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.