Wednesday, July 26, 2006

How to Hail a Cab

I've been in DC for ages (my family moved to the area when I was 12) and we took cabs to concerts and things. So I've always known how to get a cab. Or at least try and get one. I was standing with my cousin and her friend a couple of days back on a corner off of Dupont Circle. I was busy trying to fix a mess in my purse (alert - ipods do NOT respond well to blush dust) and they were trying to get a cab. I couldn't see what they were doing at first, then I stopped to watch.

They were standing on the sidewalk, facing traffic and . . . nothing. A cab drove by and they looked at it, at each other and said, "none of them will stop." I started laughing so hard I thought I'd pee. I asked what they thought they were doing and my cousin said, "well we're obviously waiting for a cab, why won't they stop?" "Who are they going to stop for? Everyone who's standing on a sidewalk? You have to ASK them to stop somehow. You know, wave your hand at them or something? Whistle, jump up and down scream "hey cabbie?"

So the question is for drivers and riders. Do most people know how to hail a cab? Or outside of urban America is it an elusive skill?


At 7:31 PM, Blogger Crabbie said...

I don't really know how to answer this question, as the only people I ever stop for are the people who hail me!

Meaning people who are standing on the edge of the sidewalk, and signal that they'd like my services by looking at me and waving their arm.

After bar close, occasionally there'll be a jackass who goes for the "jump in the middle of the road and wave both hands madly in the air" approach. They never get rides from me.

But anyway, I don't know how many people try and fail to get a cab the way your cousin did. Why? Because cab drivers don't know to stop for them!

At 10:09 PM, Blogger MJ06 said...

I have never had to hail a cab before and have never had to rid in one while I am in Cleveland but I belive dont you just stick your hand up and out like the statute of liberty?

At 1:02 AM, Blogger CharterJames said...

That is a brain twister of a question, and certainly one that occupied me early on as I learned to drive. But I think that cab hailing skills do separate the urbane from the rubes.

a) I remember that, as a rube first in New York, I needed instruction from my gf on how cabs signal their availability.

b) As a driver now, I take for granted that visitors do not understand this.

c) I have also experienced situations like you describe, but kick myself for not taking the initiative with the potential fares.

d) Two things I commonly experience is that hailers don't realize that they cannot be seen either because of darkness at night or because of background noise such as a crowd of people behind them.

e) Some people also seem to have a perceptual difficulty and cannot judge your distance from them, so they flag you just as you are apon them.

f) Of course there is also the whole NY club scene game of the "cool" or "hipster" hail which is intentionally made as late and impeceptually as possible. Perhaps both thumbs are hooked into jeans pockets and just as the cab is passing the hail is executed with a small flick of the curbside index finger, The intention is to be just as disrespectful as it sounds. But again, cabs bring it on themselves with their competitiveness over fares.

g) A trend that I have just recognized is the cell phone hail. The cell is opened and the light used to gain attention at a distance.

h) Their are various multi-tasking hails but the best I have seen was the kissing-girl-while-answering-cell-phone-simultaneous-liberty hail

At 12:09 PM, Blogger Capt. Jack Sparrow said...

All I know is that hailing a cab can be embarrassing stuff. As soon as a person on a sidewalk swings his or her arm in the air, waves the wrist back and forth limply, shoots the index and middle finger out rigidly... all eyes are on that person. "Will he get the cab? Or will he be dissed?"

Additionally, I used to hail cabs while smoking. If the cab pulled over, I extinguished my cigarette and got in. I found that it was more difficult to hail a cab as a smoker than when I didn't have a cigarette.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Mad Cabbie said...

Showing off some legs doesn't hurt!

At 8:30 AM, Blogger DC Cab Rider said...

I'm not sure that's advice that'll work for everyone who needs a cab ;).

Although I'd love to see a few of those older $1,000 suit guyys down on K street giving it a shot.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger london_cabby said...

I like to see a nice clear signal for me to stop.
I often get a slight hand movement, a stare, a hitchhikers thumb with their back to me, the flash of leg (men and women) and the ones that cause me to accelerate away at speed are the whistles and the shouts of Oi!!

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Phil said...

I remove my pants and wave them around over my head when hailing a cab.

Works every time.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger DC Cab Rider said...

So Phil, do you find that you get more cabs or more cops stopping for you in that case?

And here I thought that was the universal sign for another need altogether.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Sabra Divis said...

I know I'm a little late, but I think there's a skill on this. It's really hard to get a cab particularly in the city, where there's a lot of people scattered on the streets. It's very helpful if I know the trick, but for the meantime I'll be more comfortable in calling cab services to make sure that they pick me up on time and drop me off to my destination. But in any chance, do you know the trick on how to hail a cab easily? | Sabra Divis @

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Claudia Rosenburg said...

This is a good post! In my hometown you called for a cab. When I moved to the city I had no idea what to do. The cultures between urban and rural areas are so different! I've learned that if you want to hail a cab, you put your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care.
Claudia Rosenburg |


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