You talkin' to ME?!? - A cabbie's RANT
If you’re from a city like New York, you’re probably familiar with the ins and outs of “cabbing it.” However, after driving a cab for one of P-town’s largest cab companies for the last couple of years, I’ve found that Portland residents are not always savvy when it comes to the dos and don’ts of catching a cab. So, as a service to you, my beloved customers, I would like to share with you a little insight that will hopefully make each of our experiences a bit more enjoyable.
First, let’s discuss me, the driver. I’m a businessman (or woman). I’m out here trying to make a living. I’m not running a charity. Please don’t ask for freebies and cut rates. I’m not out here for you. I’m out here for me. Maybe I own my cab, maybe I don’t. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m my own boss, more or less. Oh sure, the company I work for would like me to follow certain rules, be nice to the customers, obey the traffic laws, etc. The point is they don’t pay me. I make my money by giving people rides. I pay for the car, the gas, maintenance, and such. I keep all the fares. That’s how it works. The meter is simply a tool to accurately measure the price of my service, per the posted rates. They are always the same and rarely ever change. Whining about the fare isn’t going to make the ride any cheaper. There’s no way for me to make the meter run faster or slower, although there are tricks that some dishonest cabbies will use to run up your fare. Beware of taxi drivers who deliberately try to catch red lights, who sit too long after the light turns green, or who find other ways to delay your trip, including taking the longest or most congested route.
Now let’s discuss you, the passenger. First of all, you need a taxi. So you pick up the phone and call your favorite cab company. This is a good time to turn on your porchlight (if it’s dark outside) and be ready to go. Yes, maybe you’ll have a 15-20 minute wait, but don’t be surprised if we show up in 5. If you’re not ready when we show up, we’re apt to start the meter and charge you for the wait time. Sometimes, however, it may take a lot longer than 15-20 minutes. Please be patient, especially if it’s rush hour. Remember, most of this city’s cabs start their shifts downtown between 4 and 6 am/pm. If you’re in Clackamas, Hillsboro, Vancouver or Tualatin, it’s fair to say that you’re going to have a little bit of a wait. Be patient. We will get to you as soon as we can. In the meantime, if you should happen to find alternative transportation, please call back and let us know. It isn’t the driver’s fault it took so long; please don’t take it out on me. It’s money right out of my pocket every time I chase after a “no-show.” Besides, part of the reason it often takes so long is that we’re chasing after other people who called us and then split.
Oh, and one other thing. DO NOT CALL MORE THAN ONE CAB COMPANY! There is an unwritten agreement with Portland taxi drivers that if more than one of us shows up, we all leave. Not only will you not get a cab, you’ll be blacklisted and will never get another cab again! And don’t think that just because you escaped in the first cab, the second guy’s out of luck. Bathroom breaks are few and some of us have been known to relieve ourselves on your front door. I’m not saying this will happen, only that it could. You have been warned!
If you’re downtown barhopping on the weekend with your friends, calling a cab might not be your best option. In this situation, it might be easier to go outside and hail the first empty cab you see. Do not call a cab and then hail one down. Do one or the other. If you decide to hail a cab, again, be patient. If I don’t stop for you, there’s a good reason. Usually, I already have a passenger and you couldn’t see them in the car (this happens all the time). I might be going after someone who called me on my cell phone. Don’t take it personal. Just keep waving. Be obvious. Eye contact and timidly raising a finger will not get you a cab. Flail your arms or, better yet, use a flashlight. Someone will stop for you soon. If you call a cab from your cell phone while you’re still in the bar, do yourself a favor and LET THE BARTENDER/DOORMAN KNOW! I am not going to wander around the club looking for you and neither are they. Unless you’re waiting outside, you’re probably going to lose your cab!
Once you’ve gotten a cab, let us know where you’re going. This would seem like an obvious thing but you’d be surprised how many times it’s like pulling teeth to get someone to tell you where they wish to go. “Over there” is not a destination! If you have a preferred route, by all means, let me know. Do not, however, start giving me directions by saying, “First, back out of the parking space…” unless you want to find out just how surly I can get. Don’t treat me like an idiot. Chances are, I know this town better than you do and if I’m not familiar with your neighborhood, believe me I’ll ask. Besides, I’m quite often the only sober one in the vehicle. So trust me, would ya?
