THE SCAM

A ‘surprise fare’ ends with a 911 call. Let me explain. It was very late, about 3:15am, and I was falling asleep. I was parked and awaiting a bar-closing, end-of-shift kind of fare. Before I continue – some context. Despite what you may have heard, Chicago isn’t a 24-hour city. Midwest sensibilities still rule here, and the latest of the late-night bars close at 4:00am – long before sunrise. This provides ample opportunity for cab fares (i.e., many fares in a short time period). Though sometimes rapid-fire, late night fares can seem like ‘easy’ money, the situation demands that you stay on top of your game and keep yourself safe. Even drivers seemingly accustomed to the night shift sometimes fall victim to that ever so powerful ‘wave of fatigue,’ and the seductive pleasure of a nap. An intended 15-minute nap can so easily end up being 30-60 minutes of lost working hours. Further, make no mistake, whether driving or parked, being fatigued and anything less than fully alert in a cab is risky at best, and dangerous at worst. Given all of that, late night cab driving often offers good money and customers in a good mood after having had fun in their favorite night spot. Or I get lucky and transport fares working in the service industry – consistently my most generously tipping customers.

Anyway, I should return to the intended story line. While parked and waiting for a fare, that was slow to materialize, I was falling in and out of sleep. Realizing I was drifting, I decided to do the reasonable thing and go home for the night. I put the car in drive and began to slowly pull away from my parking spot. I quickly glanced at the rear-view mirror and, to my surprise, SOMEONE WAS SITTING IN THE BACK SEAT! Thankfully I didn’t scream. I immediately pulled the car over and said, “I do apologize maam. Where can I take you?”. The ‘surprise’ passenger, a middle-aged woman, said, “No problem, if you could just give me my $40 I’ll be on my way.” Next, an annoyingly long and ridiculous interchange/argument ensued. I’ll spare you the details other than to say that I repeatedly informed the fare that I didn’t have any of her money. And she kept saying that she had given me 2 twenty-dollar bills. Two of her male friends, one in his 20’s and one apparently in his mid to late 50’s, walked up to the car and began insisting that I give their friend her money back. I told them that I didn’t have her money and suggested that they ask her to leave my car since I was about to call the police. Then, out of the blue, the woman said she was pregnant and bleeding, and she wanted me to take her to a hospital. She appeared to be at least my age, 50, so the possibility that I was witness to such a medical rarety (pregnant at 50) seemed unlikely. I then said I wasn’t going to take any chances with her health and I would just call her an ambulance. She then quickly responded that an ambulance wasn’t needed.
At that point, I threatened to call the police to resolve the situation. Undeterred by my threat of police involvement, she stuck to her story that I had her money. So, I called the police, who arrived in about three minutes. As soon as the officer walked up to the cab, I told him what was happening. He then asked her to step out of the cab, which she did. The officer then stepped to the side and briefly spoke to the woman. He then walked back to my cab and said I should drive away, which, after thanking him, I glady did.
First I want to thank the Chicago Police Department for helping me out of this situation. I certainly learned that rather than losing almost 30 minutes of work time I has should’ve just asked for the help I needed immediately. With the clarity of hindsight I see this was another in a long list of life situations where my pride and refusal to ask for help was self-defeating. To my readers, if you are a driver, I hope this post helps you see such a problem coming, rather than falling victim to this type of scam. If you don’t drive the public for pay, I hope this post made for an interesting look into the life of an urban cabbie. Thanks for reading, and “Cheers” to you all!