Thursday, March 20, 2008

She and He/She?

The cab I hopped into yesterday morning was driven by a woman. She's the 3rd woman driver I've run into in DC since I started paying attention to such things a few years ago. So what are the odds that I'd ride in a cab driven by a woman again tonight?

Well, not sure about odds, but definitely not sure about gender.

A friend & I took a cab after dinner back home. We obviously didn't spend too much time addressing or looking at the driver. After we'd gotten out, I asked my friend, "how much did you tip him?"

"Him who"? was his response.

"The driver, of course,"
"You mean her?"
"Her? That wasn't a woman, that was a guy."
"No, it was a woman."

Well after debating finer points (hand size, hair style, voice) we decided that the driver was ...
well, we couldn't come to a decision. I ended up thinking that maybe it was a woman just as my friend decided that it was probably a guy.

At any rate he/she wasn't the world's best driver - but other than that, no complaints. Other than not having a clue as to actual gender :).

Monday, March 17, 2008

If Diamond Cab #926 Stops For You - Run!

A friend's co-worker passed this story along to me - since I have a natural place to share it.

She got in this cab one morning, already somebody in it, but that's rush hour. The driver apparently had two moves. Full speed and slam on brakes. And yelled at other drivers. She said she should have gone with her 1st instinct not to get in the cab. He was in a far lane and cut off traffic in 2 lanes to get to the curb by her. That's one cabbie who wants a fare! Anyhow, after a trip that had her mentally making her will, he yelled at her for trying to pay with a $20, then made the woman in the back seat pay for her trip in change, but still didn't have enough to make the right change for the trip. First told her the charge was $14 when it was $12, then told her if she wanted change she had to go to a nearby bar (it was 10am) and get change and yelled at her when she said she was late & didn't have time.

Apparently quite an interesting run.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

No, I Really Don't Want to Hear it

It's an election year, DC is about to add meters to cabs. I'm not that talkative in cabs, usually looking over stuff for a meeting. But I will chat if drivers are chatty. And hard not to be between politics and meters these days.

But as this morning's driver was going on and on and on about gas prices and how many hours he is going to have to work this week to make up for the gas prices, my brain rebelled. Gas prices are high, but I don't own a car, so my discussion points on this are limited. "Yes, that is high" is about it. But at some level, I'm not sure I want to listen to recitation of how long or hard you have to work to make up for gas prices. I know, let's trade off. I'll listen to this, but then you have to listen to how I haven't had a weekend off in 3 months because we're working all out to get work done for a deadline so the organization will hire us for a second, even bigger project down the road. I don't own a car, but I do have a school loan that will take me another 10 years to pay off, and a salary that barely lets me cover rent, school loan and some basics (new shoes? what is that concept, new shoes?). I haven't had a social life in ages because I don't have time for it "right now" and keep telling myself I will soon again. When? Uhh.. haven't figured that out yet.

Do we have a deal yet? Oh wait, I forgot to mention the 2 hour brain dead meeting my boss makes me go to so she doesn't have to. Which means I'll have the choice tonight of taking work home with me again, or staying for a few more hours to finish it up so I can meet this week's third of four deadlines. Yes, that's the meeting you were driving me to this morning. Any wonder I was such a cheerful and chatty passenger?

Gender and Taxi Companies

Something I've noticed with at least Yellow & Diamond (the two companies I've called to get a cab when I've needed one) is that the people who take the calls are always women. When I'm in a cab, the dispatcher is always a guy. The drivers I've had have been (with 2 lonely exceptions in all these years) all guys.

Are there gender lines in the cab business?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Say Wha Again There?

Actually had a driver this weekend who is in favor of meters. Very vocally. I'd mention the cab company, but I have a feeling the poor guy doesn't need his co-workers beating him up ;). It has been interesting riding cabs in DC in past month or so. I haven't yet been the one to bring up the topic of meters, but it comes up almost every ride now. Twice I was told during slow traffic that "this is going to cost you when the meters come in." And both times I've responded bait with bait, as it were - with, "so I bet you can't wait to get them and make some real money"

Like meters or hate them - fine by me, just make sure if you're going to argue against them that you've got an argument that can carry some weight. If your argument is that it will cost me more money - then that should be MY reason for not wanting meters - not the driver's.

I'm absolutely neutral on the issue of meters. But I have never been neutral on the issue of poorly made arguments!

Taxi Wars?

Six Maryland cab drivers have been attached in the last month or so. All in DC. Is there an avenging DC cab driver out there taking out frustrations on his neighbors from Maryland? Background for non area readers - Maryland and Virginia cab drivers can bring people into the district, but they're not allowed to pick up passengers here. But some do (I had a Maryland cab pick me up just south of Chevy Chase circle years and years ago, and didn't realize it until I noticed there was a meter in the cab). And those that poach DC riders have possibly pissed off somebody in particular? Anyhow, here's the story from the WaPost.

Jermal Ali, a Prince George's County cabdriver who had just dropped off a passenger, was driving on New Hampshire Avenue NW about midnight Feb. 22 when a big white sedan with black lettering on the side zoomed behind him and rammed the rear of his vehicle.

