Kamikaze Cab Ride and the Vigilante Taxi DriverNovember 21, 2008
This just happened, so I’m telling you about it almost in real-time, and it was the best true adventure I’ve had in a long time.
I was without a vehicle tonight, so I cabbed it home from work at 2:30 a.m. I was picked up by a minivan, because at night, cab rides in this college town involve large groups of barfing made-it-to-last-call students. The driver was a tough-looking young guy with short-cropped hair and a neck the size of my leg; he was friendly and chatty and obviously happy for a fare, as it’s our first real winter week and the subzero temperatures probably meant a quiet night at the downtown bars.
We were about half a klick from my house when the dashboard radio started squawking. I could only hear a bit of it, but these guys speak the language of static, and my driver suddenly hit the brakes on a deserted street. I could hear now: “Help! Help! Guys! I got trouble!” He named a downtown intersection, the kind of spot where ambulances know to park and wait on weekend nights because there will be a fight, or maybe 10.
“Sorry, buddy,” my driver said, switching off the meter and spinning the wheel. The roads were icy, so we skidded a bit, but he handled that minivan like a Formula 1 driver. In seconds, we were roaring back into the city core at 120 kph (which is about 75 miles per hour American). I was slam-dancing back and forth as he weaved through a series of one-way streets and right through red lights.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Trouble,” he said. “You just got a free cab ride. Sorry about this.”
“Do what you have to do,” I said, glad I had my camera in my bag, because I am, after all, a journalist. I was also thinking about the stupid Jimmy Fallon/Queen Latifah movie Taxi, and maybe also Dukes of Hazzard. We were flying, I tell you.
We were nearing the intersection in question when the radio crackled again and someone said something. My driver hit the brakes, turning as we slowed, turned, and started driving, at a normal speed, back the way we’d come.
“Can you fucken believe that?” he asked.
“I couldn’t hear.”
“A sandwich. Guy got a sandwich thrown at him. Fucken guy. He calls us for that? I only called for help once, and that was when a guy had a knife back there.” He wasn’t lying. We had a cab driver get his throat cut from the back seat here a couple of years ago. These drivers know the dangers. But they stick together when they’re in trouble, like carnies crying “Hey Rube!”
Except for the poor sandwich-dodging driver who made the original call for help. “Fucken asshole,” my driver muttered. “He’s new.”
“Does this happen a lot?” I asked.
“Sometimes,” he said. “This guy, too, he’s training to be a cop. He’s only doing this until he passes. What’s he gonna do, if he’s a cop?” My driver shook his head, then put on a whiny baby voice. “Sergeant, the bad man looked at me funny! What do I do?”
I was laughing. “How many of you guys are out here tonight?”
“About a dozen,” he said. “But a lot of them just went off and they’d be heading back there, too. That fucken guy is gonna get RAZZED later!”
We pulled up in front of my house. I gave him the fare anyway, partially because I know how hard these guys work and partially because I haven’t had this much fun in a long, long time.
“Hey, you’re a good man,” he said. “Sorry about that.”
“Best time I had all day,” I said.
“Really? You should maybe try driving for us.”
Not a chance, I thought. I’m afraid of knives. Hell, I’m afraid of sandwiches.