Once Upon A Time…
Once upon a time I lived in NYC… and sometimes, shit like this would happen:
It was a dreary, rainy day in NYC when I landed at Laguardia after a 6 week out of town gig. Instead of the hour train ride back home, I decided to take a cab. Being a freelance designer, cash was not always in abundance. At that moment I literally had $0.72 cash to my name. I had a large check in my wallet from the gig, but it was Sunday and so I knew the cab ride would be put on my mastercard. It shouldn’t have been a problem. All yellow cabs in NYC are required to accept credit cards.
We got to my apartment without incident, which is a rare blessing in a NYC taxi. I took out my credit card and swiped it. Nothing happened. I told the driver and he told me to swipe it again. Still nothing. We proceeded to do a 10 minute dance of turning the meter off and on again while I swiped a good dozen times. Finally he told me I had to pay with cash. After explaining that wasn’t possible and offering a half dozen solutions he turned down, I called the NYC Transit info line for help. I explained the situation and she informed me that, according to their new policy, this guy wasn’t allowed to be on the street without his credit card system working. She said I didn’t have to pay and I could even file a complaint if I wanted to. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary if she could just explain it to the driver. I put my cell on speaker phone and she explained it all to him. I hung up, apologized to the driver and asked him to open the trunk where all my luggage was waiting. This is where the shit hit the fan.
The driver started screaming and punching his steering wheel and dashboard. He was literally beating the crap out of his own car. I grabbed my purse and jumped out into the rain. I tried to talk reasonably to him from outside the car about opening the trunk but he just kept yelling about how the taxi company was trying to screw him over and what I was trying to do was illegal and how he wouldn’t open the trunk until he got his money.
I didn’t feel like battling a crazy man in the middle of the street, especially while he was holding my luggage & laptop hostage. So, still holding the car door open, I called the police. At this point the driver was no longer yelling, just white-knuckling the steering wheel and breathing heavily like a madman.
Thirty minutes passed.
I called the police again. The dispatcher told me someone was already on their way and asked if anybody was hurt. I told her, “No, I’m just being held hostage by a lunatic behind the wheel of a car.” She assured me someone would be there soon.
This stand-off continued for 2 hours. Me: drenched, freezing and desperately clinging to the car door as if that would stop him. The driver: still looking crazy in the front seat, not moving. My belongings: locked in the trunk. I made three more phone calls to the police who were supposedly still “on their way.”
At this point I figured I had two options. I could collapse into a puddle of tears on the sidewalk…. or…. I could say, “Fuck the police, this cabbie and the weather” and figure this out myself.
Guess which option I chose?
I got back into the cab. Slammed the door and took out a piece of paper & pen from my purse. I wrote down his name & license number. Then I threw open the door again, got out, stormed around the front of the cab and stood there blocking his car. I signaled for the driver to roll down his window.
“Look, sir. You’re obviously having a crappy day, but now, so am I. You just wasted over 2 hours on a $35 fare that you are no longer entitled to. I’m sorry it turned out this way, but if the police ever decide to get here, I think things are going to get a lot worse for you. I have all of your information written down. The way I see it, you have two options. #1. You can run me over, taking my belongings with you, but you will most likely lose your license, your job and probably go to jail. Option #2. You can open the trunk and give me my luggage and never let me see you on this street again. I won’t report you, your mechanical errors or this little luggage-hostage incident. Your choice.”
He looked at me for a long minute, then got out of the car. I braced myself to get hit in the face or possibly stabbed. I mean this guy was crazy after all. He went around to the back of the taxi, opened the trunk, got my luggage out and carefully set it on the sidewalk. Then he walked over to me, shook my hand, apologized and politely gestured for me to move onto the sidewalk so he could drive away.
P.S. The police never showed up.