When Ali scrambled to get out of the cab, the other man deliberately steered in his direction, striking the driver's door, then drove off in the latest in a series of attacks against cabdrivers.

Since Jan. 27, six cabbies, all from Maryland, have been attacked in seven incidents in the city. According to police reports, the assailant has made remarks suggesting he targeted the drivers because he believes they illegally picked up passengers in the District, which is generally not permitted for cabdrivers not licensed by the city. The assaults have occurred on some of the District's major streets -- including two on Connecticut Avenue NW -- between 11 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., police said.

Police are still searching for the assailant, who they said has slashed vehicles' tires, broken mirrors and windows, and, in at least one case, physically harmed a driver.

In the first incident, at Phelps Place and California Street NW, the attacker slashed a cabdriver's tires and drove a half-block away, police said. He then put his vehicle in reverse and hit the driver "at a high rate of speed," causing him to be "lifted into the air," according to the police report. The cabbie suffered broken ribs, police said.

Montgomery County cabdriver Medhanie Weldegerish said that on Feb. 9, he was dropping off a customer in the 1300 block of Connecticut Avenue NW when a man pulled up in a car next to him and slashed two of his tires and put a knife with a three-inch blade against his chest.

"He never said a word to me. . . . Nothing," said Weldegerish, who has been driving a cab for 10 months. "I'm not scared, but maybe he's got a gun."

Later that night, another Prince George's cabdriver was sitting at a red light at 15th and L streets NW when a white Ford Crown Victoria pulled up behind him. A man jumped out and slashed the cab's right rear tire with a knife and then drove off, according to the police report. After the driver pulled over and began changing the tire, the attacker returned -- this time, slashing the left front tire.

"Why are you working here?" he asked the driver, who didn't respond.

D.C. police Cmdr. Andy Solberg said authorities have not determined whether the suspect is a vigilante D.C. taxi driver, as some victims suspect. But Solberg said the man's actions suggest he is not merely bearing a grudge but is "out of control."

"This is obviously very, very serious stuff," he said.

D.C. cabdrivers have a history of disputes with Maryland and Virginia drivers over the right to pick up passengers. By law, cabs from outside the city are allowed only to make prearranged trips into the District and are not supposed to pick up fares.

Victims have described the suspect's white Crown Victoria as having the numbers "2057" or "2042" on the rear and possibly the name "Roper" on the side. The general description of the attacker is a man in his 30s. He seems to concentrate on the Dupont Circle area, Solberg said.

"We're calling him 'the Rogue Cabdriver,' " said D.C. Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes. "It appears that he wants his competition out of the city."

D.C. Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon J. Swain Jr. said he has been working closely with police, cross-checking records of registered taxis to determine whether the attacker is driving a D.C. cab. But, he said, "we have not found anybody that matches the description" of the man in the white Ford.

"The thing about it is nobody is sure if it is a cabdriver," Swain said. "All it is is a vehicle with writing on it."

Tensions have been building in recent months over the planned April 6 switch from zones to meters for calculating fares, and D.C. cabdrivers staged several strikes in protest of the change. During strikes Feb. 4 and Feb. 14, D.C. drivers said out-of-town cabs were streaming into the city to take advantage of the absence of local taxis.

Even during a strike, the law restricts Maryland and Virginia cabbies' operations in the city.

"If you bring somebody in from your jurisdiction, you can return," Swain said. "What you can't do is drop somebody off and drive around the streets of D.C. and get customers."

Violators are considered unlicensed cabdrivers, Swain said. They can be fined $500 and their vehicles can be impounded.

Cabdriver Nathan Price, chairman of the D.C. Coalition of Cab Drivers, Companies and Associations, which staged the strikes, said District drivers have been complaining about the issue with Virginia and Maryland cabs for years. He said he does not know who is behind the attacks and shares concern about them.

Three of the victims said they are convinced that the attacker targeted them because they were driving Maryland cabs.

"He thinks I was stealing the fares from D.C.," said Ali, a cabdriver for two years, adding that he would never break the rules.

The Feb. 22 attack on Ali was the second he had suffered in less than two weeks. On Feb. 10, he told police that his rear windshield was broken and two tires slashed when his cab was parked on U Street NW.

The cabdrivers know they don't want to run into the attacker again.

"I fear for my life next time," Ali said.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I Have Great Timing

Was waiting with a friend for a cab last night - heading up Wisc. for dinner. We ran into a friend of hers and while we were talking a good dozen nice big really nice looking cabs passed on by. You know the ones, really nice comfortable seats, lots of leg room, just immaculate, and a driver who's cool and knows the best & fastest way to get there. Ok. well maybe I'm just assuming about the inside, but it's my story and I'm sticking to it. Once we finally got rid of the friend, we were 20 minutes late and cabs were suddenly history. We started walking under the theory that one would come along at some point. One did finally show up - it was a small, nice compact car. Looked like it had been in at least two accidents (or one really tricky one) and the inside was ... not pleasant.

Yup. Timing.