A while ago I wrote about some bad experiences with taxi drivers. It recently occurred to me that I also had a good experience story to tell, so this piece is to redress the balance.
One Friday afternoon, my boss suddenly decided I needed to go and visit a client in a suburb somewhere out west. Upon leaving the client site, I spotted a taxi on the other side of the road.
I waved, I didn’t think he’d seen me, I wasn’t sure if his light was on, then suddenly in the blink of an eye, there he was. I jumped in, gave my destination, sat back and looked around.
The passenger side dashboard and the centre console were covered in notices – messages in black ink printed on white paper, blue-tacked to every available surface. [Click link below to read more....]
“Pre-payment required for all fares over $50”
“Are you paying by credit card or Cabcharge? Inform your driver now.”
“You must tell the driver if you require change for $50 note”
“Sorry, we do not accept $100 note”
“Do not abuse driver verbally or physically. We always prosecute.”
“All damage to taxi must be paid for immediately.”
“No smoking, food or drinking (except water) allowed in the taxi”
“Wilful damage to taxi will result in police being called immediately.”
“Pre-payment required for all journeys after 9pm”
I nervously spoke up. “Uh, excuse me, I just read the notice, I’m paying by Cabcharge, is that OK?”
The driver looked at me in the rear view mirror and smiled. “These notices are not for you my friend. You are nice person. The notices are not for nice people.
“We see lots of not nice people in taxis - that is why we have the notices. As soon as I saw you waiting I knew that you were nice person, that’s why I turned around to pick you up.
“One night, a man gets into the taxi. He is with a girl. They look high you know. I ask him if he’s got money for the journey, if he’s got $60. He looks at me, waves his wallet around, and says “Yes man, plenty of money”. But I’ve not seen his money yet, just his wallet, you know.
“We get onto the motorway, he rolls a cigarette. He says “Hey you mind if we smoke?” I tell him he can’t smoke in the taxi. He ignores me, lights the cigarette. Of course it’s not just the cigarette, its marijuana you know?
“So he carries on smoking his joint and he passes it to the girl in the back and she tries to blow it in my face and I say “You don’t do that silly girl, I need to drive this taxi right so I don’t crash and kill us all.” I open all the windows right down. She can’t keep the joint alight now in the wind so she throws it out the window.
“The man he turns round, starts up at her for throwing it away. While they are busy yelling at each other, I get on this thing.”
The driver taps his top-of-the-range GPS, until the GPS has my full and undivided attention. “You see this button here? This is for emergency services. I just press this button here, for police, look see, and it tells me how to drive to nearest police station.
“So we get off the motorway and he tells me what road he wants, and I ignore him and I drive to the police station. On the way I’m dialling on my phone, you see?” The driver taps his mobile phone; the phone is in a hands-free cradle next to the GPS.
“We stop outside the police station and the man realises where he is and he panics and tries to get out of the taxi, but I’ve locked the doors. I’m on the phone to the front desk officer, I say “Please send someone outside, I have passengers in my taxi they weren’t going to pay and they smoked drugs in my taxi.” This technology, it’s a wonderful thing for a taxi driver. With the GPS and the mobile phone, we can be safer and take care of ourselves.”
I nod in agreement and in appreciation of the driver’s smart use of his in-car technology.
“But the not nice people, they use the technology too. Taxi drivers have to be very alert to these things. I picked up a passenger one night, not far from where you were waiting. He gets in the taxi and he tells me to go somewhere five minutes away.
“We get there and he pulls out a credit card. He says, “Can you take $300 on this card, and give me $200 back in cash? You get to keep the other $100 for your trouble.” I look at him and I say to him calmly, “You get out of my taxi right now, and you don’t get in any other taxi. I know what you’re doing and I want nothing to do with you. Get out please, now.” Do you know why I said that?”
I shook my head – I really didn’t know where this was leading.
“It was a stolen credit card of course. He wanted to get quick cash from the card; he would disappear and leave all the evidence with me! The credit card would be reported stolen, the bank would see where it was used, and there’s the evidence, the card was used in my taxi, for $300 at this time, when the taxi meter only says $12.
“So many taxi drivers, they would not think quickly in time, they would just see the extra money, money they really need, and take the chance. Taxi drivers have to be so careful.”
So the moral of this story? Because it’s starting to sound like a moral kind of story, right? Respect your taxi driver – because for every slightly crazy character out there driving a taxi there are a hundred or more good guys, just quietly trying to earn a living and probably seeing a lot more of life than they ever really wanted to.
Image credit: http://www.123rf.com/profile_yaavi
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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