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Payment drama & other odd behavior

Maybe it’s a male thing to think you can say you’ve seen it all – actually, you haven’t (nor have I). Driving cab in Chicago, often at night, I’ve learned that, especially in cabs, all manner of bizarre things can happen. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and the following are recent fares that I thought might be worth sharing. I hope you enjoy reading about these fares as much as I did being part of these scenarios. I plan to follow this blog post with an entry which consists of what I consider noteworthy observations of the behavior of cab drivers, myself included. We cabbies are human too, with our own strengths, weaknesses, and eccentricities. Laughter is truly the best medicine, and I think it’s especially curative when we laugh at ourselves. I hope this post brings a smile to your day, and please share your own thoughts/experiences in cabs.
#1 “Do you accept driver’s licenses?”
This title refers to a recent fare who tried to pay for his ride in a most usual way (with his IL driver’s license). When we reached the destination, I announced the amount that was due, and the fare said he would pay with a credit card. “I know you don’t like cards, but that’s how I’m paying,” he said. I said I’d be happy to take his card in payment. He then proceeded to repeatedly force his ‘card’ through the credit card reader mounted by the right rear door, all the while cursing in frustration. The fare then said, “These (expletive) things never work in cabs.” I said the stripe on the card needs to be on the left, and I asked if I could see his card. I turned on the interior light and immediately saw that he was holding his drivers’ license, not a credit card. I then said, “I do apologize sir but that’s not a credit card, that’s your drivers’ license.”. At that point the fare became angry and stated, “Don’t tell me what to do cabbie, you just want my cash.” He continued to repeatedly force his drivers’ license through the card reader. Despite his organ donor status, he was unable to process a credit payment with his driver’s license. The fare finally gave up his efforts and threw cash to me through the window opening of the barrier. Thankfully, despite his frustration, he still managed to leave a tip.
#2. “But that’s not my house.”
Very late, one recent night, a woman entered my cab outside a popular local bar. Her unsteady gait made it apparent that she may have had a few too many cocktails. Believe me, I don’t judge others for over-imbibing at times. After all, it increases my business, and who among us hasn’t over-indulged on occasion. She immediately gave her destination – an address in Oak Park. Oak Park is a picturesque, tree-lined Chicago suburb sprinkled with Frank Lloyd Wright homes. I took her there, about a 30-minute ride, and upon arrival I informed her we were at the destination. She had slumped down low in the seat, and when I said we were at her address, she sat up and peered out the window. She then said, “Where are we?” I repeated the address she had provided, to which she responded, “But that’s not my house.” After a couple ackward attempts on her part, where she threw out some streets to try, she thankfully gave me another residential address in Oak Park. When we arrived at the new address, she insisted this was indeed her correct destination. Amazingly, this uncertainty about one’s place of residence is not at all unusual in the taxi-driving industry. Another, more unusual scenario of this type follows. Outside a 24-hour restaurant, shortly after sunrise, a man flagged me down. He got in and thanked me for stopping, and said he really needed a ride home. I said, “No problem sir. Where can I take you?” At that point the man became silent and simply looked out the window. I again asked where to take him, and he again was silent. The fair then said he was so glad I picked him up, and he again asked if I could take him home. This purposeless exchange went on for several minutes, finally ending with the fare apologetically exiting the cab. I hope he made it home.
#3 ‘Illicit’ Fast Food.
For some reason I often find myself being given various take-out or drive-through items on fast food restaurant menus. Fares leaving bars/nightclubs often ask to go to drive-through windows for food to satisfy their late night appetites. At such times, fares often seem offended if I refuse their well-meaning offers of fried, fat-laden delicasies. Now I admit to having an appetite for greasy food which can be anonymously passed through a car window. However, I am no longer 18 with a flat stomach (and I never had ripped abs). Fast food tends to sit on my middle-aged gut, certainly hardening my arteries and doing a variety of damage to my less-than-fit body. Thus, I seek to minimize my self-destructive behaviors, and I avoid eating food with minimal nutritional value and maximum health risk. My recent solution to this conundrum has been to accept the burger, fries, taco, etc. After the fare exits the cab, I then give the fast food away to a nearby panhandler (unfortunately, there are usually homeless people nearby). Even though I avoid eating fast food, believe me, I do appreciate the generous gestures of others.
#4 The ‘mysterious’ cab light.
Cab lights are meant to readily inform others whether a cab is available to accept fares. However, on a daily basis, potential fares are frustrated when they mistakenly think an unavailable cab is “for hire.” Let me explain. The cab I drive is topped with an advertising banner, which is continually illuminated, spanning the entire length of the vehicle’s roof. Printed on each end of the banner are the cab’s medallion numbers. When the numbers are lit up, this indicates the cab is available. On many occasions, while I am stopped in traffic or at a light, people have walked up to the already-occupied cab and tried to enter. Sometimes, mainly on holidays when there are large numbers of intoxicated people on the streets, I go to the embarassing length of locking the doors to ensure my passengers do not have to deal with drunken strangers invading their personal space. However, the most annoying cab light-related scenario is when, as I drive by, pedestrians point and shout, “Turn off your light.” This occurs with a fare in the vehicle, when the light is already off. I guess many times people have ‘selective vision,’ meaning they see what they want to see.
As a cab driver I remain committed to helping fares in various states of intoxication safely reach their destinations. And as the song goes, when the bar closes, ‘You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.’ Therein lies my business opportunity. Finally, if by some odd happenstance you see yourself depicted in any of the above entries please do not be offended. I mean no harm. I simply intend to share observations of human behavior in hopefully an entertaining and enlightening way. Please join me in my upcoming blog post where I poke fun at myself and other cabdrivers. Thanks for reading.

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