When you hire a cab, you are hiring the driver. I perform a service, you see. That service is to get you from Point A to Point B, not to put up with your shit. Just because you’ve jumped into my cab does not mean that you own the vehicle. You may not do as you please! I might let you listen to your silly Top 40 radio station, I might not. Either way, the choice is mine. Get over it! My car is my office. It’s my work environment and I spend upwards of 12 hours a day in it. So if I say “No smoking,” that means NO SMOKING! If you cut a nasty fart, you may find yourself walking the rest of the way in the rain! Please, be respectful! Assholes are a dime a dozen and your rude, crude behavior will not be tolerated! If I happen to be a female driver, don’t think you have the right to be disgusting. It takes a special breed of woman to drive a cab and most of the female drivers in this town can, and will, kick your ass if you step out of line!
Once you’ve reached your destination, it’s time to pay your driver. Now is not the time to tell me that all you have is a $100 bill. Believe me, I will keep the meter running while we go find a place to break it! Some cabs take credit cards, some don’t. It’s best to ask this information before you leave, not after you arrive. Should you “suddenly realize” that you don’t have enough cash on you and you need to run in the house to get some, be prepared to leave something of value with me until you get back. Don’t flip me any crap about it either. I know you’re probably a nice person who would never rip anyone off, but so were all the other people who have ripped me off over the years! This is how the game works, just play along! Leave me with your backpack, your cell phone, your jacket, something of value so I don’t think you’re trying to run on me. Trust me, you don’t want me to think you’re running on me! Most cabbies carry some sort of weapon and we HATE being ripped off! Don’t worry, I’m not going to drive off with your “Hello Kitty” backpack. Honestly, I’d really rather have the cash.
This leads us to the topic of tipping (not, as they say, a city in China). YES, it is appropriate to tip your driver! How much? Well, that’s really up to you. The rule of thumb is to tip your cabbie the same as you would tip your bartender (you are tipping your bartender, aren’t you??). For example, let’s say your fare is $15. A tip of $2-4 is adequate. Anything less and you are a cheap bastard. More than that and you’re a Prince among men and/or a Queen among women (or a Queen among men, if you happen to swing that way!). A word of advice, though. Never, EVER say “I’m going to tip you out huge” or some other such nonsense. It’s a statistical fact that 96.3% of people who say this fall into the category of “cheap bastard.” If I think you’re a cheap bastard, I may use one of the above-mentioned tactics to run up your fare. Don’t threaten to tip me, just do it! That goes for your bartender, your tattooist, and your favorite nude dancer as well!
Now a quick word to those who never take cabs, who drive their cars instead, especially in the downtown area. Look folks, it’s simple. When you’re behind a taxicab, it’s like being behind a bus. Expect the vehicle to stop at some point. Do not ride my ass and then, when I stop to pick up a fare, start blaring your horn and flipping me off. You’re only making yourself look like an idiot. Do you do the same thing to busses? Do you tailgate TriMet drivers and scream obscenities at them at every bus stop? No. Then why do it to us? I’m just trying to do my job and sometimes, especially downtown, that job necessitates double parking for a very brief period of time. Sorry if I ruined your whole day.
Taking a cab can actually be a very enjoyable experience, once you understand how the whole process works. If you’re going out for a night on the town, don’t drive – call us! Think of us as a DUI insurance policy. Paying a cabbie $15-20 to get you home is far better than paying the State of Oregon $5000 plus, in addition to losing your license, having your insurance go way up, etc. Not to mention the fact that you may kill or maim yourself or someone else while driving drunk. Not worth it! Park your car and hop in. That’s what we’re here for!
You can save yourself a little bit of money by taking a few friends with you. Sure, it’s a buck extra for each additional passenger (yes, we charge for extra passengers – please don’t act surprised and give me grief about it when we reach your destination!). In the long run, splitting a $20 fare between 4 people makes taking a cab about as cheap as buying that cute blonde at the end of the bar a drink, and if you’re nice I may even give you my phone number, unlike the blonde! You see, many cabbies carry cell phones so our preferred customers can call us directly, without having to call dispatch. Not all cabbies do this but many do. If you like your driver, ask for a card. This is the best way to get a cab, by the way. Get your own personal driver! Keep in mind that I give priority to my “personals,” especially the ones that tip well.
See you on the streets!