want to add an ass kicking to those criminal charges, then keep thinking what you’re thinking, but you really don’t want to do that.  I’m not one of those Georgetown frat boys you’re used to; I will kick your ass and wait for the police to take your sorry ass to jail… hope your papers are in order*.”

“Fuck you, fuck you, get out, get out” he screamed.

Half expecting him to exit with me, I exited quickly and squared my body to face the vehicle.  He must have thought about it because it took him a moment before he roared away.

What a way to kill a buzz.


* I’m not proud of the latent xenophobia in my last phrase.


9 Responses to Why Did This Cabbie Have to Stop for Me?

  1. Arjewtino says:

    I have had many arguments with cab drivers about their nefarious and seemingly arbitrary pricing system. I have been proud of some of these arguments and ashamed of others.

    I think you handled yourself perfectly. I’ll probably print out this blog post, laminate it, and use it the next time a cabbie tries to screw me over.

    That’s what seems to happen with greater frequency when we catch cabs after drinks – I may have killed some brain cells but not that many.

  2. Lisa says:

    Sometimes people just provoke you to the point where you say things that you otherwise wouldn’t – and I feel like a lot of those times are in DC cabs. I wouldn’t want to drive a cab, and I’m glad people do, but there are a tremendous number of assholes driving cabs here.

    I truly believe that the assholes are far outnumbered by the really good ones.

  3. What a way to start of the year. I think it’s awesome that you did that, by the way. I probably would’ve just sucked it up and paid for it while silently fuming. But then again, I am a girl.

    Well, I didn’t just fume and argue – I also reported him to the Cab Commission, not that I expect them to do anything.

  4. Fearless says:

    I had plenty of strange cab incidents in my previous life (working until the middle of the night) but never one as confrontational as what you described. I’m glad that nothing more came of it.

    I’ve heard the cabbies are more docile up north.

  5. Vittoria says:

    Two things strike me in this:
    1. You got a free ride! Yay!
    2. My post tomorrow morning will be about the BEST CAB RIDE EVER. Which happened in Virginia on Friday night.
    In any case, I’m super impressed with the way you handled yourself.

    Yes, your cab ride was the best ever.

  6. Sara says:

    “Sir, I may not know the usual fare between the White House and the Kennedy Center, but let there be no doubt that I know the fare from my bars to my bed.” – Best line ever. I hope you won’t hate me if I drop this into conversation 8-10 times today.

    …And it can have so many uses for a woman

  7. freckledk says:

    You sound just like me – if you remove the “sir” bit and add an abundance of profanities.

    Oddly, when I get really angry I curse much less.

  8. f.B says:

    you made your mistakes here: “the overwhelming majority;” and here: “of taxi cab drivers;” here: “in DC;” and finally, here: “are good people.”

    your fleeting line was easily the words of a surprised-to-be-imprisoned-in-a-taxi prisoner. but as to the rest, you performed splendidly. i can’t promise i’d have realized how awesome it would be to be able to tell this story (and in so doing, lived it). but in hindsight of your experience, i would have called the cops myself, while sitting in the car.

    f.B., really it is ok to think the glass is half full.

  9. Kevin says:

    Ya know what? I never would have noticed the rate difference, mainly because I don’t take cabs all that often, and I never knew this was a potential pitfall. My eyes are now open.

    Isn’t it amazing how people act when they try to cheat you and get caught in the act? I’da still called the cops ’cause the next person he picked up probably got the same treatment and a worse attitude.

    Anybody wanna bet how many of the millions of folks coming to town in two weeks will suffer the same fate? I’m guessing the rate will be through the roof.

    I have no doubt that a number of drivers will try this scam on the tourists and Obamaniacs who will be visiting soon. I did call the DC Cab Commission to report this particular driver.

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