It's Saturday night (early Sunday morning) "bar break" and I'm cruising Capital Hill after my usual bowl of noodle soup at Ocean City. Dropping off at Melrose & Olive Way I watch as the vacant Yellow taxi in front of me passes a young black man waving at him. Waving at me I immediately stop and off we go south of the airport to Federal Way. The guy, a perfectly nice Comcast supervisor who had the misfortune to have two of his car's tires slashed and flattened, could not get a taxi. Numerous taxis of all the local associations passed him by. One Yellow driver did stop but upon finding he was going a long distance, said his car couldn't go 60 mph and told the passenger to leave. What was happening here? Why was this great guy who gave me $80.00 dollars for the quick ride home treated like some potential monster? Fear and ignorance, my friends, and nothing else. And as I keep repeating, this is what happens when you place individuals in a position they are not prepared for, the victimization of an innocent person. Just like the NYC mayor's infamous "stop and frisk" policy, racial profiling hurts everyone. All this passenger wanted was to go home after his car was vandalized. Instead he is insulted twice over. This is not reasonable.
There are some "scary" looking folks out there but this guy wasn't one of them. If he wasn't menacing then what was preventing all these drivers, many African-American themselves, from stopping for this well-dressed man of about thirty years of age? The answer, as I have already stated, is a combination of factors adding up to nothing good. Apprehension plus inexperience plus naivety plus insensitivity creates unjustifiable attitudes that are and will remain indefensible. Given the hour and the distance I asked for money up front but having only a twenty dollar bill and a card for the rest I eventually relaxed, handing him back his money, telling him to "just pay me at the end."
After hearing his story the last thing I wanted to do was "play the fool" because at this point in the taxi game I know the complete story and refuse to embrace idle justifications. All any passenger wants is a good ride from point A to B, not some futile exercise displaying in all its excess glory the cabbie's ignorance. All of us are out there to provide an honest ride, not some kind of misguided disservice. That cannot and should not be the public expectation though too often it is because drivers think they can do anything they want, not understanding they are poisoning the taxi waters. Is it really necessary to further sully our image? I don't think so.
The only problem I had was staying awake and processing the man's debit card which bore tooth marks from his two troublesome pooches. All I ask of everyone is to remember that we are all human, carrying the burden of the mystery of this life and existence. Don't punish someone when they haven't done anything wrong. It just isn't fair, it is just plainly stupid, especially when for no good reason an eighty dollar fare is passed up. My advise to all my fellow cabbies is to wise up and learn how to read the taxi landscape. Everyone will be the better for it. And if paying attention, richer too!
On A Personal Note
After nearly five wonderful days camping and hiking along the Rogue River it was difficult being back beneath the top-light. I experienced a genuine resistance to keep going down the road. Eventually I calmed down and made some "real" money but no, I wasn't having much fun. Most don't realize just how horrible of a work environment I and others find ourselves in. Too much senseless noise and toxic fumes! Walking along the south fork of the Rogue River is far more reasonable. And during that last night two pesky deers refused to leave our camp, their eyes a piercing green in the flashlight's amber beam. Far better than a speeding ambulance or police car. Give me an inquisitive deer any day or night!